In putting this carnival together, I’ve been wracking my brain over whether I should describe it as such. A carnival is about a celebration, and is it right to celebrate that we’re talking about mental health? Maybe it is, and maybe that’s my own barrier I need to overcome. And in that statement, it is also telling just how much more needs to be done with talking about this important topic.
So let’s get to it.
It started with a blog. And how it started. Who would have known that from an initial outpouring of one person’s reflection of the year behind them, such a swelling of people would rally and demand more be done? It’s amazing how these things work out. People find a way to be amazing if they have the opportunity. In this case, the opportunity wasn’t sought, it was gifted.
That first post about Courage, that’s where this all started. Please do go and read it if you haven’t. It’s hugely important, and is the very foundation of everything that came after it. The author at the time chose not to reveal who they were. For the purposes of drama, I’ll leave this for a moment too. The comments on the post I think are hugely telling of the “astonishing” response from the readers.
From there things moved quickly into a meeting of people. The hashtag #HR4MH was born and it’s incredible to think things have moved so quickly. That meeting was quite inspirational. The speaker of the Courage post came up and introduced himself. It starts with a conversation, and Jon shared with us why he wanted to let us know it was him. Bravo that man is all I have to say. I don’t think he knew what he was starting, but the courage to put pen to paper was that all important first step.
We also heard from Charlotte, who is an Expert by Experience and works for Mind. It was fascinating have her recount her story about how she suffers from bipolar disorder and how it has affected her through her life. It’s not easy to talk about personal things like this in front of an audience, and she did it with a lot of authenticity. I’m glad we had the opportunity to hear from her, and she’s provided a transcript of her talk on her blog.
From Jon’s first post, Alison lead the charge and a whole series of posts came to be from all corners of an online population. To say this has been an education doesn’t do the series justice. It continues to amaze me and show just how much there is to learn about this area of life that we all too often shy away from. The series has shone a bright light on the problems many face in their life, and I’m glad to be able to gain that insight from all involved.
The series from Alison became known as the 25% club. Lorna coined that inspired term. Here, she helped us to start to think about just what it takes to let the world know why things haven’t been right. And she took that brave step of admitting how it felt to acknowledge it and to let others know about it.
Around the same time, Kate Griffiths-Lambeth wrote a post asking people to Speak Up. This was a revealing post in which Kate shared with us her experience of falling into depression at a time when she was with a loved one on holiday. I found it interesting to read about how even though she was aware of what mental health is, until she experienced it herself, it was something quite easy to dismiss.
I wanted to help the cause and in the same way Alison opened her blog for people to have a safe place to talk about their mental health issues, I opened mine. The author was anonymous, and the message equally powerful in being Fortunate. It certainly helped me to understand how suffering from mental health can start very early in life and continue to be there throughout a person’s life.
Graham Frost wrote an initial piece for the 25% club series. I had the fortune of meeting him proper at the HR4MH evening, and while there he recalled an incident about his manager who had helped him with his troubles, but sadly when the manager experienced his own problems there was no-one to turn to and he took his own life. It’s a tragic story, and highlights just how real the problems of mental health are if we aren’t able to observe when someone needs help and support accordingly.
Niki Rosenbaum wrote a post after attending the HR4MH meeting too with her reflections on what the night meant for her. “Share experiences and stories just as you would about any other health condition. You’d share details of your broken leg/ diabetes/ migraines so an employer or colleague could look out for you – so why should mental health be any different?” Start the conversation she said, and I couldn’t agree more.
That’s not the end. That’s just what we’ve achieved so far. And this is just from the HR population (in the main) who have contributed. The key term for me from that meeting was to normalise the conversation on this important topic. It’s up to all of us interested in having safe workplaces that we take the time to understand what support a person requires. There were two questions which I felt were just vital in opening that conversation with all staff so we can know them better:
– What do you do to take care of your health and well-being?
– What can I do to support you better?
We can’t shy away from the conversation, or pass it on to Occupational Health. We need to be fully engaged in what we’re faced with and let people know we’re here to help.