The legal profession isn’t known for nurturing, but Kim Simmonds is working to change that, leading by example.
“It’s really important to know it’s OK to feel down now and then and it can help to talk about how you feel if you need too,” says Executive Coach, Louise Otton. “Mental health, like physical health, affects us all, but generally, we do not take care of our mental health like we do our physical health. There has been a stigma around discussing mental health (especially at work) and a fear that talking about mental health will be seen as weakness or failure. In fact, being able to acknowledge when you are feeling challenged, anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, scared etc. is a sign of real strength. Often, the first step to improving your mental health if you’re feeling low is to talk about it with those closest to you first and then seek help if you need to.”
Supporting those around us
But how can we support a friend, family member or colleague who maybe experiencing a mental health issue?
We know that being able to focus on what we can control is so important, but sometimes this is hard when our brains have been hijacked by our amygdala and are creating a state of stress, which impacts our ability to think clearly. However, the process of talking about how you are feeling helps to regain some of that sense of control over what you can do to help yourself.
Here are some of practical things that we can all do to feel more positive if you, your team or a loved one is not doing ok.
7 ways to feel better
1. Create a positive environment
How can you make your environment more cheerful and inviting? (Think all things Hygge!). What comforting foods can you enjoy? What exercise can you do that will energise you?
2. Talk about how you feel
Keep these conversations open and regular so that a small issue does not become a bigger unspoken problem.
3. Ask someone, “Are you OK?”
Ask others around you. How are you? Ask again. Are you really ok? Ask regularly and really mean it. Getting others to talk about how they are feeling may help you to open up and talk about how you are feeling.
4. Listen, listen, listen
When you do ask how someone is, try not make this just a passing comment, really stop and listen. What are they saying and more importantly, what are they not saying? Be brave and check in with them if you have a sense that something else is going on. Be kind – Show compassion and empathy. What can you do to provide reassurance and help? Reach out to others, even if they have not asked for help.
5. Do not judge
Remind yourself that you're not alone -- no one is having an easy time, so try not to create false assumptions about someone else’s position.
6. Put your own oxygen mask on first
While it is important to help others it is even more important to look after yourself. You are not there to solve the problem, you can be a listening ear and a voice of calm or reason.
7. Refer on and raise the alarm
If you are concerned about someone’s mental health and fear they may be a danger to themselves or others, then ask for professional help. This maybe a Mental Health First Aider at work, a GP, a close relative, a mental health support line, or the emergency services. We know that early intervention is the key to preventing longer term mental health problems.