How’s your mental health? No, seriously

I’d been feeling a bit crappy recently, so I talked to my therapist. And now I’m feeling better. Here’s why it works for me, and why I think it will do you good, too.

A couple of decades ago, jogging was viewed with suspicion; some even thought it was dangerous. But attitudes changed and today, runners are tripping over each other in parks – and tripping over themselves on social media to let us all know how far/often they’ve run. We value our physical health and we’re proud to share that with others.

So why aren’t we as proud of our mental health? Why don’t we see posts on social media saying: ‘Had a great therapy session today!’? Are we really, as a society, embarrassed or threatened by that kind of talk? In fact, let’s put it to the test right now – how does the following sentence make you feel:

I’ve been struggling with my mental health recently.

To me, that’s a direct, honest, human statement. I understand that it’s perhaps a bit awkward to read and it acknowledges that I’m flawed or even vulnerable, but aren’t we all? And can we not accept in 2021 that mental health is as changeable as our physical health and that it needs maintenance and attention? I believe that going to the gym should carry the same weight as attending counselling or therapy. The sooner we can get on board with that, the better – for everyone.

A societal challenge

The unavoidable truth is that our mental health fluctuates all the time, but we don’t like to talk about it. That said, it has been encouraging to see the recent awareness around women and the menopause – another word that makes many of us uncomfortable – although there’s plenty of work to do. For example, I don’t fully understand the menopause and I’m female; education for all is desperately needed. In addition, we’re tackling the ‘man up’ approach to men’s mental health. If we just could confront the ‘you’re being hormonal’ assumption when it comes to women, that would be equally welcome.

Perhaps society’s reluctance to acknowledge the ebb and flow of mental health is something to do with the stigma behind mental illness (and that’s a blog for another time), but they’re two very different things. I am not mentally ill, but my mental health can take a battering from time to time, and to help me with this I talk to someone. Someone who’s trained and objective and lets me be open about how I’m feeling without judgement. They offer advice, enable me to see things from a different angle and give me the tools I need to get back on track. The last time I went I felt as if I could take on the world afterwards!

Team TMP

I find therapy helpful, invaluable, even. And so I’ve signed our company up to an Employee Assistance Programme that gives all of the TMP The Mortgage People team access to 24/7 counselling and therapy. They can use it as often as they need and it’s completely confidential. (It’s also good value and I’d urge you, if you’re a business owner, to look into it.)

I’d also encourage employers to consider their own mental health as we head into the ‘new normal’ (or whatever it is we’re calling it now). We’re going to be facing weighty decisions about the future and furlough and staffing levels, and it can all take its toll. Many of us feel that we’re the pillar that holds up the business and if we crumple, the whole operation will come crashing down too. Believe me, it helps to talk.

So perhaps it’s time to try a more honest response when someone asks, ‘how are you?’. Maybe you could open up a bit to someone you trust who’ll sit back and just let you express yourself. Or better still, maybe you could book yourself in with a therapist or counsellor. It’ll change your life. Promise.

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