Pretty much every client I have visited since the start of the year has discussed with me a proactive approach to mental health for employees. It really is an everyday topic.
Since the death of Caroline Flack, mental health is at the forefront of the mind. You would be well within your rights to ask me if I had been hiding under a rock these last few years if I said that I didn’t really know anything about Caroline Flack. It wasn’t until the news broke of her death that I read her career history in retrospect. There is a simple reason for this.I really don’t enjoy reality TV and never have done since Big Brother was launched in 2000. I did watch it that year but found I was irritated by the fact I had wasted the Summer watching a group of people interact in a confined space with no contact from the outside world. For me it is tedious and uninteresting but I understand it’s entertainment for some and continues to be.
When the news of Amy Winehouse’s death broke, I watched the news most of the day. For me it was a talent lost and I felt the emotional effect. I saw my Line Manager, a lifelong Leeds fan totally devastated about the death of Gary Speed. So, we do form an affinity with celebrities and a set of emotions that go with that attachment in good times and bad.
Then there are ordinary people who see no other way, no other choice.
All day, every day, ordinary people.
According to the Samaritans statistics there were 6859 suicides in 2018 recorded in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
My worst day at work, categorically will always be turning up to be informed that a long-standing work colleague in our HR team had committed suicide. He was man and boy at the Company, with length of service awards that reflected his commitment and loyalty. It was and still is eerie and surrealfor me to think about. It is not a normal set of circumstancesand emotions to experience.
We were going out that evening as a team. After much deliberation, we still went and raised a glass to our colleague but it was a somewhat toned down evening to our usual nights out. There were pockets of absolute utter silence. In-betweenthe silence there would be some story telling then we would revert back to disbelief. There were no explanations.
I wondered if we had been so busy looking after the majority (2000+employees) had we actually overlooked ‘one of our own’ sitting in the same room everyday? This seriously played on my mind for a long time. On reflection, there were no signs or concerns so it was impossible to predict or even contemplate what became. It’s no easy thing to attend a funeral under such circumstances either because there is no short or long illness to apply rationale to the mind. The missing piece of logic that can’t be clarified or found. The funeral song will forever stick in my mind – Jonny Nash – “I can see clearly now the rain has gone, I can see all obstacles in my way”.
To date I have never suffered with depression (touch wood)but sure there have been prolonged low points and no doubt some to come. I do have a habit of taking too much on which gets a bit borderline but luckily I have a strong sense of awareness when I am reaching that point and apply the brakes. Work in progress on that one!
Ultimately, I do think there is only so far I can empathise with depression because I believe unless you have experienced it and lived through it, you can’t imagine how impairing it is on everyday life for someone. A physical injury has a start time and finish time in terms of recovery and is usually so visiblefor all to see. Mental health, depression and anxiety are invisible – no timelines for recovery and much harder for others to comprehend it’s affects and sympathise.
In the immediate aftermath of Caroline Flacks death thefeminist meme ‘Fix each other’s Crown’ circulated Facebookand social media. I interpret ‘fixing crowns’ is about Womenempowering Women, eradicating negativity and being positive. I do sincerely hope that I was fixing crowns in someway before it flashed up in my newsfeed? I did reflect on this. Since the start of the year I have told someone I think their work is talented and creative. I have checked in on someone who has started a new job and sent various peoplemessages of support in difficult times. It took no effort, they were acts of naturalness. Is this fixing crowns though or is it good old fashioned genuine friendship? I don’t know but I do find myself asking why we have to be reminded to fix crowns in the first place as human beings?
No one is perfect. It’s Human nature not to like everyone or everything but keeping those opinions silent has far less impact than making them publically known. So, let’s live in hope that the death of Caroline Flack and ordinary people(6859) is not in vain and a reminder we all have to try our best to treat people with respect and kindness. Above all, striving to create a world, a country, a workplace in which mental health can be openly accepted and supported to give people a platform to seek support and help in the darkest of times must continue to evolve and there is still some way to go for this to be truly achieved.
The resources on the websites below are really very good for individuals who need support, those caring for loved ones with mental health issues and for employers. I do have a network of private counsellors and other therapists that I can refer people to, so please do get in touch if I can help in anyway.