We all have mental health. In the same way that you sprain an ankle, or stub your toe, you can also feel mentally overwhelmed.
The problem is we don’t talk about our mental health like we do our physical. Even the very idea of asking for help with your mental health is completely different – you go to the doctors to treat an ankle sprain, but going to a therapist is, for some, frowned upon.
This needs to change and World Suicide Prevention Day is an important platform for us to try further remove the stigma that surrounds mental health.
“Be a man”
In 2019, nearly three-quarters of all UK suicides were male. That’s not a typo. Over 4,000 men committed suicide last year. It’s an incredibly saddening figure.
Men’s mental health is a particular problem in society. We’ve probably all heard phrases like “man up”, or “stop acting like a girl” in life. In fact, we’ve probably all used these phrases. But all they do is reinforce unfair notions of male masculinity.
And when suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK there really is no place for such negative and harmful words.
In fact, it’s the exact opposite conversation that we need to encourage. I’m a big advocate of talking – I think everyone in the office knows that. But it can sometimes be hard to open up, especially with the sensitivity that often comes with mental health conversations.
So the least I can do is share my own perspective…
A 30-year wait
I’m not ashamed to say I’ve cried twice during lockdown. The first time was because I felt overwhelmed with Covid-19. I was worried, scared and anxious. Importantly, I felt far better afterwards because I was able to reflect back and understand why I was feeling down; it would have been much worse if I had kept the emotion in.
The second time was because Liverpool won the Premier League and I definitely have no shame about that. Yes, I plan to milk that for as long as I can.
Here is a video of me celebrating… I won’t show you the video of me the day after.
The reason why I’m sharing this story is because I want to show people that it’s OK to talk about their mental health. It’s OK to feel down, anxious or mentally drained in life and at work. And you don’t need to publically share your experience in a blog like this. There are multiple different ways to do it.
Help is always there
At Harvard, we have come a long way to support people; in the same vein, we have a long way to go because it really is a marathon not a sprint.
Currently we have mental health first aiders, private healthcare insurance that covers mental illness, access to external app Calm and mindfulness support through yoga. It’s the beginning of what I hope will become a fantastic support network for everyone, not only at Harvard but Chime.
On the other side of the coin, it’s also OK to not want to talk to someone at work about something so personal. Helplines such as Samaritans, Mind and the NHS all offer a confidential way to speak to someone.
No matter what is thrown at us daily, it will come with challenges and we need to be able to openly talk about those challenges, especially during what is the most extraordinary and unpredictable time of our lives.
We need to start normalising mental health.
And if there is one final thought I can share it is that someone will always be available to help or talk. No-one should ever have to experience mental health issues alone – but experience them, we all do.