It’s World Mental Health Day today! I only found this out when a colleague circulated a link to our organisation’s counselling and support service, alongside their own experience of accessing to help with overcoming anxiety. I have written here about my own struggles with mental health (in particular here, here, and here), and have found the solidarity and support that this has attracted really useful in my own recovery. However, telling my team at work seemed too difficult. It feels wrong to admit weakness at work, especially at the start of your career.
Some of my colleagues read the blog, of course, and I told my managers (who were really great) because I worried I might need some time off as I adjusted to the meds (I actually didn’t, they were pretty straight forward, thankfully). But I couldn’t find the right opportunity to tell my wider unit. Today, almost as soon as the email came through from this colleague, another shared their own experience of mental ill-health, and another, and another. I joined the growing ranks of candid and compassionate co-workers, and shared a little of my own experience, following the others in offering a non-judgemental ear.
A while back, Catherine introduced me to the idea of ‘sparkle moments’ – the joyful events in a day which remind you that when things are tough, it is always possible to find something good which can nourish you. She uses this approach – taught to her by an educational psychologist – with the kids she teaches, to help them see the positivity in their lives. A sparkle moment doesn’t have to be big. It could be as small as a smile from a stranger, a friend ringing to say hello, or a moment of peace with good cup of coffee and a biscuit.
As the emails stacked up in my inbox, I realised how liberating it was to tell colleagues how you feel. Sharing my own experience made me feel a lot easier around them, and their compassion and openness made me feel valued and supported. I was surprised at just how many people had experience of struggling with their mental health, and I was reassured that this was normal. I feel very fortunate to have found myself surrounded by such brave and caring people – and I’m going to chalk this up as my sparkle moment for today.
If you feel able to, sharing with colleagues creates a space for open and honest dialogue about day-to-day challenges and struggles with mental health. You might be surprised – as I was – at how many people have had similar experiences. Just knowing that there are people who can understand what I might be feeling when I’m low makes it so much easier to turn up to work. It is empowering to feel able to be open with each other. We are a busy team, and there is a lot to be done over the next wee while, but I feel like today’s generous candour has set us on a compassionate path which has immediately put me more at ease.
**What’s your sparkle moment today? Let me know in the comments!**