It’s OK Not To Be OK

An Awkward Hello. How many times have you bumped into an acquaintance during the day and muttered, ‘hello, how are you?', not because you are genuinely interested in their day, but because you are seeking to fill an awkward silence with a quintessentially British remark?

All of us have probably done this at least once in the last week alone. The individual we were speaking to almost certainly responded ‘yes fine thanks.’ The greeting ended with both parties moving their heads to create a cross between a nod and a cordial lean, before both moved on with their respective days.

How To Make Your Hellos Less Awkward

What if that person had not, in fact, been fine? What if you had both been suffering under the weight of issues you felt unable to discuss at the time. Imagine the positive conversation that could have taken place if you’d felt able to open up to each other. Imagine how refreshed you would have felt, knowing that there was someone who you could talk to about what you were going through; knowing that you were not alone, knowing that someone was there to help you overcome whichever obstacles were impairing your happiness. It’s OK to make eye-contact with people and speak openly with them. Even if you find yourself on the Tube in London.

As a society, it is important that we care about each other more, and help each other out, even if we have only just met. Offering somebody help, even if they do not ask for it, can make such a beneficial difference to their life and your own. In particular, by talking openly about mental health, we can make life slightly easier for so many people. Many people never have these conversations, due to a general misunderstanding of mental health issues.

When Some Illnesses Are More Equal Than Others

Imagine you are at the foot of a staircase that someone else is falling down, and that they break their arm while completing their inelegant gambol towards your face. While looking at their dislocated and broken arm, you encourage them to heal their wounds by cheering up or taking a stiff drink. They then somehow manage to get back on their feet, and don’t mention their arm to anyone for a week.

Such a scenario is obviously ludicrous. The individual in question would be rushed to hospital, probably as a result of your calling for an ambulance, for emergency surgery on their arm. The problem is that this response is reserved almost exclusively for cases of physical ill-health. Those suffering from equally serious mental health issues are often treated in the same way as the previous analogy’s victim. They can be disbelieved, ignored, or subjected to dismissive remarks which masquerade as advice.

Removing The Stigma

Mental illness often has a stigma attached to it, as if those who experience them are somehow different from other ‘normal’ people. The reality is that anybody can experience a mental illness and anyone can experience periods of poor mental health. If you are stressed at work, if a recent tragedy has left you feeling low, if you are afflicted by anxiety before taking an exam or speaking at an important event, these are all mental health. By talking to one another about these symptoms, we can lift each other out of a dark place and prevent difficulties at work or in life from escalating into personal crises.

Lloyds Bank have helped efforts to promote open conversations about mental health with their recent ‘#GetTheInsideOut’ advertising campaign. This campaign encouraged social media users to place sticky notes reading ‘GetTheInsideOut’ on their heads, take a selfie, and post the photo to their social media pages. The response to the campaign was widespread with many celebrities taking part. Lloyds helped start a national conversation about mental health.

Talking About Mental Health At Work

At Altruist Enterprises, we take this conversation into workplaces around the country. Whichever sector your business operates in, you will almost certainly have staff whose lives are being affected by poor mental health, but who feel unable to discuss how they feel with their work colleagues. Our courses will give your team the tools you need to spot the signs of stress and other symptoms of mental health issues among your colleagues, so that you can help each other to be yourselves again.

If you're looking to raise mental health awareness in an informal way, why not run a Corporate Wellness Lunch and Learn session? We also run Online Mental Health Lunch and Learns.

Katie founded Altruist Enterprises in 2013. Since then, she has grown Altruist into a nationwide provider of mental health and resilience training. Katie is a seasoned public speaker and innovator of bespoke mental health courses. In 2022, Katie won the Cambridge Social Innovation Prize awarded by Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge and Cambridge Judge Business School.

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