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World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day. Thanks go to Giles for letting me know, and for sharing his experiences.

‘Mental health’ was never a phrase that I’ve associated with myself. I’ve always thought myself to be quite resilient. I was, I thought, secure in my serenity and have taken pride in being able to work through situations clinically, rationally and logically. My wife, by the way, does not feel that this is an admirable quality.

My friend, Steve, took his own life this year. I hadn’t spoken to him for a while, and I had no idea he was suffering. My mother took her own life when I was ten. Mental health, whether our own or that of others, touches us all. Poor mental health can affect anyone. It is not a weakness, and we must talk about it.

Earlier this year, I started experiencing symptoms of what I later discovered was probably burnout. I felt anxious and couldn’t sleep. Basic tasks at work felt overwhelming. I was exhausted, and I hated my job. I felt a pang of dread on waking, and by the end of the week I was an anxious wreck. I reasoned that it would pass but I knew, or at least a rational bit of me knew, that I was heading to a bad place if something didn’t change. It was an odd feeling and I have never been able to work out the why of it. But I guess that’s the nature of these things.

I was lucky to have options. I gave up my job as a manager and took up a secondment elsewhere. I feel much better but it was a tough lesson to learn, because it means that I’m not as mentally hardcore as I thought. I am now much more sensitive to how I am feeling, and acknowledging those feelings as something real.

To those that are well: Reach out to your friends. Let them know that they matter and that you are thinking about them.

To those that aren’t: Talking helps. If you don’t have anyone that you can talk to, try your GP, or consider contacting one of the charities below: