It would be easy to read off a list and say, “do these five things and all will be alright”. Sadly, mental health isn’t like that.
Everyone has their own journey to undertake and their own paths to follow. Even the people trying to act as guides or help others along their path need to follow their own at times.
Remember that this isn’t just about employees; this includes employers, management, leadership and everyone in between. Mental health and our wellbeing is important to us all! Also, don’t expect complicated psychology or neuroscience. There’s none of that here. Well, at least not from me, I’m an accountant!
I share what I’ve learned from my lived experience; a lived experience that I almost stopped living by my own decision. These are simply ideals I feel we should all try to live by in our lives, whether at work or at home. Live by them. Preferably don’t die by them! But remember them as you go about your life, regardless of whether you’re an employer or employee, regardless of whether we’re in lockdown or back to ‘normal’.
It all starts with Communication.
Everything always does. What is important about communication is that it’s open and two way. You need to be willing and able to share, just as well as you need to be willing and able to listen. You need to be receptive towards all topics of conversation and happy to discuss as much as you can. People struggling with their mental health may not always follow logical lines; tangents happen often. Everything they talk about will be important to them in some way, so please listen and be considerate.
Next follows the Respect that each person deserves.
There’s a line from a song that always gets me; “The frightened fall as often, yet far closer than the brave”. We believe, in general, that being brave is a strength and that being frightened is a weakness, but that simply isn’t the case.
Opening up and talking about your real self, your real feelings, admitting you are frightened, scared, struggling and having a hard time, and sharing that with a somewhat-stranger is actually being incredibly strong. Admitting that need for help and support is frightening, but in that fear, you find true bravery! Respect that those sharing their struggles with you, also struggled to find the courage to share!
These are the conversations we want to be happening, but the only way we can encourage them is by showing Vulnerability.
Stepping out of the employer-employee relationship for a bit and just into being people; who are you most likely to open up to and speak honestly with; the armour-clad, emotionless, near-perfect demi-god? Or, the ‘other guy’ who has the same fears, frailties and insecurities as the ones inside of you?
For decades we have raised the former to the tops of organisations, but only now are we discovering that real leadership, true leadership, comes from the latter. Being vulnerable, sharing and talking about how you, yourself, are struggling, will help encourage others to talk themselves and empower you to better help them on their journey.
Acceptance is one of the hardest lessons in life and it is no different here.
I find it hard to explain properly without referring to the words that kept me going; “It’s not what I wanted. It’s not what I planned. It’s not where I thought I’d be. It’s just where I am.” Life happens. It just does. You cannot control everything. And even when you can control everything, you can still lose. That isn’t failure. It is just life!
When people are struggling with their mental health, often they can find themselves looking into the past, or staring into the future and merely ‘surviving’ the present. Helping someone through these times is about helping them let go of ‘what was’ and ‘what can be’ and helping them see ‘what is’. This is particularly important now, during lockdown, when there is just so much uncertainty in the world.
Finally, and this is the most important, do all the above Every Day.
Do them all regardless of whether someone is struggling. Having good communication, showing people respect, being vulnerable and helping people accept life, all cost absolutely nothing but are invaluable!
We all crave these things in our life, whether struggling or not, so forget about being an employer or an employee and just focus on being a person helping another person. We are all just people after all.