Mental health challenges are real and can affect everyone—even those who seem to have their s*** together.
A few years ago, my journey as a mental health spokesperson started; first as a way to process my own experiences with mental illness and find some release from what I had gone through.
It quickly became clear to me that many people had a significant discomfort around asking the question. They weren’t prepared for someone to say ‘No, I’m not.’ and were often embarrassed about even asking.
It’s suicide prevention day on the 10th of September, and R U Ok? Day on the 9th.
I thought it would be a good time to talk about mental health and mental illness, assess where we sit in Australia, look at the challenges we face, some obvious, some maybe not so obvious.
I’m not a mental health professional; however, it is one of those things that I can talk about from the position of lived experience.
Last year there was a survey done into the mental health of people currently in full-time employment. It found that approximately 1 in 2 employees was now dealing with mental illness on a day to day basis.
I know first-hand, and anecdotally, mental illness and mental health issues are rife in the technology industry.
We work long hours; we often face isolation as consultants or people who work from home that don’t have a support network available to them; add the challenges of working on projects with limited budgets where you’re under-resourced and overwhelmed by lack of human contact. Then the global pandemic from stage left.
Before the internet and before globalisation, mental health issues weren’t nearly as prevalent in the way they are now. The fact of life is that change is coming faster than ever, and it’s unpredictable; humans, from all evidence I have gathered thus far in my meagre existence, would suggest, like certainty, something that’s in short supply in 2021.
Now that mental health has become this global pandemic, mental illness is less stigmatised than before. People who struggle with mental health issues are talking about it more.
It’s almost impossible to find a social connection when working through Zoom meetings. As a self-professed introvert, I didn’t realise how vital my face to face events such as conferences and membership organisations fed my social connections until I didn’t have any of them due to the pandemic.
Right now, conversations I have with CEO’s in a small/medium business is incomparable to any previous years. On any given day, I could have a client who is underpaid partly because of their own self-sabotaging beliefs around their worth. A new client is overwhelmed at embarking down the road of innovating their bricks and mortar store online in the middle of a pandemic. A team member moving from a corporate workplace is now navigating working from home and learning healthy boundaries for the first time. Did I mention the crippling mountain of emails (God, WHY must there be so many emails).
This mental state, of course, is a challenge for mental health.
A new startup business owner with panic attacks at the prospect of selling their product to a customer, that’s a challenge for mental health. It’s not easy to see those challenges for mental health in oneself until it becomes debilitatingly overbearing, overwhelming, challenging and complex. In the early years of my business, I would follow the rhetoric of ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’ when someone joked that as a business owner, I was lucky because I could pick my hours. Nobody mentioned that you obsessively select ALL of your hours to pay rent.
It’s a challenge for mental health.
When your lack of mental health directly affects work, this can often come in the form of anxiety surrounding client projects—a debilitating fear (and feeling) that you’re constantly underperforming and unable to deliver required client deliverables.
The reality likely looks more like your team is overdelivering/overachieving.
Amid a client project, I would work for an average of ~68 hours a week—in what felt like a stealthy transformation to burnout; I would come closer and closer to making actual decisions with real consequences while projecting my mental state onto everyone else.
All of this was the old Ming, the Ming who thought she could get her time back somehow if she just invested it all now, who believed that these ingrained hardwired behaviours learnt in childhood would majestically change overnight when the time was right.
The Ming of now, well, she’ll choose a ‘strategy’ over a ‘reaction’. She’ll breathe and ask herself if the world is going to collapse if she waits an hour before taking it to the development team for a conversation about solutions.
NOTHING is that urgent that you need to break yourself over it.
If you or a loved one are going through a challenging time here are support resources available:
R U OK?
13 11 14
1300 22 4636