World ‘celebration’ days can be weird and wonderful occasions. Take today for example, World Mental Health Day.
Perhaps it’s because today is symbolic of when I was given access to the club; it’s quite exclusive – 1 in 4 belong – but it doesn’t have the membership perks you’d like.
In February 2017, I became really ill with clinical depression.
A year on, I can quite honestly say that the illness has changed my life. I’ve been hard(er than usual) work for my family, colleagues and friends; I can see that. Some think I’ve changed. And after much reflection, I concede that I probably have. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m more focused on self-care, more selfish, in the positive sense of the word. As an empath, I have to be. And I’m learning to be okay with that.
Yesterday in London, I attended the aptly named MAD summit. I congratulated Geoff McDonald former Unilever colleague, now mental health campaigner, on his work in the mental health awareness space. Following a great bear hug he said to me in his fellow SAffer voice: “Nicky, the best thing about following your purpose is that you get to meet people and see places you never thought you’d experience. That’s why I am so happy.” It’s so true. The club has connected me with so many great, perhaps ironically, strong minded individuals, all of whom have had the courage to fight and become a more powerful version of themselves. All through a club they never asked to belong to.
Depression makes you look back on life for the red thread; why did it happen, what were the connecting experiences. It’s true to say that for me, the last seven years have been challenging. I still wallow in ‘why me’ self-pity but I’ve learned coping mechanisms and how to pick myself up when I feel I’m hitting rock bottom. It’s hard work but doable.
Through it all, I better know who I am and what I want to be. Yes, I may belong to a club I didn’t sign up for. But I’ve never felt clearer about my personal purpose.
Without sounding all kumbaya and righteous, if I can help one person feel more courageous to talk about their mental illness and work their way to better health, I feel that’s job done. It makes sense of why I’ve arrived here.
Now there’s a perk I can live with. There’s a good reason to celebrate today.
Mental health is an issue that resonates with many of us here at MullenLowe salt, and which connects to our workplace and our work: something we can take into client campaigns, into how we support good mental health inside the business. Good mental health and wellbeing at work is something we aim to support through our HR systems – stress management, line management training, wellbeing support etc. – and the mental health issues we’ve worked on with clients have tended to focus on anxiety, the impacts of abuse (mental and physical) and stress. Both done successfully are an active expression of our company mission to drive positive change through communications.
Happy days to all of you who belong to the club.