Don’t just ignore stress, anxiety and depression – a little question to a friend or colleague may start a vital conversation about mental health, says Fiona Blayney.
You’ll be getting the impression that a few things have my heightened attention at the moment if you’ve been reading my most recent words. I’m not sure if it has something to do with my stage of life – I’m living till I’m 120 and I entered my second trimester last year; you do the maths. Or perhaps it’s the media – social and general, or general conversation and scenarios playing out with clients and teams. Whatever it is, it centres on health, physical and mental, and how we all need to talk and act more.
I’m not just suggesting we may need to put down the bowl of ice cream in exchange for the treadmill (and yes, I am eating a bowl of vanilla right now as I type) but a deeper thought about health and what we need to do for ourselves, friends, family, teams and community to ensure we all have the opportunity and support to be at our best.
I’m not going to waste valuable word count talking about that bowl of ice cream; we are all acutely aware of the need for a balanced diet and value in exercise. And whilst I’m not going to be able to tackle mental health in 700 words, I sure can use this Last Word to highlight the topic and ensure we are talking more about it.
It was over 12 months ago now when I was asked, for the first time in my training life, to tackle the matter of health, highlight stress management and discuss anxiety for a corporate organisation and their franchisees’ property management teams. The aim was to give the team insights into better personal and work practices, to help them understand and manage stress and anxiety even at a most basic level. I wish everyone would do this course, and others like it.
I’ve seen firsthand what effect stress has, personally and as a coach, consultant and employer. My team aim to interweave stress reduction into everything we present. By our assessment, it’s one of the top four problems an individual cites when we meet for the first time.
Whilst some may say stress is the lesser of the evils, I really want to use the S and D words today: Suicide and Depression. They feel like taboo words to say, words that go unspoken and are often respectfully withheld when describing a person’s health or even death.
According to Beyondblue, suicide is the largest cause of death for persons aged 15 to 24 years of age, with an average of eight people committing suicide every day. That’s catastrophic, if you ask me. Add to this the number of people suffering from depression, which Beyondblue cites as being three million in Australia.
If you’ve done any reading on the R U OK? organisation, you’ll know that it was founded by Gavin Larkin as a result of his own father, Barry Larkin, committing suicide in 2009. Whilst Gavin sadly lost his battle with cancer in 2011, his legacy lives on by ensuring we all realise a little question can make a big difference to people struggling in life.
Anh Do’s recent interview with the legendary Blue Wiggle – Anthony Field – highlights how depression can strike anyone, at any time, even when they appear to be at the top of their game, at the highest of heights.
Depression can strike anyone, at any time, even when they appear to be at the top of their game.
Today, as you’re reading these stats, perhaps you are confronted. If so, good! That might mean I’ve heightened your attention to what feels like a compounding scenario. With all of us at least thinking about this more, we can start talking about it more, identifying and allowing people who need our help to let us know.
I don’t profess to be the expert in mental health but, as I’ve found in my research travels of late, there’s a lot to be said about starting conversations. I think we all have a duty to check in with each other, and I felt it was simply my duty to start a conversation here. R U OK?
If you want to learn more, Beyondblue and R U OK have readily available resources. If you are seeking personal support Beyondblue have a 24-hour support line (1300 22 4636) or you can email or live chat by visiting beyondblue.org.au.