Some years ago I led a Crossway short term mission trip to India. One of the projects we visited was a home for mentally challenged homeless people that were rescued from the streets. It was an amazing ministry and well worth visiting but before we went I was feeling uncertain. I didn’t know what to expect because in my mind, I had never had anything to do with people who suffered from mental health issues.
When I relayed this thought a while after the trip, a friend pulled me up on it. He kindly and clearly pointed out that mental health issues come in all shapes and sizes and that I have had plenty to do with people with mental health challenges because at least one in three of us suffer, including himself. In fact, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, half of the Australian population will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Your age, status, background or wealth won’t stop you from experiencing issues and leaders are definitely not immune.
If so many of us are dealing with these issues, including those of us who are leaders, why don’t we talk about it? Why is there a stigma associated with mental health? Why are we concerned about having it in our medical records?
Campaigns to remove this stigma have been running for a while and we’ve seen some improvement, but COVID has propelled us even closer to this goal.
If one good thing has come out of the COVID season, it’s that everyone is talking about our mental health. There are blogs and social media posts everywhere informing and instructing us in how to look after ourselves. Finally we are realising that our mental health should be talked about and should be looked after just as much as we need to look after our physical health.
We should be assessing our mental health and looking after it so that we can thrive whatever the season. And in a similar way to our physical health, we need to understand that prevention is better than cure. There is no stigma in going to see your doctor and there should be no stigma in going to see a counsellor – you don’t even need a referral. Seeing a counsellor earlier could prevent greater issues later on.
As leaders we should be talking about mental health with our teams. Brene Brown says “vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage”. A leader being vulnerable about their own struggles gives permission to their team to be open too. Performance and supervision meetings started by asking about the team member’s welfare should be the norm.
So hold on to this change in mindset and the importance of talking about and looking after your mental health as well as that of those you lead. Let’s finally remove the stigma.
For appointments with Crossway LifeCare counsellors and Mental Health Care Practitioners call 03 9886 3899 or visit www.crosswaylifecare.org.au
Chief Executive Officer, Crossway LifeCare