I was so inspired to read Josh Worth's very honest story of how he coped with losing his father, in a piece he wrote during Mental Health Awareness Week. It highlights the fact that mental health and ill health exists on a very wide range, and it's a range that all of us may move up and down throughout our lives -- particularly when something traumatic happens.
Josh's story gives a small stand-out piece of advice that is practical and real: To ask how people are feeling. To take a moment to show them that you genuinely care about their wellbeing. We spend so much time at work, it's so important to be understood and to be able to be human when we're there.
To be open about an emotional or mental struggle is difficult for anyone. But as a culture, we make it tougher on men. We still teach boys from a young age that it's feminine to cry, and that to be feminine is less. (For more on this, I highly recommend watching The Mask You Live In by the Representation Project, which documents the trends within gender socialisation of young boys.)
But things seem to be opening up, and everyone who tells their story can make it that bit easier for the next person to do the same. I was utterly privileged earlier this year to attend the Changeboard Conference, which focused on mental health, where I heard from Alastair Campbell and Geoff McDonald, two well-known and influential men who took the step of opening up to an entire conference about their experiences of depression and anxiety. The film is online and it is moving, honest and motivating -- having heard from them, I came back to my business more aware and ready to make a personal commitment to supporting people better as an employer.
The Time to Change pledge is a framework for businesses to commit to supporting people in the workplace and being open around mental health. I realise that supporting people isn't just about the diagnosable mental illnesses but it's also about the ups and downs of life that everyone experiences – and being ready to have a coffee with your fellow human and show them you care. So I am urging my business to sign up to the pledge and take action around mental health and I hope you'll consider raising it with your business too.
In the meantime, on a personal level, you can make an effort today by looking around you, and seeing who it is you know who might need a kind word, a coffee and a chance to be loved.