Category Archives: Mental Health

The ‘Mental Health’ of men

The mental health of men is still overlooked with suicide remaining the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, and 12.5% of men in the UK suffering from depression and anxiety. This has been further compounded by the pandemic and lockdown. New dads are particularly vulnerable as financial and work pressures coupled with a huge life change can have a significant impact. DAD is a cathartic book that will help men and dads realise they are not alone. DAD will encourage more open conversations around fatherhood and contribute to better mental health.

DAD is a deeply moving and inspiring collection of stories that represent the diversity of modern fatherhood and seeks to start a conversation that challenges the traditions associated with masculinity.

The book includes 20 powerful and defiant stories about a range of fatherhood related topics. Mark Williams shares his story about suffering from postnatal depression. It’s a moving story that shows how men offer suffer in silence, the devastating effects PND can have on men and how they often put on a brave face at work. This is similar for Elliott’s story, where he talks of suffering from PTSD after the traumatic birth of his daughter – again, hiding his feelings and emotions from most people in his life, including his work colleagues. And then there’s Ian who tried multiple suicide attempts after his relationship broke down. Ian talks about how he showed up at work and no one would ever have the slightest idea of what he was dealing with in his personal life.

DAD highlights these stories and serves to illustrate the hidden mental health issues that many of us will suffer from. This is a ground-breaking book. A movement. Never before have a group of men come together to bare their souls and speak so openly and honestly about their fatherhood experiences. This book aims to encourage better dialogue between colleagues, friends, and especially within families; between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, dads and children. We know that men and dads don’t always have the space to speak openly about their experiences. We believe DAD can change the world and move forward the conversations around fatherhood, masculinity, mental health and gender equality.

DAD will be published on Tuesday 1st June and is available for preorder here.

DAD is curated by Elliott Rae. Elliott is also the founder of MusicFootballFatherhood, the parenting and lifestyle platform for men. Elliott will be speaking about the book and sharing other insights, at our mental health event on Thursday 13th May.

Mental Health Awareness as we ease out of lockdown

80% of respondents to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends survey identified well-being as an important or very important priority for their organisation’s success, making it the top-ranked trend for importance.

It’s hardly surprising that after a year of a global pandemic, many people feel stressed, anxious, drained and demotivated.

I spend most of my days supporting employees with aspects of their personal life outside of work, so that they are able to be more productive and less stressed whilst they are at work.  Our personal and professional lives have become more intertwined than ever before.  Creating a culture of open communication and a safe space where employees feel able to share their feelings and challenges, is crucial to be able to show up at work every day as your whole self.

Despite the challenges of the past year, I really hope an ongoing benefit will be an awareness of how important mental health is (not just during Mental Health Awareness Week) and a new found willingness and honesty to share emotions.  During the pandemic, people have been much more transparent about how they are feeling, so going forward when you ask someone how they are, take the time to really listen to their answer.  If they say “fine” but don’t look it, ask again “No really, how are you?”

Leaders create the atmosphere and tone and need to be the champions of well-being and mental health.  They also act as crucial role models, so for those in more senior positions think about actively taking lunch breaks, having realistic expectations, creating boundaries, not sending emails out in the middle of the night etc.

Mental health is constantly changing but can be seen to run on a spectrum from very low and depressed to thriving.  Most of us do not sit at either end, however just because we don’t officially have symptoms of mental illness that does not mean we aren’t struggling.  I read a fascinating article recently that referred to the term ‘languishing’.  It is not a feeling of total hopelessness and despair but a general absence of well-being.  It just feels like we are getting by and perhaps lacking motivation and the ability to focus.  The long emotional toll of living through a pandemic for over a year, may mean that languishing has been a very common emotion.

As we slowly head into our new post-pandemic world, the next few months are a golden opportunity to facilitate change.  We are no longer in the depths of lockdown but do we want to bounce straight back to our ‘normal’ lives and old routines?  We need to consciously think about our behaviour and continue to ensure that the empathy and compassion colleagues have shown towards each other this past year, is not just a nice-to-have but regarded as essential.  If not it will only take a matter of weeks before we slip back to former habits. 

How can you effectively support others?

When you can see a family member, friend or colleague who seems to be struggling with their mental health, you can feel afraid to say or do the wrong thing. You are not expected to be a mental health professional or come up with solutions. If someone has the courage to open up and share their feelings, the most powerful thing you can do is simply respond with empathy. Use reflective or active listening to respond without judgement, blame, criticism, or even advice. Don’t even try to make them feel better, as this can be seen as not listening and being dismissive, even when you have the best intentions. In the moment that person just needs to feel heard and understood. That is how you build trust and connection and help them to feel safe and supported. What is shareable becomes bearable.

We need to continue to focus on mental wellbeing, not just physical, make it a priority and acknowledge what people are going through with trust, transparency and open communication.  Emotions need motion to move through us.  If we can share them and name them, we can tame them.

What are you doing for Mental Health Awareness Week?

10 -16th May 2021 is officially ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’. Of course this is a topic we need to be aware of 365 days of the year, not just 7! 1in 4 people in the UK have experienced a mental health problem and this has been exacerbated further during the pandemic.

At Educating Matters, mental health and wellbeing, along with connection has always been at the heart of our offering.

Please see below some ideas for a flavour of talks to support the Mental Wellbeing of your employees. Click on each title for link to outline summary.

Mental Health Matters

How the brain works during times of crisis and extreme stress and how to support yourself.

