WE got a letter home in my little man’s school bag last Friday telling us that it would be mental health awareness this week coming in. That coincidentally synced up with a guest speaker on my podcast – ‘Are You Well?’ – who is a full-time councillor and currently doing a master in Wellness on Monday just past.
Add in to the mix that I was speaking at a coaching event in Glasgow at the weekend – where I challenged the coaches in attendance to start thinking about who they were beyond the person on the gym floor (sound familiar retired footballers?) – and you’ve a recipe for a lot of conversation about the current state of the country’s mental health.
I’m 36, when I was at primary school I’m pretty sure the term “mental health” didn’t even exist, or at the very least it wasn’t on my radar. The fact that children are being taught about it, how to communicate how they’re feeling, understanding it’s normal to get upset and that talking helps untangle those emotions, without straying into the land of over exaggeration, could change the world.
My generation didn’t have access to this sort of education, I’m not even sure the one below me does. And I know for sure anyone older never got the emotional intelligence ABCs taught to them when they were kids.
And that’s a big part of why we are seeing more and more tragedies, people taking their own lives as they can’t see any other way out of the dark place they are in.
The reason I started a podcast was to be able to make conversations that might be difficult to breach within your own circles more accessible. An opportunity for you to hear two men in their mid 30s discuss topics that generally don’t see the light of day. Something you can send to a friend and say “Did you hear this one?”
Even if you disagree with whatever nonsense we’ve spoken about, it opens a dialogue that maybe otherwise might not have been there.
Because speaking, as simple as it sounds, is the gateway to good mental health.
We’re all pretty good at doing the tough shift in the gym. That’s the easy part. We can look after our bodies no problem.
Deadlift? More weight please.
Bench press? Load up those plates!
Prowler? Bring on the pain!!!
We’re even getting better at understanding what food choices we should be making. We may not always make the right choice, but the awareness around what are healthy foods and what aren’t is ever-increasing.
So why the reluctance to put the same effort in to bullet proofing your mental health?
I’ll hold my hands up and admit I’ve never gone to a therapist, seen a councillor or sought help from a professional. I’ve always thought “I feel fine, why would I need to speak to someone?” and although that’s true, I was challenged on two things with that thought process –
1. Prevention is better than cure. Can’t argue with that. So my argument as to why not put more work into my mental health was instantly debunked?
2. I already have done all of the above but by luck more than judgment. I have a strong support network around me. I’m fortunate to have parents who raised me in a way that I find it a lot easier than most to speak about how I feel. I have a coach and mentor, who act like a therapist at times with how they communicate to me.
In the week that’s in it, where we are seeing our children learn about the importance of looking after their mental health, let’s not only take a leaf from their book but take the lead on ensuring they grow up with the skills that we didn’t have.
Monkey see, monkey do. Your actions will directly impact what comes next, so be brave, reach out and unburden yourself with whatever’s weighing you down. Normalise that so that the ones who come behind us can get there quicker.