If you know me or have read any of my other articles, you’ll know me as the SaaS sales and LinkedIn guy. I recently started Sales Confidence to be the voice and community for SaaS salespeople in the UK. However, today, I want to talk about something else that is important to me. Mental health.
Our lives in 2017 are overloaded. We work long hours. We try to fit in time with our partners, families and friends. We play sports and take part in hobbies. We’re told to eat healthy, to exercise, to read the right books. All the time being judged by friends and strangers on social media.
I’m massively interested in the toll this lifestyle takes on our mental health. I have my own story with mental health, which I will be telling in the future. Right now though, I want to spread some positivity. In 2017, we’ve reached a peak of awareness regarding mental health. In fact, mental health has become trendy. I want to explain how and why. I also want to examine whether it’s a good or bad thing.
Mental health is everywhere in 2017
As I write this article, the area under my nose is occupied with a ridiculous moustache. It’s Movember, but while in previous years Movember has raised awareness of prostate and testicular cancer, this year it’s concerned with men’s mental health. It you feel like donating please do so here.
This year’s Virgin London Marathon was dubbed ‘The Mental Health Marathon’, with the charity Heads Together taking an active role.
The current BBC1 series addressing autism, The A Word, is receiving great reviews. As did the Eastenders storyline with Stacey Branning’s postpartum psychosis a couple of years back.
These are just a few examples. There are many others. There has never been more mainstream awareness of mental health than there is now. But, why?
Firstly, many high-profile people have opened up about their own experiences with mental health. I don’t think you can underestimate the work of Princes William and Harry on this, as well as the Duchess of Cambridge. The Royals have never been the most open people, but for William and Harry to tell the world of how their mother’s death affected their mental states broke down a lot of barriers. If someone as respected as Prince Harry can suffer from mental health issues, it makes it much more acceptable for other people to admit their own problems.
They’re not alone. Other famous people such as Alistair Campbell, Professor Green, Ruby Wax, Frank Bruno, Clarke Carlisle, Jonny Benjamin MBE, Neil Laybourn and Former Unilever VP Geoff McDonald have spoken about their experiences with mental health, encouraging others to talk about theirs.
I’ve was very fortunate to join Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn in New York recently to support the work they do to promote hope and recovery. The very real experiences they share and the impact it has on those that listen to their story, is truly inspirational. If you haven’t heard about the ‘Stranger on the bridge’, a story that reached millions of people globally. I encourage you to check it out.
Social media has been a great outlet for people to talk about mental health. Head Talks is one such example, where people share Ted Talk style stories of knowledge and practical steps towards better mental health. Virtual support groups have sprung up everywhere, making it easier to talk about your issues without fear of judgement.
While mental health charities have been doing great work for years, new organisations such as Sanctus, Minds@Work and Thrive In The City have emerged, specifically addressing mental health in today’s busy world of work. They’re making mental health relevant in business, where previously there were alpha males and stiff upper lips.
Finally, and it’s sad to say this, but the tragic deaths by suicide of well-loved people, like Robin Williams, or the musicians, Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, have raised awareness. When people who have millions of fans and all the success in the world can succumb to depression, it brings it home to a lot of people.
Is it a good thing?
Is it a good thing that everyone is talking about mental health at the moment? Yes, of course it is.
It’s great that the stigma that existed about mental health is finally being eroded away. It’s terrific that people are opening up and sharing their stories regarding mental health, when previously it was seen as a sign of weakness. It’s essential that people are being encouraged to get help with their mental health, rather than wait until things get on top of them and it’s too late.
It’s great that people are raising money for mental health charities and enjoying themselves in the process.
Is it a bad thing?
This rise in awareness is only a bad thing when it goes too far. I always try to see the best in people, but when you see Z-listers on the front of trashy magazines trumpeting their ‘brave battles with depression’, I do wonder if they’re really ill or just seeking publicity. Now, I totally appreciate that is a controversial statement, and I would never ever wish to dismiss someone that has experienced mental health challenges.
On top of that, while it’s great that social media has provided an outlet for people to talk about their mental health. Using words too loosely, so much that ‘being crazy’ is a compliment or being ‘bipolar’ makes someone a creative genius, is not particularly helpful to those suffering with real life issues.
I totally recognise that living with mental illness is absolutely not a desirable trait like the word ‘trendy’ I used in the title depicts, and I absolutely do not wish trivialise mental illness and the devastating impact it has on people and those around them. However, when the media, movies and TV can often depict people with a mental health diagnosis as ‘incapable’ and ‘not normal’, my absolute preference is for people to see and hear about the uplifting and successful stories of those that overcome those challenges. If more people come forward to seek help this is only a good thing.
Yes having a mental health illness is a struggle but you can still be successful in your chosen pursuit.
Finally, while I find it’s great to share your experiences with mental health, not everyone is in a state where they’re ready. I hate to think that there’s an expectation to talk now. People should only do it when they’re comfortable to do so.
How about you? How are you doing?
It’s clear that there has never been more support than there is in now to help people overcome challenges with their mental health. All of the above has certainly helped me and I hope if you are reading this and struggling at the moment, all the resources listed in this article can be of help. Please do not suffer in silence. Find someone to listen.
Regardless of whether it’s trendy or not, my advice is always the same. Make sure, even if you think you’re doing well, you keep on top of your mental health.
Self-awareness is the key here. Check in with yourself on a regular basis. Be aware of what’s going on in your head, as well as the impact you’re having on others.
If you’re worried in any way, find help in a way that makes you feel comfortable. Tell a friend, or a health professional. It could be that just some simple lifestyle changes could make all the difference, but if it’s something more, it’s imperative to catch it before it’s too late.
Now let me know what you think. Why do you think everyone is talking about mental health in 2017? Let me know in the comments below.
I will be sharing my thoughts on the topic of mental health in the workplace on Monday the 27th of November at the following events as part of the ThriveintheCity campaign:
8am until 9am – UBS Wealth Management
Barriers to addressing stigma in the workplace - Chaired by Geoff McDonald (Minds@Work).
Free Tickets available here
12pm – 13:30pm – KPMG
Transitioning to the workplace – bringing your whole self to work – Chaired by Richard Martin
Free Tickets available here
About the Author
James Ski works for Linkedin and advise companies on hiring, employer branding and recruitment. He is the founder of Sales Confidence and a speaker and mental health ambassador.
Crisis / Risk Management Plan:
If you’re having a crisis, here are some ideas:
Contact your GP
Out of hours contacts – NHS 111
Go to A&E
City residents only – 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Helpline 0208 432 8020
Maytree – A sanctuary for the suicidal 0207 263 7070
Other helpful numbers:
NHS Direct: 0845 46 47
Saneline 0845 767 8000
Samaritans 116 123
FRANK (Drugs) Helpline 0800 77 66 00
Substance Misuse Helpline 0800 066 55 25
Drinkline 0800 917 82 82
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) 0808 802 5858 (5pm to midnight)
Links listed in the article: