Part of Mental Health Awareness Week is to get people to think and talk about mental health issues, so that it is no longer a taboo subject. I feel strongly that it is not something that people should suffer in silence or be embarrassed about. The taboo will not go away if sufferers stay at home and do not tell people how they are feeling, so that their friends, family and colleagues can understand their behaviour and possibly help them to feel better. You may feel that it is obvious when you are feeling low, I certainly do, but then you realise that most people are so wrapped up in their own lives and problems, that they have probably not noticed how you are feeling or behaving.
We all see our friends, family and colleagues in a particular way and so they will not be looking for you to act differently. So I always feel that I under perform at work when I am low: I feel indecisive and I lack confidence, but while the change is obvious to me, I am told that I am still performing. It is just that to maintain that level of workload, takes supreme effort and is exhausting, but I still keep the same high standards, so the cost is to me personally, rather than for my employer.
As a sufferer of depression, I feel that I can often recognise the signs in others : the sad, empty eyes , the slow pace of talking, the negativity in the way they are thinking , the inability to make decisions and the lack of enthusiasm for life. I recognise these symptoms, because I have been there myself, many times before. As I understand just how lonely that feels, I try to make an effort to reach out to fellow sufferers and to take time for them. I was aware that within our Coffee Morning at school, they were certainly parents with mental health issues. While I am not qualified to attempt to diagnose or fix anyone, I set up a group there where our parents can come and discuss their mental health with other parents, in a caring, non-judgemental environment. After the first meeting, last Summer, some parents told me that it was refreshing to come to school to talk about themselves, rather than their SEN children and that they felt able to say things that might be awkward amongst other groups, but that they were confident that we would all share and understand their perspective, without judging them as parents. That feedback validated my decision to launch this group as I could see that it fulfilled an unmet need.
I have also been trained to become a Mental Health First Aid Champion at work and so we are raising the profile of mental health in our workplace. It has now become an agenda issue at our weekly team meetings and today I am hoping to extend the meeting by an additional 30 minutes, in order to give us more of a focus than usual. I am aware that not everyone will feel comfortable with this initiative, but hopefully as we start to do it more, it will become easier and more natural and as colleagues in a small business, we will begin to look out for each other more in the future.