I was reading my monthly copy of Women’s Health magazine the other day (the one with the beautiful Kayla on it!) and I came across a very interesting statistic.
‘8.4 – the number of sick days taken every year by the average
UK employee due to mental health problems’
Even more surprising is that 42% of those surveyed said they mask their mental health issue by citing physical health as the reason for their time out.
This is extremely interesting because whilst we now have a recognised mental health day and week in the annual UK calendar it seems that needing a mental health day is layered with guilt as opposed to a physical sick day. It appears as though there is a perceived stigma attached to needing some headspace and a bit of time out from our hectic lives.
Looking on the website that Women’s Health recommended www.time-to-change.org.uk they cite that around one in every four of us adults will suffer from a mental health problem within the year, with as many as 1 in 6 reporting a common mental health problem. The most common problems include: anxiety disorder, depression, OCD, Panic disorders, Post Traumatic stress disorder and Phobias (yes a lot of us it would seem hate spiders and the scales). Now that was a little mood lifting joke by me, but this is exceptionally serious as some problems can be short lived others can extend the entirety of someone’s life and lead worryingly to self harm, suicidal thoughts or even worse suicide attempts.
I am not writing this to scare anyone or annoy anyone who may have lost someone or looks after someone with a mental health issue. I write this to raise awareness of mental health because its more common than we would seem to like to believe.
Recently I’ve been focused more on actively listening instead of waffling and I am finding that just by listening more to friends, family and clients many just need to ‘unload’ what they perceive is just a bit of pressure (a socially acceptable term it seems) and ignoring that actually without this outlet could tip them over into a place where they suffer from Stress and Anxiety and need a ‘sick day’. And I use the term suffering because it is an illness, whether it lasts 2 minutes or 6 months if not recognised it can escalate and seriously impact anyone’s health.
I write this also from experience because I’ve been there. About 6 years ago I sought help for what I didn’t know at the time was depression. I was working hard at my Corporate job, trying to be an excellent girlfriend, daughter, potential daughter in law, sister, auntie, cousin and friend that I got so bogged down with it all as I felt like I couldn’t succeed or get excited about any of it. I didn’t do anything about it because I thought that I would eventually snap out of it. I met with my GP who referred me to the Mental Health team, at the time thinking ‘does he think I’m crazy?’. I ended up speaking with someone who was exceptionally kind, empathetic and for once focused on me. It suddenly dawned on me when she asked me about my thoughts and whether I considered them to be dark in anyway or if I’d had thoughts about hurting myself, that the route of my depression was that I didn’t care about myself nor had I done for the last 6 months. I’d done everything I thought everyone wanted from me but nothing for myself instead I’d told myself consistently that I was a failure and now here was someone who was so concerned that she asked me if I wanted to jump off a bridge!
And its this point I want to labour on – amongst everything that is going on in your life don’t forget about you. Take a step back when looking at your to do lists and ask yourself ‘do I really need to do these things?’, re-prioritise and make some time to look after yourself mentally.
Now as a personal trainer I am all for filling spare time with fitness but that’s my release and I am crazy! Many clients and many potential clients are asking me at the moment how hard they need to train before the summer to achieve that perfect body, arriving tired, frustrated and clearly fed up to sessions. When I give them a chance to speak about how they feel instead of taking the standard response of ‘I’m fine’, some start to realise that they have a lot on their plates and that they are potentially the ones creating it or someone else is causing it and it’s time to deal with it. And they start to look for their outlet whether it be fitness, taking a bath, a night away from their partner/kids, a holiday day all to themselves once a quarter, more sunlight, speaking to their superiors at work or simply asking for more help.
Mental health awareness week isn’t until May, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of it 24/7. At this time of year as the season is changing we should be especially aware of mental health whether it’s diagnosed or not. So, if you need a Mental Health day away from work or daily life don’t cover it up with physical sickness reasons speak to your superiors and explain your pressures. This way instead of getting to a point where you crash in the short term you may find a better way to balance it all out for life.