How to Shrink a Problem Like Mental Health

I’ve written about mental health a few times. And honestly it started by accident.

I look for topics to write about all the time. Anything that seems interesting and more importantly interesting to the readers of Hunted (recruiters), I’ll have a stab.

It’s that thinking alone that led me to write “Why Every Recruiter Should Have a Mental Health Day.

It’s strange how certain things in life lead you down a path. This particular path I never thought I’d travel.

But on the back of the article above I received lots of messages on LinkedIn. Loads of emails. And plenty of “Hey, Thanks!” from people I’d never met.

Off the back of that, I organised a small talk.

During which, it became apparent not many recruiters feel supported mentally.

“Let’s start an initiative” I exclaimed excitedly to James and Guy. “We’ve got a great network and could collectively get some weight behind good mental health in recruitment.”

“Hope You’re Well” seemed like a fitting title. And had the snazz and double entendre I try to sneak in to most things.

The basis of that campaign is here.

In an article called, Hope You’re Well. Naturally.

Perhaps ironically, or maybe fittingly, I’ve suffered myself since.

A bike accident left me housebound for over a year and trying to write articles was tough enough. Talking to companies about mental health was a bit out my reach.

We all go through bad spots. This has been one of mine.

And poetically, whilst trying to stay hot on topic of an issue I find important, I missed one of the hottest summers on record. Watching from my window I’ve observed the rest of Britain go bananas.

In truth I’ve almost lost a year of my life. My spirit’s been somewhat diminished.

Luckily, I’ve not turned to other spirits too much, to soften the blow.

But everyone loves an occasional gin, right?

Larry David

American TV

Because I’m British, I’ve been spoon-fed American TV for most of my life. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard the word ‘shrink’.

Whether it’s ‘Analyze This’, where a mobster sees a Psychiatrist to settle his demons.

Good Will Hunting from 1999.

Or my favourite American comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David’s regular shenanigans are laid bare. Having a shrink in the US has been concurrent with my understanding of what it is to be American.

In comparison to the US, psychiatry in the UK was something done by those who struggle.

I’m proud and thankful to be British. I’m overtly aware how fortunate I am to have grown up in the British countryside. To never have war on my doorstep. To always have a roof over my head.

We’re by no means perfect as a nation.

But shit, who is?

Perhaps it’s the ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude which served us well in the war. Perhaps its the stoicism shown by the many heroes and world-beaters we’ve produced, but ultimately… we’re not great at talking.

I can tell you, almost to the minute, the first time I realised it.

Sat around the table at my Dad’s house I’d been bottling things up my entire life.

“That’s what men do” I reasoned.

“Take it on the chin and be stronger for it” I told myself, accepting the pseudoscience and attitudes of those before me. Then one of my family made a joke. Off the cuff, with no real target, it was literally a quip about nothing.

I exploded.

Everything I’d been keeping in for years erupted like a volcano. As flee-flowing and damaging as molten lava, hitting everyone in its path.

It was at that point I understood the danger of being quiet. I learnt the invaluable life lesson of talking. The impact you can have if you listen. And the incredible difficulty in spotting when someone isn’t OK.

Thankfully for me, I learnt this lesson early.

Others aren’t that lucky. Mental Illness is something one in four of us battles, every year. So right now, either you, or one of your close friends, isn’t OK.

Bad stat isn’t it.

But what about the stat suicide is the biggest killer for men under 45 in the UK. In fact, one in five UK adults have had suicidal thoughts.

How the f*ck have we allowed that to happen? There’s so much killing us in the world, we’re killing ourselves more than anything else. It’s even more disgusting when it’s something we can change.

The cure, as far as I see it, might well be normalising it all.

Put it on TV. Write about it. Talk about it. Share on social media. And enforce the fact the #Instagramlife you see others living is 99% bullshit.

Good Will Hunting

Shrinking the problem

Like a lot of people right now, I’m aware America has some problems. Again, what country hasn’t?

And yet, I’m enviable of the openness they have about Psychiatry.

It’s normal to talk to someone.

It’s run of the mill to work through your problems with an expert.

It’s about as run of the mill as you can imagine. But actually, in comparison to the US, we’ve been better at offering mental health services to all. It’s covered on the NHS, where for Americans, traditionally at least, you’d have to pay.

Yet, the uptake of such services are nowhere near in line with what they should be. I’d actually worry if they were. The NHS is already stretched beyond belief.

But the openness with which our American cousins meet their struggles should be heeded. It’s time we started taking their approach to openness in the UK.

