The Recruitment Reading List: Mental Health

We need to talk about mental health.

Everyone has it. But how do you broach the subject?

Remember in school when someone broke a limb they got a cast and everyone signed it, or wrote get well soon messages or drew crude renderings of genitalia on it?

I think we should talk about mental health the same way we do physical health. Honestly. Matter of factly. And if you can, with as much good humour as a kid walking into school with a fresh cast on.

At the same time, it’s important to recognise that treating mental health differs drastically to fixing broken bones.

You might need to see a doctor. Absolutely. You might also need a good book too.

How To Come Alive Again

Beth McColl

I believe Beth’s the most important mental health writer this generation has.

She takes overwhelming subjects and turns them into much smaller, more manageable ones – “like a smooth pebble at the bottom of a pocket” – in a way that’s comforting, rational and funny.

Beth’s first book only came out this month. And it’s full of practical advice for overcoming all manner of mental obstacles, large and small:

“This is you learning the secrets that only those of us with these brain monsters know, that bravery doesn’t always look like Mel Gibson in a little skirt running into battle. We know that bravery is in the little resistances; the dishwasher filled and turned on. The bill paid. The floor hoovered, the call to the doctor made, the window open. The light coming in”

Beth describes it as a mental health manual. She also describes it as “what would happen if you took a regular self-help book and let a drunk toddler scribble all over it”.

It’s both, but it’s also what you need to know about anti-depressants, how to manage a career with anxiety, and a guide to conquering the very worst of what the author’s personally gone through.

Buy it here.

What If This Were Enough?

Heather Havrilesky

Since 2012, Heather’s written the advice column ‘Ask Polly’ for New York magazine. Her first book, ‘Disaster Preparedness: A Memoir’ was published two years prior. And this, her latest, came out last year.

It’s a collection of essays on American culture, technology, and TV shows. Tying all those themes together, as the title would imply, is the feeling of just being enough. Culturally, not always an option in recruitment.

“Can I step away from this digital maw? Will my voice still matter if no one can hear it? Can silence feel more pressing and important than a ping? Instead of imagining the next text, the next tweet, the next Instagram post, the next flash of what my cousin did over spring break or what my neighbour ate for breakfast, what if I could imagine living in this moment, without wanting more?”

Heather’s philosophy’s to understand, and train ourselves to tune into, the world around us. We expect consistency and beauty in life and are saddened when we don’t find it.

This book’s about letting all the darkness that’s vital to life in. Being one with it. And recognising that bad things are a part of our lives whether we want them to be or not.

Buy it here.

A Beginner’s Guide To Losing Your Mind

Emily Reynolds

This is Emily’s first book, released in 2017. You’ll also find her writing in the Guardian, Shortlist and a regular column in Huck Magazine.

It’s a guide for anyone, particularly young people, navigating mental health issues. Often for the first time.

The strength of Emily’s writing comes from being brutally unafraid to jump right into the deep end of dark, frightening, sometimes embarrassing issues. And to pick them apart with no small amount of humour.

“For me, there are two major things that tend to go as soon as I become depressed: being able to leave the house, and being able to take a shower. These are obviously fairly big hurdles in a relationship – having a girlfriend who smells like a bin and who sits in the same spot on the sofa for three weeks may not be the most appealing prospect”

It’s a step-by-step on how to cope – but also crucially, how not to – with the demands of the modern world. And a lot of Emily’s work centres around relationships. Not just between one another but also with technology. A vital read for anyone in one of the most relationship-driven industries going.

Buy it here.

How To Be Alone

Lane Moore

Lane’s a comedian who used to write for satire site The Onion, and continues to do so for The New Yorker and The Washington Post, among other publications. She’s well known for Tinder Live: a stand up comedy show which is an interactive exploration of everyone’s favourite courtship app.

Lane’s book came out late last year and tackles mental health with a smile. No small feat, particularly on a subject as vast as loneliness.

“You’re still here, and one day maybe you’ll have a family of your own and you’ll love the holidays. Or maybe you’ll never like this time of year. Either way, you’ll still be here, living. Sometimes that’s the bravest thing of all. And if you don’t believe me, it’s a line in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and as you and I both know, that show is everything”

You’re an entrepreneur. A self-starter. Someone who’s accountable for their own success. And that’s a lonely place to be. Even – actually especially – if you’ve got a big network or following online.

Navigating that world with humour is key to making it work. And the book touches on dealing with leftover childhood pain, learning to be your own parent, and thriving in life despite the hand you’ve been dealt.

Which I’m guessing applies to at least one of you.

Buy it here.

The Truth Pixie

Matt Haig

This one’s for parents in recruitment. Or not, maybe.

Matt Haig’s an author with an impressive back catalogue that explains his current rising star. He writes for kids as well as adults – this book’s geared towards both – and has been a long time advocate for open, honest discussions on mental health, with a hint of humour. A common theme throughout this reading list.

The Truth Pixie’s his latest effort: a children’s book illustrated by long time collaborator Chris Mould. A rhyming story about loving oneself that’s won over audiences of all ages with it’s simple, yet poignant, home truths.

“There will be people you love,

Who can’t stay for ever,

And there will be things you can’t fix, 

Although you are clever”

This is a vital lesson, however you look at mental health. And particularly in recruitment. I know if I’d had this mantra under my belt sooner, a few of the early knocks might have been easier to deal with.

I’m talking about the being clever and fixing things bit. Can’t say I ever loved any of my clients. No offence.

If you’ve bought the other four books in this list and can’t fathom reading another word more, you’ll be pleased to learn that national treasure Olivia Colman narrates the audio book.

Buy it here.

Hope You’re Well

If mental health’s important to your agency, encourage them to earn the Hope You’re Well badge for their Hunted profile. It’ll show to the world they take mental health seriously.

What do companies need to do to qualify?

● Take a Mental Health First Aid course

● Expand sickness policy to include mental health issues

● Offer the option to email/text in sick, instead of call

● Offer support internally for escalation of serious issues, and provide links to Mind or The Samaritans

● Include wellbeing benefits in perks: meditation apps, gym memberships, flexible working

● Give attention to both personal and professional matters in review meetings

4 of the above 6 points require very little effort whatsoever. Which goes to show how achievable it is to implement.

Feel free to message [email protected] to find out more.

Recruiters write “hope you’re well” at least once a day.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we actually meant it?