World Mental Health Day 2020: Starting a Conversation About Mental Health Doesn’t Have to be Difficult

Saturday, October 10th 2020 was World Mental Health Day.

I’ve quoted the Mind ‘Taking care of your staff’ webpage in the title of my blog this month. Mental health is a topic I’ve spoken about before, and I’ve primarily focused on my journey through a PhD. I’ve used the phrases ‘pottering’ and ‘tear’ to describe mental health and ways to either maintain good habits or reflect on challenging times. This month I want to promote awareness of the multitude of resources to help people start a conversation about mental health because (as the title of the blog states) it doesn’t have to be difficult. Then, what conversations look like in practice for me. Finally, I end on a reflective note and consider the ‘so what’ question.

For the professional workplace: I want to highlight six standards produced by Mind to encourage organisations in any sector and of any size to support staff and, in particular, respond to the current coronavirus pandemic. The guide (free to access and implement) offers several links to practical action that organisations can take to support their staff.

What does this look like in practice for me? Well, I am incredibly fortunate to work in a supportive environment where many of my colleagues speak openly about mental health. For example, in a post this week from Counsel Ltd, James Allen articulates his views on mental health and promotes a podcast by a colleague (Rhys). Thank you both for being champions of mental health and promoting an open culture around mental health in our professional network.  

For the academic workplace: I want to highlight a four-part series produced by Dr Zoë J Ayres, who captures the lived experience of mental health pressures across groups in academia. The series includes resources (free to adapt and distribute), e.g. ‘Bubbling Over?’ – a poster where Zoë uses the jam-jar metaphor for visualising mental health and the coronavirus pandemic.

What does this look like in practice for me? Well, I am incredibly fortunate to work in a number of supportive environments across academia. My social media channels demonstrate how I communicate with others and prevent my flask getting full (see Zoë’s bubbling over poster and Tweet below). Alas, I recognise that my flask can bubble over and I can do better with my responses to the current coronavirus pandemic.  

So what?

You may well read to the end of this blog and think … okay, another person is advocating for better mental health, so what? My answer is simple … talking more about mental health could save a life. I recognise I am incredibly fortunate, but there are other examples where not speaking about mental health has dangerous consequences. In writing this blog I came across Ben’s story. Reading about a student committing suicide really puts mental health conversations into perspective.

I will go into next week making sure students connected to my teaching know Papyrus exists and use the Suicide-Safer Universities guide to raise more conversations about this topic with colleagues. We all have responsibility for our mental health, but how can employers, networks and institutions respond better to even more tremendous pressures brought about by the pandemic? My answer, talking to each other. As the quote in my title and from Mind says …

“Starting a conversation about mental health doesn’t have to be difficult.”


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