Top 5 Tips for Mental Health Awareness

I’m sure that the fact that it is Mental Health Awareness Week right now hasn’t passed you by, as there are a wealth of (virtual) events, fundraisers, stories and resources on this year’s theme of ‘kindness’ available to all. I started the week by taking some time to ponder what mental health means to me, and how to go about writing about the subject in relation to life both in and out of the workplace. I decided the best way to begin was to share some of my own story.

I have always considered myself a strong person, and I have always stood my ground. Having said that, you could also call it an overdone strength as, in the past, I fought corners and stood my ground for too long, which impacted me in other ways. I didn’t grow personally or develop my career until later in life; I stuck at my job and lived my life, not realising that I was missing out on life itself. At the time, my role in recruitment saw me socialising during the day, and spending all remaining time with family. How different my life is today!

And it changed because a person came into my life, who listened, was supportive, heard me and encouraged me. Up to that point, my norm was to receive constant criticism about how I looked, who I talked to and was friendly with, and how I behaved generally…even down to using too many pots and pans and a recipe book in the kitchen!

I’m not going to dwell upon that story as it is in the past, I have moved on, and my life is different. To be honest, I rarely think about it and never talk about it; I accept it for what it was back then. And that’s enough.

The important part of this brief snapshot of my personal history is to highlight how powerful it is to talk to someone who is supportive, who listens, who hears and creates a non-judgemental platform and space for you to get the stuff out of your head into the open. And vice versa – it’s just as powerful if you can offer this to others.

A good listener will ask good open questions too. Ones that prompt you to listen, to go within, and find your own answers. They won’t tell you what to do. This is how I operate when I have my coaching hat on, in fact it’s how operate at most times to be honest with you. It’s building rapport through using words and language that reflects back to who you’re speaking to at a subconscious level that you have heard what has been said. (On a light-hearted note, when I was training to be a coach, and learning more about changing my behaviour around my son, I would talk about his mates as ‘knobs’ too!)

It’s about asking good open questions so that answers and solutions are discovered. It is NOT about telling someone else what you think that they should do because you know what’s best for them! Equally, it’s not about allowing transference to happen either, which means you must ensure that you stay grounded and not take on that person’s problems. You can help by listening and keeping your own boundaries firm and clear.

And if you personally do need someone to talk to, think about those around you who are good listeners, or look to join a network that offers support. There are many out there operating in lots of different sectors. Find someone to talk to. Be heard. Give what is mulling around within you some air – once a problem is out in the open, and you can observe options and alternatives, things look different. And things can change.

My life is so very different today to the one I was living 15 years ago, and I have got to where I am by talking to people. Ironically, I didn’t talk to people back then, as it was frowned upon. Today I talk to everyone about everything – I am transparent and open when asked, and generally talk about anything as the subject arises. It’s taken a number of years, and many tears in the early years, but hey … we all have the power within us to achieve whatever we want to achieve.

I could write a book on this subject (and perhaps I will!) but I will sum up by saying if you are having issues with people at work, or at home, find someone independent and supportive to speak to, and if you know and can see someone who is struggling, talk to them whilst being mindful not to take on their problems as your own.

You can help someone up – just ensure that you stay up in the meantime!

Accept where you are at, and know that you will come out a stronger person.

Top 5 Tips during Mental Health Awareness Week

  • Ask not Tell: ask open questions do NOT tell someone what to do
  • Listen without Judgement: provide a safe space and don’t judge
  • Build Rapport: through body language and the reflective use of words – this will build both rapport and confidence
  • Talk it Out: to someone who can offer the above
  • Options: know that there are always other options, and where you are right now is part of your journey through life, and you will become stronger and change the trajectory of your life as it is right now as a result

And know that on both sides of the fence YOU ARE ENOUGH!