Today is an important day , it’s another opportunity to stand up and say it’s ok to talk about how healthy our minds are. Nobody is sure just how much of the Mental Health ‘problem’ we are seeing across society and in the workplace is new and how much has been hidden below the cultural iceberg. Nobody can deny how much damage is done when things go unspoken and escalate into crisis. As a police officer I see this in our work and in our workplace and it troubles me for several reasons.

Firstly I understand first hand how a ‘be-strong’ culture combined with low self awareness can lead to a personal and professional crisis. I’ve gone on record talking about how this was for me and on reflection I’m not quite sure how In got through it unscathed. I hurt a lot of people along the way and some of that can’t be undone. What I did though is learn a lot …it was my wake up call and it fundamentally changed me as a person and as a leader.

So on Time to Talk day here is my take on what it’s all about in 3 easy to remember rules I try to abide by……most days by 5pm I’m struggling to abide by these but it’s a worthy ambition . Let’s try to turn this Mental Health ‘problem’ into a narrative that’s more about developing positive mental health than hyping up the negatives.

They aren’t meant to be your rules…. you will have your own experiences and choices. They’re just mine.

Rule 1

Judging is destructive and to be avoided at all costs. To be replaced with a sense of positive regard by which I mean never assume you know why a person is behaving the way they are unless you’ve walked in their shoes. It’s not about condoning bad behaviour it’s about moving from judging to understanding. Very helpful to your own well being too.

Rule 2

Compassion is empathy in action as my chum Fiona Meechan says. Relating to how someone else is feeling is a skill very few of us possess without putting the work in. Feel too much and you can suffer empathy burnout , feel not enough and you present as a remote and uncaring person. Look after yourself whilst you show genuine empathy and compassion for others. If you see someone drowning don’t jump in the river and drown with them, stay on the river bank and throw them a rope.

Rule 3

Avoid avoiding the subject. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about how they are feeling especially if they aren’t confident with the language to describe their emotions. It’s a bit like learning a new language , it takes time to find the words. Instead emotions run unchecked and translate into behaviours others judge us on. Refer to Rule 1 ! If you see someone is struggling to find the words don’t fill their gaps ….silence and holding a silence allows the person to set their own pace and feel listened to. Shut up chatter boxes stop telling me everything will be ok. Actively raise positive mental health as a subject when it’s not being put forward as a problem. This way we can learn the language and grow confident in a safer environment.

Finally recognise that the earlier we talk , the better we process and the more we learn about ourselves. Only you know what is going for you ….we are all unique and need a tailored fit not a one size fits all