Industry social enterprise Together We Will’s first webinar last week proved to be a searingly honest and invaluable look at mental health.
The event, open to anyone and held on 24 June, showcased mental health awareness campaigners Clarke and Carrie Carlisle detailing their experiences and journey with mental health.
Clarke gave an unflinching account of his battle with depression throughout his footballing career, where his self-destructive behaviour resulted in five suicide attempts, before he gained a full diagnosis and was helped to manage his condition. Carrie then detailed her own experiences with trauma and anxiety, and how talking therapies and medication has guided her through this.
The latter part of the session saw members of the catering equipment industry interacting with the Carlisles and ask for practical advice on how to manage mental health in their own companies.
Clarke explained: “I would actively signpost generic services, because there are wonderful services out there and you need to do your homework as to what’s available in your location.
“I would encourage you to do what I did. Rather than bouncing myself around multiple places and services, I put a council around myself of people who I love, trust and I know that I can bounce things off. It gives an inherent calm and peace within me to know that I have those people there.”
When asked about how to recognise if someone is in mental distress, Clarke analysed: “You can’t talk about a specific sign and symptom to look out for in an individual, because everybody is different. We all have our different base behaviours and personality traits but one thing that is ubiquitous to someone who is going through adverse mental health is a change in that behaviour.
“So if I was to say anything then as individuals, just be aware of the next person. And when their behaviour changes a significant amount, do be that person to say, ‘is everything ok?’. But that’s only an introductory statement for you to then, if they respond, pass them onto relevant services to get help, especially in a working environment.”
The Carlisles acknowledged how difficult it is for someone to come forward if they feel they need assistance with their own mental health. Carrie detailed: “The brain is the CEO of your emotions and thoughts. And when Clarke is in a space where he’s not feeling optimal, he either literally can’t hear what I’m telling him, or he’ll take it in a way that will make him feel as bad about himself as possible.”
Clarke himself urged: “If you’re starting to wish ill on yourself, please reach out to someone now. You don’t have to tell everyone, but it is imperative that you tell someone, and the right someone. Please think about your thinking. What are the words and tone that you use about yourself? Look up about dysfunctional thinking patterns and see how many of those apply to you, and if they do, talk to someone now.”
He believes that having a clear route within organisations to mental health care access is vital, and that people’s perception of others’ opinions can be a stumbling block: “This topic of mental health and wellbeing, people try and give you some kind of one size fits all, but it is so deeply nuanced. What you’re talking about there is the difference between perception and reality. The perception of the individual when they’re going through something is all fear-based, where in actuality the reality can be very different.
“What needs to change is our perception of what executives think. We have spoken to hundreds of organisations. Whether they are humanitarian or not, they have been convinced by the financial figures that it’s in their best interests to cater for their employees’ mental health.”
Carrie added: “It’s about who you speak to as well. Someone like me needs to know who to signpost to responsibly. No-one should ever be made to feel they’re weak for coming forward. Just because there’s no communication, it doesn’t mean that they think that there’s weakness, they just don’t know how to tell you that it’s alright to ask for help. The communication is awful, rather than intention, that’s what we found.”
Clarke then concluded: “All the employer has to do is make sure the services are available and that you’re aware of them. There’s an incumbent responsibility on the individual to access the services, and we have to get that balance right and communicate it to the masses.”
Furthermore, the Carlisles pointed delegates towards their online diagnostic test resources if anyone is concerned about their mental health. While they underline that a full diagnosis can only be made by a specialist medical professional, they revealed they regularly take these quizzes just to calibrate their own mental health. You can access the tests HERE.
Together We Will is going to continue its wellness focus, and has already secured 50 places on Mental Health First Aid England’s training course. Its plan is to enable there to be a ‘mental health tzar’ in each company in the catering equipment industry.