February 7th was ‘Time to Talk Day’ – a national initiative from Time to Change, a growing social movement that’s working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems.
As someone who started out in internal comms in 1999, it’s great to see organisations encouraging us to be more open and transparent about how we’re feeling, but there is still so much to do.
My introduction to mental health occurred a long time ago, before entering the world of comms. My mum, who worked at Peterborough District Hospital, arranged for me to attend an interview for a job as a nursing auxiliary. She hid the all-important word ‘psychiatric’ from her big sell to a daughter who was frankly drifting from job-to-job. I’d always been interested in nursing, so was happy when I got the job. However, I’m not ashamed to admit that, as an 18-year old with little exposure to mental illness, I was initially a bit overwhelmed by my new working environment.
For two years I helped highly skilled medical staff care for people with various mental health conditions, ranging in age from 18 to 80 plus. The work could be demanding, but was very rewarding. Although encouraged and tempted to train as a psychiatric nurse, I knew it wasn’t for me in the long run and left to see the world as an au pair, starting off in France, never to return…
Fast forward four months…
I was back in Peterborough, suffering from mild depression and embarrassed of my failure to conquer the world. With no job and what felt like no future, I became more and more isolated until a friend took things in hand. She encouraged me to talk about how I was feeling and not to worry about being open with people. What had felt like a ‘fog’ soon lifted. Before I knew it I’d signed a lease on my first flat and committed to a full-time office course, which led to my career in communications. Luckily, I’ve never looked back.
It’s ok not to be ok
Listening to Rachel Miller of All Things IC talk about how “it’s ok not to be ok” on the first Internal Communications Podcast with Katie Macaulay made me realise just how much things have changed…for the better! The social media activity for ‘Time to Talk Day’ prompted me to be brave and share my story and my thoughts about how internal comms pros can help break down taboos about subjects like mental health, that are simply just part of everyday life.
3 things internal communicators can do to help
- As internal communicators we have a responsibility to put topics like mental health out there as part of our well-being narrative. To get people talking. To make sure people know “it’s ok not to be ok” and let them know what support is available if they are suffering and where to go for help.
- The results in this year’s State of the Sector report from Gatehouse tell us employees feel the volume of communication at work is generally too high. It’s surely a top priority for us to take the lead on this by managing the amount of communication being pushed out to employees, cutting out as much noise as possible and helping colleagues to focus on information that’s relevant and important to them.
- Finally, let’s not forget about ourselves. Internal comms can be full on…deadlines, multiple projects, office politics, social media…combined with the pace of modern day living can all take their toll. Mind, the mental health charity, has lots of useful information to help.
- Check out the great free resources and find out how you can help end mental health discrimination – www.time-to-change.org.uk
- Listen to The Internal Communications Podcast on iTunes
- Sign-up to receive the full State of the Sector 2019 results at www.gatehousegroup.co.uk
- Visit Mind for information about how to be mentally health at work