Published 12th of May 2021

A passion of mine is mental health awareness, especially surrounding the stigma in men seeking help when they need it.

In 2014 mental health wasn’t part of my vocabulary, it wasn’t something I’d ever experienced or witnessed. I was very naïve in my thinking and even my beliefs, I wrongly assumed that people who were depressed were just sad and could snap out of it. How wrong I was!

My opinion instantly changed when I found out my best friend had passed away whilst on holiday. I remember going ghostly white with shock not believing what I had been told. Once the initial dust had settled and the funeral was arranged, I remember thinking I could have stopped this, I even thought that I wish I could swap places with him because how is it fair that his two daughters have to grow up without their dad. I later discovered that this is something called survivors guilt and is a completely normal process for you to experience. However, my partner had noticed subtle changes in my behaviour that concerned her, I started to become very nervous, restless, I had sleepless nights and I worried about everything.

From a male perspective I feel we are taught extreme self-reliance and that you can’t ask for help, one thing I’ve noticed since becoming more aware of mental health is that when somebody asks you if you’re ok the response you’re programmed to say is ‘I’m fine’. I definitely wasn’t fine, I was painting my kitchen at 11pm because I couldn’t stop my thoughts, I was staying awake, so I didn’t have to experience the nightmares.

Diagnosis

On the 29th January 2015 (ironically the date my best friend should have been celebrating his 25th birthday) I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anxiety. Although I will never be cured of these, the therapy I received allowed me to regain control and reclaim some of the parts of me I thought were gone. Whether that was growing close to a friend again as I never wanted to experience anything like that again or just being able to accept that I can be happy without feeling guilty. Mental Health in my opinion is something that can never be cured, but a journey in which at some stages of your life you will be more in control and in others you won’t. None of this is your fault but it is your responsibility to acknowledge you are struggling and take action.

The impact of Covid 19

The coronavirus pandemic has caused exceptionally challenging and worrying times for each and every one of us. The effects of social distancing, lockdown, the loss of loved ones to the virus and the over-consumption of stress-inducing media reports is taking a huge toll on our mental health and wellbeing. In March 2020 my mental health went into over drive at work and in my personal life. Because of my PTSD I always plan for the worst and hope for the best. I was prepared for meeting customers’ requirements , planning cleaning rotas and working out a way to navigate through this rough ride ahead but what I was not prepared for was the lack of social contact I was going to have with people and how much I relied on other people to regulate my mood, not seeing family members or having a laugh with my friends at rugby , I quickly began to notice how I reverted back to keeping busy and spending my nights not only worried about my own heath and financial safety but also for the team we have working at Shredall SDS Group.

To cope with this I made sure that I was touching base with all the team both still at work and on furlough to see if we could help them in anyway, dropping bits of shopping off so they could continue shielding their loved ones. Calling friends whilst out for an evening walk and arrange silly zoom session where people could just unwind and tell people about their lives and laugh again. Not only this but since we have regained some of our freedom again, I’ve noticed that I am more cautious around people not wearing a mask or being in a shop with a large group of people as it not only puts me at greater risk of contracting the virus but also passing it onto my colleagues.

Light at the end of the tunnel

It’s not all doom and gloom, at this point the UK have vaccinated nearly 36 million people and we can start to see a light at the end of the tunnel. My mental health has improved with the reintroduction of team sports and being able to meet with people outdoors again but my main take away from my mental health journey is that,

1. Its OK to not be OK

2. It’s OK to ask people how their mental health is and ask questions surrounding it.

3. Hug friends and family a little bit tighter again (when we are allowed) and remember the lessons we’ve all learnt during this pandemic, so we have a better future for both physical and mental health.

Shredall SDS Group understand the importance of our employee’s mental health and wellbeing which is why we have an employee assistance programme. We have a 24-hour helpline for all our team from Health Assured to support them through any life issues or problems

The following is taken from Mind.org.uk, Mental Health Emergency

Prioritising mental health has never been more critical than it is now. New mental health problems have developed as a result of the pandemic, and existing mental health problems have gotten worse.

Essential learnings

• More than half of adults and over two thirds of young people said that their mental health has gotten worse during the period of lockdown restrictions, from early April to mid-May.

• Restrictions on seeing people, being able to go outside and worries about the health of family and friends are the key factors driving poor mental health. Boredom is also a major problem for young people.

• Loneliness has been a key contributor to poor mental health. Feelings of loneliness have made nearly two thirds of people’s mental health worse during the past month, with 18–24 year olds the most likely to see loneliness affect their mental health.

• Many people do not feel entitled to seek help, and have difficulty accessing it when they do. 1 in 3 adults and more than 1 in 4 young people did not access support during lockdown because they did not think that they deserved support.

• A quarter of adults and young people who tried to access support were unable to do so. Not feeling comfortable using phone/video call technology has been one of the main barriers to accessing support.

Common Coping Strategies

• Over half of adults and young people are over or under eating to cope.

• Nearly a third are using alcohol or illegal drugs, with 18–24 year olds using this coping strategy more than over-25s.

• A third of young people with existing mental health problems are self-harming to cope.

• Connecting with family and friends online is the most popular way to cope amongst both young people and adults