Luckily, there are signs it’s happening. Some amazing businesses and charities are waking up to the problem. Sanctus is a business I’ve worked closely with, and I’ve been encouraged by the growth of their popularity.

But in recruitment, the stiff upper lip of the UK is personified.

You turn up, pick up and start billing. You bill big numbers, and quash the afflictions in your mind before you step foot in the office.

Recruitment can chew you up and spit you out.

There used to be an acceptance similar to this…

If you’re made of strong stuff, you’ll welcome it.

You’ll do well.

Proud of the battle-hardened demeanour you share with your successful wealthy colleagues.

If you’re not strong, your desk’s cleared. And business cards thrown into a sack called “Failed Recruiter.” It’s amazing how many of those failed recruiters go on to be very good at other jobs.

More astonishing yet is how many go on to be pretty darn good recruiters.

Analyze This

The New Normal

Solving a problem like ours isn’t done overnight.

But as with a lot of afflictions, admitting there’s a problem is the first step. So, on behalf of this great, pioneering, ‘industry-leading’ country of ours I’d like to admit it…

We’ve got a problem with mental health.

We don’t promote the positive enough. We don’t look after our mates enough. We don’t talk. Or start employees on the right foot.

So, let’s.

Hunted partner, and Hope You’re Well badge holder Austin Fraser give new starters assistance, right from their first day. They’re equipped with a dedicated app on their phones, should they need it.

This includes links to mental health materials as well as an online or phone counsellor for employees and their families. You’re also able to book 6 free face-to-face counselling sessions a year.

Alice Scott says “We encourage Managers and Directors to spend time with their teams. There’s no agenda, just doing stuff they love. Be it golf, clay pigeon shooting, wine tasting or a casual lunch. The sole purpose is to make people feel good, heard, valued and listened to.”

This is something all employers should think about. The more difficult it is to deal with the bad times, the bigger the impact that has on your company.

Sure, there’s a financial element. But would you really sleep well, knowing profits were up, but your staff were on the edge?

We’re making fantastic strides with Mental Health and there are people out there taking bigger steps than ever before.

But let’s look to our neighbours over the pond to normalise the stigma.

Talk to your mates.

Help out your colleagues.

Don’t let employees’ problems build up.

Give them the tools to improve their own wellbeing, the very day they start.

Sanctus Coaching

Here’s where to find someone to talk to

If you’re feeling down right now, for any reason, just voicing that will help you.

Some people find friends a help. Or maybe you have a family as supportive as the Royals, whose focus on mental health has helped bring the topic into the public eye.

If not, you’re going to find Googling and taking the first step the hardest.

So here are some click links to save on your phone. All you have to do is click. Or pick up the phone. Or schedule an appointment.

Look at it this way. The very worst case scenario is… you feel the same.

Mind Helpline – 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 for free information sent back.

The Samaritans 24 hour helpline – 116 123

CALM (campaign against living miserably) – 0800 58 58 58 Free, live, anonymous webchat from 5pm – midnight

Papyrus (suicide, depression or emotional distress for young people) – 0800 068 41 41

For any of these, if you save them in your phone now, you don’t need to find this article or Google it. And if you save it under a name only you will recognise, you can normalise your own stigma, and help your future self.

For Those Who Manage People

If you could change a few small things, to make a massive difference, would you?

If the answer to that is “No” you shouldn’t be managing people.

If the answer’s yes, have a look at implementing some of the criteria we suggest in the Hope You’re Well Campaign. There’s no need to be a Hunted partner, or have any affiliation with us at all.

Look at others and match the assistance they give as standard.

You’re almost certainly going to be hiring Millennials. In the UK, that group’s estimated to have the second worst mental wellbeing in the world. So give ’em a chance.

These points below easy to agree with. They’re cheap. And have been created by some wiser heads than mine.

They can also make a huge difference.

They are…

– Put somebody in the business through a Mental Health First Aid Course.
– Have a sickness policy inclusive of mental health
– Offer the option to email/WhatsApp/text in sick, instead of a phone call
– Offer support internally for escalation of serious issues – links to Mind or The Samaritans
– Include wellbeing benefits in your perks. Eg. A meditation app, gym membership, flexible working
– Give attention to both personal and professional matters in monthly/quarterly reviews

Pretty easy right?

We can even give you a truly snazz Hope You’re Well badge for your website to make the wider world aware you give a shit.

Because it’s remarkable, when it boils down to it, how far ‘giving a shit’ goes in this day and age.

Here’s some more reading to help you cherish the bad times.