The second Monday in May marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK.
It’s a vital effort in normalising the conversation around mental health. And I look forward to the day it’s weird not to talk about it.
But there’s still work to be done. And it’ll take a collective effort.
In the meantime, there’s TED Talks. A source of inspiration for philosophical types in the fields of tech, leadership, culture and politics.
I went digging for what they’ve got on Mental Health issues and came up with these five doozies.
Ruby Wax is best known for her work in comedy, finding fame on TV in the nineties before becoming a student of – and spokesperson for – mental health issues.
She opens by calling the front row ugly before delving into stories about her childhood and how she endured a breakdown at her daughter’s sports day. The experience posed several questions:
“How come when people have mental damage it’s always an act of imagination? How come every other organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy – except the brain?”
Wax is putting on a lab coat and talking about how the human brain evolved because of amoebas clinging to rocks. There’s hand-drawn illustrations to accompany all of this and it’s the most electrifying biology lesson I’ve ever been involved in.
It’s a talk that reminds us not only are our brains stupid, horrible, and constantly out to get us, but it’s the same for everyone. And it’s been that way since the beginning of time.
What’s funny about mental illness? I’d say this talk is.
Social psychologist Thomas Curran starts his talk with the last question you get asked in a job interview:
“What’s your biggest weakness?”
Hands up who answered ‘I’m a perfectionist’.
We’re conditioned to value ourselves in terms of top performing percentiles and league tables. This is not only exceptionally stressful, but self-defeating too.
Curran’s 3 year research found perfectionism’s on the increase. With the largest leap attributed to ‘socially prescribed perfectionism': the notion that everyone else expects you to be perfect.
Now we all know ‘perfect’ is impossible to attain.
So how do you square that circle in a meritocracy like recruitment? Surely if you want perfect results, your output has to be spotless?
Curran argues that instead of raising the next generation in a society that emphasises competition, evaluation, and constant testing, we should advocate being more compassionate with ourselves for a start.
Anger researcher Ryan Martin studies why people get furious. It’s the kind of job where you’ll never run out of work.
You’re burdened with it as a baby, it goes into overdrive once you hit your teenage years. By the time you’ve made the Q2 big billers trip, it’s been with you your whole life.
“Anger is a powerful and healthy force in your life”
Martin uses road rage to unpick the things that make us angry. In this instance, anonymous motorists grind our gears and disappear.
They’re frustrating, then they’re gone.
I imagine candidates experience naff recruiters in a similar way. So too, good Consultants and AWOL candidates.
The key to understanding anger is appreciating nothing “makes” us angry. We all experience the same things, we just decide individually how to appraise them.
So the next time you feel like losing your top, try to figure out what the true source of your anger is, and channel it into something positive and productive instead.
Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin talks about something every Recruiter’s experienced. Often at multiple points in the day. I’m guessing at least once already today?
It releases cortisol that raises your heart rate, mucks with your adrenalin levels and clouds your thinking.
The trick to overcoming it is “prospective hindsight”. Think of it as a ‘pre-mortum’ to a stressful event.
It’s about putting systems in place to mitigate the ill effects of stress ahead of time, so that when bad things do happen you’re better off.
Levitin uses an example of speaking to your doctor about treatment options for high cholesterol. And in spite of clouded thoughts, the key’s to ask the right questions.
Particularly questions the people you’re speaking to don’t want you asking.
Which makes them all the more vital. So you can make clearer decisions. And so it’s less likely you’ll be blindsided by something unexpected.
This video’s done almost 25 million views on TED and YouTube and it’s easy to see the appeal.
Psychologist and author Guy Winch has always been slightly weirded out by how much we value the body over the mind.
He starts his talk with an anecdote about how kids know to do simple things like brush their teeth or put plasters on cuts. Yet we grow to adulthood unequipped to manage mental health issues similarly.
“Why is it our physical health is so much more important to us than our psychological health?”
Winch is talking about closing the gap between physical and mental health. And he goes in on the comparison in a huge amount of detail.
Loneliness. Failure. Rejection. Rumination.
Untended to, these things are just as damaging as broken bones and major lacerations.
There’s plenty of practical tips and advice littered throughout this talk. Especially when it comes to maintaining a level of “emotional hygiene”.
When people started practicing physical hygiene, life expectancy rose by 50% in a matter of decades. The question Winch is asking is: what would happen if we started practicing emotional hygiene too?
I like all of the talks on this list but if I had to recommend one, it would be this one.
This is a unique badge for companies on Hunted that:
● Put someone in the business through a Mental Health First Aid course
● Include mental health issues in their sickness policy
● Give the option of texting or emailing in sick, instead of calling
● Offer support internally for the escalation of serious issues (eg: through links to Mind or Samaritans)
● Include wellbeing perks (like meditation apps, gym membership and flexible working) in their list of benefits
● And give attention to both professional and personal matters in reviews
And for the rest of our TED Talks For Recruiters series, click here.
Senior Perm & Contract Consultants - Tech Austin at Twenty Recruitment
Global Headhunter & Account Manager at Emerald Technology
Consultant - Marketing - Professional Services at EMR
Senior Recruitment Consultant at Stott and May