Mental Health Awareness Week

It is, I believe, Mental Health Awareness week. Whilst the purpose of this blog is largely to address legal issues, I am aware that none of those issues occur in a vacuum. Being a professional does not make us immune to emotion and stress, however much we wish it did sometimes.

And working in the social and health care sectors is rewarding work. But it is also demanding and, let’s face it, fairly stressful, even in the best of times. But now such professionals are under increased pressures from work, at a time when the vast majority of the population is struggling with the emotional issues that accompany these worrying and lonely times.

One of my many personality flaws that translates into a useful skill in my professional life is that I have a tendency to notice problems that others don’t, and then I want to fix them. It was described to me as that I am ‘always vigilant, often hyper-vigilant’. And this is a cause of a lot of anxiety for me, because if you look out for problems, sooner or later, you’ll find them. I have talked at length about the cycle this gets me into, and how unhelpful it can be in many circumstances, even if it has prevented a few metaphorical fires over the years.

But because I am prone to anxiety in this way, I look out for it in others. I can sense the warning signs in people around me, sometimes, because they reflect my own feelings a lot of the time.

In the good old days, when we left our houses and sat with our friends and colleagues, it was easy to tell if someone was having a bad day. In our office, at least, we all had the people we knew we could speak to if we just needed a comforting word over a cup of tea, to get us in the right head space for our day. We all have the office friends we could go to for hug (flipping heck, I miss hugs), or would give a reassuring pat on the arm on the way past because we can sense that today is a bad day.

I don’t know about you, but I miss the solidarity that would come with those impromptu chats. I think twice before picking up the phone to someone, in a way that I wouldn’t if we were crossing paths in the office.

As I may have mentioned once or twice, we have expanded our team during lockdown. I am having to find new ways to pick up on signs that stress is getting a bit too much, or that a longer discussion is needed because something is just not clicking yet. Frankly, it is exhausting.

So I can only imagine how difficult it must be trying to have conversations with customers and their families during this time. As I have definitely mentioned before, I would make a terrible social worker!

Supporting each other at this time is so important though. I was encouraged this week to take some time to think about who I am looking out for at this time, and who is looking out for me. Reinforcing the existence of those networks, of those people I can talk to, in all facets of my life (yes I do have a life outside of work, I promise) is getting me through these times.

I am sure I’m not the only one that feels this way. We all have days where we doubt and question, we worry or (my personal bad habit) ruminate on things long past the point where analysis is helpful. That is why we all need each other, regardless of who we are.

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is ‘Be Kind’. So that is the message I will leave you with this week – be kind to each other, be kind to yourselves and look out for each other. The lockdown is temporary, this too shall pass.

In case it isn’t obvious from the fact I still haven’t identified the authority I work for, the views expressed on this blog are my own opinion and not the opinion of that local authority

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