Today is World Mental Health Awareness Day and like many others we are doing our bit to raise awareness.

Why it is important?

Mental Health was present in my family whilst I was growing up.  It was tough at times.  At other times I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just snap out of it – what did they have to be anxious or depressed about?  At times, I thought it was attention seeking.

I was wrong.

In 2000 after an assault, I experienced mental health problems of my own, they worsened after giving birth to my sons and for years I was in this hole, trying to pretend everything was ok, until I got the help I needed.

Family, friends and colleagues noticed a difference in me, but of course it was brushed off as being moody, during my pregnancy this was put down to hormones, after having the boys it was seen as tiredness and everyone had an excuse as to my ‘mood’ and everyone had advice to give me.

At work managers would comment that I seemed as though I was losing interest and withdrawing, I told them this wasn’t the case and pushed harder to achieve in my career.  Work become my safe place, I could put my work-mask on and push as hard as I needed, but inside everyday was a struggle.

I had a few years where my drinking ‘just to relax’ worsened, but as I was seen as the ‘life and soul’ on a night out nobody commented, and probably didn’t even notice.

Mental Health issues caused my godmother to take her own life in 2008 .

Mental Health caused a relative to be sectioned in 2014.

Mental Health issues have caused family and friends to turn to drink and drugs over the years.

In 2015 due to some medication I was prescribed for my epilepsy I almost took my own life because I felt so low and trapped.  Luckily, I knew which part of my brain the medication was affecting and I took steps to climb back up – I’m still here.

Through all of my training and development and understanding emotions and how the brain works and learning how to relax, and recognise when I feel myself slipping, I am able to make changes to help myself improve my own mental health.

I can’t say it’s been one thing that has helped me, but a combination, through several daily practices such as journaling, listening to music, exercising, being outside, yoga, meditation, switching off my phone and avoiding social media at least two hours before bed and reading, I keep, for the most part, in a healthy mental state.

The tell-tale sign for me that something is slipping is when I don’t want to be outside.  I don’t want to be seen.  I just want to hibernate.  Now as an introvert this is part of how I recharge, when it’s because of an emotional change, the thought of going outside can terrify me.  That’s a sign I’m getting low – sometimes it’s just tiredness, sometimes it’s more.

Luckily, I have family and friends who spot these signs and help me get back up, but only because I’ve been honest enough to tell them what signs to look for.

Today, I’m supporting the #IAMWHOLE campaign.  I’m holding #listeningposts for people who want to talk and have someone listen.  And we’re supporting the #InYourCorner campaign.

Why?

Because mental health isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s on the increase and we need to do all we can to try and minimise (or ideally stop this).  We need to be more aware of the difference that listening, not advising, or telling people what to do, but the difference that listening can make.  We spend most of our lives at work, we need to be there for our colleagues and teams, and they need to be there for us.

Notice a difference in someone?  Offer the space for them to talk.

Notice their behaviour or mood worsening?  Offer the space again.  Speak to someone else who may be able to help them.

We need to stop ignoring the signs of mental health and support one another.

We have to be there.

We have to be patient.

We may need to intervene at times, and this can be hard as we may get a barrage of abuse, but we need to know when we are taking action for their own good.

Speaking to a coaching client last week we discussed how she saved the life of a colleague with mental health problems, by being there, through being a confidante and a listening ear.  We can save lives by listening.

So help your colleagues by showing them that you are #inyourcorner.

Help people see that all of us are whole #IAMWHOLE

And recognise the importance of listening #listeningposts

You may just save a life.

Kelly Swingler

Kelly Swingler is Founder of Chrysalis Consulting, The People and Change Experts and was appointed at the UK’s Youngest HR Director.  Kelly is passionate about helping people find bespoke people solutions to suit the needs of their business. Kelly is the author of Fostering a Mindset for Career Success and what’s your excuse for not Overcoming Stress.