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Why mental health needs to be a discussion in your workplace

11 Oct 13:00 By Lawrence Akers

Mental Health Discussion

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

Yesterday, to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Day, I sent around an EDM to our clients that completely focused on the topic of mental health - more specifically, the impact of Imposter Syndrome (you can see that video blog at the bottom of the page) and how it is particularly relevant to the creative community, and the topic of bullying within the workplace environment.

Both of these topics are discussions that I have to hear, sadly, far too often.

The aim of our EDM yesterday was obviously to not only bring an awareness to the fact that this day exists, but also to provoke and create discussion.

Now, ‘provoke’ is an interesting word to use however it feels absolutely right to use it when we consider some of the responses that I’ve received.

Within an hour of that EDM going out, I had received a handful of emails that was expressing gratitude for the message we were sending out.

“Just wanted to thank you for this EDM, it’s so true and this reminder is very much appreciated.”

“Lawrence - I LOVE THIS! Excellent email. While I'm not personally suffering any mental health problems I could still identify with everything you wrote, it's really refreshing to see some openness about the issues and make a discussion safe for those who need it. I've forwarded this to a person in my team who struggles and I'm hoping they find it equally reassuring.”

“Great article Laurence! Enjoyed reading this.”

Obviously, when we receive back messages like this, it gives us a moment to feel that this message has meant something to some people out there, and hopefully offered some support.

Then I had the out of office emails come back in and I have to say that I take my hat off to some of the advertising agencies out there who were supporting Mental Health Awareness Day by giving some of their team a mental health day off. To agencies out there like Ogilvy, I am very impressed!

And then I went in to check my EDM report. I had a higher number of unsubscribes for this newsletter compared to my other EDMs. This sends a very clear message that ‘this topic’ is not what some people want to see in their inbox. Given the intention of the day, and therefore the intention of the email, it only seems to reinforce strongly why there is a need for a day like this. Inevitably, we’re not going to please everyone with any email that we send out however when a topic like mental health becomes a ‘this is not important to me’ and that person takes the time to unsubscribe, then that action in itself actually says more than they might realise. We sent this email out to everybody because we believe this is a topic that impacts everybody.

It is also important for me not to prejudge the reason why someone might unsubscribe. It could be easy to assume that the topic has 'triggered' them in some way and in a moment of 'feeling' a little too close to the bone, prompted them to unsubscribe as an unconscious act of 'making it go away'. Or it could be that they just don't understand the importance and relevance of how it impacts on their day to day ability to do their job. All I know is, from an observational perspective, this topic caused a response.

The flip side to this is that I’ve also had more opens on that EDM than I’ve had on any other, and more click through to the articles that are contained in it than any other - and this is a statistic that made me happy because it means that people are taking the content on board regardless of if they wish for it to be a discussion point or not. Let's call it a 'silent conversation'; that click tells me that there is someone there who has been happy to hear the message.

This is my invitation to anyone who has kindly taken the time to read this blog today; your mental health is as important as your physical health. 

Like your physical health, it does take some work to maintain and to discover skills like resilience, acceptance, forgiveness, or to simply learn to let go. Maybe it is because we’ve grown up in a world that has told us to ‘suck it up’ or to view people who have mental health issues as being ‘weak’, however I can assure you that the conversations I’ve had with the people who have been at the tail end of bullying and mental abuse are people who are far from weak. They may feel broken, and they may feel uncertain about the future, but the fact that they continue to get up each morning, get into work, and get the job done to the best of their ability shows that they have incredible strength and courage. 

Can you tell me honestly that you’re going to get through life free of any form of anxiety? Or free of any form of depressed state? 

Completely free of habitual or addictive behaviours that you claim help you to relax you or calm the mind even though it continues to harm you? 

Completely free of negative self-talk that holds yourself back from doing things that can bring success, achievement or even happiness?

No, I didn’t think so. 

Once we accept that everyone has ‘something’ to work through and show a little more kindness, empathy and support towards those who are experiencing a hard time, then we can help to remove the stigma attached to the concept of asking for help - especially when it could even save lives.  All it takes to achieve this is to show some empathy and a willingness to listen without judgement, and that's something we're all capable of doing.

Happy Mental Health Awareness Week - long may the discussion continue.