Grief & Loss Matters

A sensitive, supportive and insightful talk about the complexities of grief and the experience of loss through death, separation, trauma, divorce or change.

Self-care Matters

Practical tools to be your most authentic version of yourself whilst juggling competing priorities and identities.

Anxiety Matters

Anxiety overwhelms our thought processes and lives in the future.  This session will focus on how to stop the spiral from taking us to the dark place. 

Wellbeing Matters

How to have better brain health to maintain a healthier life and care for ourselves in a way that is less reactive and more intentional.

Boundaries Matter

Practical tools to manage time and successfully prioritise to set boundaries for work, family and ourselves.

Resilience Matters

Defining what resilience is and how to nurture it.

Isolation Matters

How to cope with loneliness after a year of isolation and how to start to open your world to others again.

Neurodiversity Matters

Insight into how and why some people need to care for themselves in a way that looks different to others and the best interventions for better health and wellbeing for the neurodiverse brain.

Relationships Matter

Learn how to make adult relationships healthy and thrive.

Motivation Matters

Find your get up and go! Learn to use the internal drivers that help us move towards success.

Engagement Matters

Empower and motivate yourself to deliver excellence in work, at home and in life.

Remote Working Matters

Take the lessons of the past year to make remote working an experience that is more productive and engaging.

Social Interaction Matters

How to manage mixing again in work and social settings, considering new conscious and unconscious taboos we have created, what should we keep and what should be adjusted.

On 13th May we will host a FREE cross company panel event (further details below) to discuss Mental Health Awareness at Work.  Register here to join or access recording. Send through any questions in advance.

Children’s Mental Health Summary of Panel Discussion

Here is a brief summary of the topics discussed

What does the term ‘mental health’ mean?

  • There is still a stigma attached to mental health.
  • Mental health is the connection between mind and body. It is intrinsic within us.
  • We all have mental health and it’s an interchangeable state that ebbs and flows.
  • The term mental health is often misused in a negative way. All feelings are valid, good and bad.  They teach us a lot about ourselves.
  • When your child feels bad that does not mean there is something wrong with them.
  • In the current environment we have a ‘laser’ focus on our children. It is a valid human experience to have both a bad and a good day.

What are the main areas of concern regarding children’s mental health during this period?

  • During lockdown 3.0 there is a general sense of frustration and boredom. Both children and adults feel numb about everything, things don’t seem to be getting better. It is hard to sit with the uncertainty and unpredictability.  This is a shared experience.
  • Boundaries, routine, expectations and structure help children feel safe and content. Many of us don’t have that same security right now.
  • As adults we need to frame the discussion around resilience. It is okay to show you are feeling frightened or fed up. Children are incredibly adaptive but many are suffering from anxiety, low mood, sleep deprivation etc.
  • Parents can act as their ‘emotional container vessel’.
  • Allow your child to sit with their emotions.
  • Engage in watchful waiting – sit back and observe

How do you know when there is a real problem and what should you do?  

  • Things to particularly look out for are ongoing low mood, not talking, not engaging, not wanting to play, lethargy and no sense of fun.
  • Be aware of your triggers as a parent. Allow your child to sit with difficult feelings, without needing to fix everything. Their emotional state is sometimes necessary.
  • Keep trying to keep the lines of communication open and help them to feel that being with you is a safe space.
  • They are more like likely to talk and open up when they are walking beside you or engaged in another activity, rather than the intensity of sitting down.
  • You are the expert on your child, tune into them. Be mindful of the internalisers and be patient with the externalisers.
  • Focus on the small moments and be positive.

What would be your top tips to support children at this time?

  • Let your children know they are loved and safe, sit with their feelings.
  • They had a life before Covid and there will be one after.
  • Name their feelings to tame them; what is shareable becomes bearable.
  • Engage in moments of fun and silliness, dance like no one is watching.
  • Practice rupture and repair – when you lose it, you can go back to your child and admit you made a mistake.
  • Be conscious of the energy you radiate as a parent, your children will mirror your emotions and behavior.

Sleep challenges

  • A lot of children have regressed in terms of their sleep.
  • Bedtime is often when children feel relaxed and safe and will want to talk about their feelings
  • Distinguish between what is a thought and what is a fact. When thoughts come into your mind, question whether they are actually true.
  • Get your child to create a ‘dream jar’ that they decorate and fill with dreams. Give your child a dream to go to bed with.
  • During the day, talk about the sorts of things that pop into their head at bedtime. Visualise them – give them a shape, colour, where do they feel them in their body?

Should we shield our children from our own emotions?

  • You need to take into account their age, ability and maturity. Feelings are part of a human existence and we shouldn’t hide from them.
  • Your children will notice anyway when you don’t feel right. You can say, sometimes I feel sad and this is what I do to help myself.
  • The greatest gift we can give our children is honest language but not over sharing.  Children shouldn’t feel responsible for our emotions.
  • Try to ensure conversations are solution focused but show children what resilience looks like.
  • When children are not told the truth, they can go to very imaginative places
  • Talking about death is a normal stage of development.

How to help children not take things personally?

  • We are very sensitive at the moment. The nuances of conversations and communication are very different online to the reciprocity that you have in person.
  • It’s natural to take things personally.  When we are really mad or upset with someone, we can write a message but it doesn’t mean we need to send it.
  • Get curious. “I wonder why they would say that.” or “I wonder what’s happening for them right now that would make them act in that way.”

Look after yourselves, you are your most important resource for your family.

This is an incredibly challenging time, however there are some positive moments and there will be positive things that come out of this period.