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For Mental Health Month, our Head of Operations, Matthew Reeves, talks about what really matters …

In this pandemic-influenced world we live in, we are constantly being bombarded by the ‘C’ word, i.e. Covid. It’s a word that is on everyone’s lips during some part of the day, whether at home, or in the workplace, or over Teams, or the ubiquitous Zoom calls. It surrounds us, and like the virus its very self, has infected our lives in other ways, and influences our mindsets. It surrounds us on social media, messaging, memes, in the media, and is on all company daily agendas.

Mental health awareness

Despite all Covid conversation, the important ‘C’ word I would like to blog about is ‘Coping’, as in, “How are you coping with this personally? How is your mind? How is your mental health?” These are unprecedented times we live in, the strangest (beside our war-torn experienced Grandparents memories aside) we have all faced in a generation.

I am not a qualified Psychoanalyst, a Doctor, nor a Scientist. However, I meet (where possible depending on restrictions) and speak with a lot of people on a weekly basis in my role at Global Talent 2020. As an experienced Consultant, you can see the range of reasoning mechanisms people have, whilst in these pandemic circumstances that are effecting us all. They range from the people whom ‘just get on with it’, to ‘let’s do what we are told’ and, ‘I am frightened for the future’ to, ‘I cannot see an end’.

Even the ‘glass half full’ people have faltered

Personally, I am normally a ‘glass half full person’, an optimistic person overall. Yet even I faltered over the first initial period of lockdown that, as a nation, we all experienced. At the time I was furloughed. I was concerned about what was going to happen next. How does this effect my job, my family, me making a living? My feelings were similar to so many awaiting decisions from their employers before the end of furlough period in October. They are going through a whole range of emotions.

HR professionals I have spoken to within employers’ companies are also having to face new issues that have arisen from the furlough scheme. ‘Furlough shaming’ is one, another being employees who are quite happy to remain on furlough, or return onto it at the drop of a hat (rather than flexi work).
Then (unfortunately) I have come across some companies that took a short-term view. They made early decisions on redundancies, rather than utilise the furlough scheme for its employees at the start of the pandemic.

Let’s talk about mental health

Mental health is becoming less and less of a taboo subject in the UK. It is more prevalent now than ever before.

This blog is not intended to be preachy, nor insensitive in any way. I empathise with people for whom serious mental health issues are a daily struggle, and a far more complex one than the I am generalising/commenting on.

As human beings, we are a social species. This is an anthropological fact. We have evolved to be the dominant life form on this beautiful home we all call Earth. That has been achieved, over time, by us communicating, interacting (sometimes forcefully, but on the whole peacefully) with one another. This has helped us evolve our alphabets, our languages, our numeracy, our arts, our cultures, our technological advances, our capacities for commerce. We’ve developed our minds, with our capacities for free thinking, and complex problem solving.

I feel we all need to check ourselves mentally more. We all need to do this twice as much as we do our mobile phones, especially in today’s ‘Covid-19 culture’. It should not be a sign of weakness; in fact, it is one of strength.

A sign of strength

Checking in on your mental health shows that you are preparing yourself; you are constantly ready to face the moment. You are able to compute whatever is thrown at you, as the optimum mindset version of yourself. Your mind, after all, controls your body, your actions, and also the way you then communicate, react to circumstances, or adapt correctly to a given situation.

I am a strong advocate for the idea that there is a positive in everything (no matter how gloomy things might first appear to be). However, we all have doubts sometimes, no matter how positive, or confident we usually are. This is especially true as the circumstances around us are changing daily. We should be checking more regularly our own mindset. This should assist in our capacity to cope more effectively, or not be ashamed to ask for help.

“Coping can take many forms”

Help, and coping, can take many forms. It can be coping to take a walk at lunchtime in the fresh air. It can be speaking to a friend or a trusted colleague, partaking in a relaxing hobby, playing a sport, or musical instrument. Perhaps creating a piece of art, writing, reading, DIY, tending to plants, gardening, or looking after animals. For you, it might be taking a run, working out, climbing, sailing, charity work, volunteering. Simply put, it’s anything that can detract or channel your thoughts, the energies to cope with your life, and what is ensuing around you.

However, sometimes the burden can be too great and, as I have outlined above, you should then have the honesty and courage to carry out an introspective self-assessment. Being comfortable enough to ask for help (without the fear that others will see this as a sign of weakness, an affliction, a deficiency, or a character flaw) is the key goal.

Building on your personal strength

The above measures promote a position of personal strength; a healthy coping self-measurement, not a negative one, to accomplish this. They aim to help you objectively self-evaluate, face truths about your work, your personal life, yourself (rather than let them multiply and become insurmountable barriers).

Outside help can be sought from some really good areas now. If you need some support with coping or getting comfortable with talking about any mental health issues, dealing with anxiety, or stress, please see some useful NHS approved contact details below.

How to get mental health help

Anxiety UK
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)

Bipolar UK
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.

CALM
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)

Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.

Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.

Mind
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)

No Panic
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access charge.

OCD Action
Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge

OCD UK
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0333 212 7890 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

PAPYRUS
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm and 7pm to 10pm, and 2pm to 5pm on weekends)

Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)

Samaritans
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

SANE
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers. They offer a service called Textcare; comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most.

YoungMinds
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)

Peer Support Forum

Edinburgh Edspace

Summary

As I stated earlier, I am not an expert on this. I constantly self-evaluate. It has helped me through some challenging, dark, and rough times (as well as positive, bright, and happy times). However, it takes enormous courage to confront any deeper, or more complex mental health issues and I salute anyone who does. This is a sign for me of someone’s inner strength; their ability to want to be moving forwards, like all of us want to.

Coping in the right way (with the right levels of support, or right mechanisms in place) is what we must be more mindful of in these ever-changing circumstances.

The new ‘C’ word – ‘Coping’ (not ‘Covid’), we should all be more mindful of in ourselves and with others.

Matthew