2018: scrapping the stigma surrounding mental health

Mental health – we all have it – so why is it that we are so scared to talk about it?

As one of Chiene + Tait’s trained mental health first aider’s (SMHFA), I am part of an initiative to support everyone within the firm to feel safe and comfortable discussing their mental health, whether it be that they are in a good place mentally, or that they are struggling. Mental ill health will affect one in four of us at any given time – it is more common than you may think.

Being a Chartered Accountant (CA), as with almost every job, comes with its stresses. Exams, results, and deadlines, are just a few of the stressful times I have faced as a CA. Stress is part of daily life and when harnessed correctly it can be a positive and a motivational tool. Stress is what gets us up in the morning, it helps us get work done, on time, or even at a basic evolutionary level, it helped our ancestors to find shelter or run away from an impending threat. However, when we experience high levels of stress, without adequate coping strategies, the negative effects of stress can lead to more serious mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression.

I wanted to take the time to write this blog for two reasons; firstly, to share some tips and advice on how best to look after your mental health, in particular for anyone in work by raising awareness of stress and coping, and secondly, to emphasise that you are NOT alone in whatever you may be going through.

Below are some of helpful tips on how look after your mental health:

Mindfulness

This can be as simple as taking ten minutes out of your day to focus on yourself and relax can make the world of difference. We spend a lot of time worried about the past or the future and it is easy to forget about the present. There are tonnes of apps and websites that provide free meditation guides too – see here: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/26/five-of-the-best-meditation-apps for some apps you can use on your digital device.

Do things to make you feel good

Doing things that make you happy and feel good are imperative for good mental wellbeing. By doing this you build resilience and mental reserves which help you cope at stressful times. Examples of this could be: going to the cinema, having a bubble bath, reading a book, watching your favourite series on Netflix, cuddling with your pet – it will be different for everyone but what’s important is that it makes YOU feel happy. For many people, especially when under pressure, we forget what we need which is maybe as simple as a 10-minute break away from your screen, chatting or laughing with our friends and colleagues or going for a walk at lunchtime.

Be aware of the early warning signs

Try to be aware of your own feelings and act quickly if you feel you may be becoming unwell. If you start to notice yourself feeling anxious, stressed, panicky, or depressed on a regular basis, speak to someone you trust, your workplace Mental Health First Aider or make an appointment with your GP. Don’t forget as well, many employers, like Chiene + Tait, offer an Employee Assistance Programme which is a free, independent and confidential helpline, that can offer counselling sessions or someone to listen, when needed.

Talk about it

It’s definitely not easy to start up a conversation about your mental state, but it can be very helpful and allows those around you to be aware of your feelings. You’ll find that many people will have had similar experiences or feelings and may be able to give you some advice or even just some reassurance that you’re not alone.

Finally, a point for those of you who don’t struggle with mental ill health – you can help more than you know. Educate yourself on mental illness and try to be non-judgemental and understanding – these are key elements that will help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

Mental illness does not stigmatise – it doesn’t care about your age, your sex, your profession, how wealthy you are, how fit you are… it can affect any person at any time in their lives. Let’s break down the barriers and create an environment where we can openly chat about our wellbeing!

 

Links:

SeeMe – https://www.seemescotland.org/ – for more information on the Time to Talk campaign and lots of other information about mental health

Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/ – access to urgent help and a library of information on almost every mental health condition.

Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us