Look after each other
A little bit off topic this week but probably the most important message of all. There’s a chain message going around social media at the moment about recognising that Christmas can be a hard time for people and to make sure we ask people if they are ok. That’s what I want to talk about here. The responsibility that we have as an industry to look after others at this time of year and most importantly to look after ourselves and our colleagues.
This is not an easy topic to talk about. Many of you reading this will have suffered from mental health difficulties in the past and maybe still are. Working in the secirity industry is not easy. There’s long hours, low pay, unsocial working conditions, abuse and violence. All of these things have the potential to negatively effect your mental and physical health. As the old saying goes ‘you can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself’. I’m reminded of the motto of the Cycle against suicide campaign I worked at last year when they had thousands of teenagers shouting ‘Its ok not to feel ok and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help”. If we can have thousand of teenagers saying it and believing it then why do we as adults struggle to do it. I’ve been there. I’ve been on a 14 hour overnight shift in the snow at -2 Celsius earning very little with only another shift tomorrow to look forward to. I’ve been the person who’s chosen between lunch and a bus fare home and I’ve been the person who feels like they have let everybody down in my actions and my failings. I’m also the person who now realises the importance of admitting when I’m not coping and asking for help. For me mindfulness helped but it isn’t for everybody. All I’ll ask is that if you are feeling stressed or down then please reach out and ask for help. Talk to a friend, a co-worker or a GP. When you open your mouth and speak it becomes less of a burden all of a sudden. Don’t suffer in silence. The world is happy to help as long as you let it. No matter how you feel right now or in those dark moments there is light and there is hope.
Colleagues in need
We would all line to think that our colleagues are grown adults as well and perfectly capable of looking after themselves. However it isn’t always the case. I was listening to Shay Given the former Irish goalkeeper speak about Gary Speeds death recently and he was talking about how nobody could ever see a person with a personality like Gary’s taking their own life. The truth is that we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors or in people’s heads and that’s scary. What I’m referring to here is the worst case scenario of somebody taking their own life but it isn’t always the case. Some people bottle up all of their bad feelings about themselves and get stressed, down or angry and take it out in other ways such as bad moods or violence. As colleagues we have to recognise that our co-workers (whether we like them or not) may be going through a hard time. As humans we should be decent enough to be there for them. It might be a simple “are you ok?” “ anything I can help with?” Or a coffee and a moan. You may not be a counsellor or be able to solve their life problems but you often don’t have to. Often just saying the words out loud helps a person solve their own problem and you just facilitate it. We all go through hard times and I’d like to think that I’d at least be able to be there for a colleague if they needed some help, advice or a person to unload their rant on. It’s not a friendship thing or a work thing, it’s a human thing.
You may be the person to make that someone in mental distress stop and think and not go through with it by just being there. You don’t need any special skills to be able to help someone to stop. Maybe you can help them realise the problems that they are struggling with aren’t as bad as it may seem to them. A problem shared is a problem halved. There is light and there is definitely hope.
We are also in a unique position in this industry that we meet people at their most vulnerable. The guy who’s stealing a kids toy as a present because he can’t afford Santa or the person leaving the bar to go home to an empty apartment. We meet them all and we see them come and go. I’m not saying we need to be friends with the guy who steals the kids toy. I’m saying we should be human towards him. If it was your brother, father or friend how would you like them treated? I wrote an article last year on Safeguarding in security which touches on these subjects. Christmas can be really tough for people behind closed doors and hold a lot of bad memories. While some of us are lucky enough to spend it with those we love others aren’t and will spend it alone or away from home. I’ve done both and neither are pleasant. What’s wrong with little extra in our greeting and goodnight to make people feel welcome at Christmas? Not because we expect it in return but because we may just be the person to make a person feel noticed. What’s wrong with asking if a persons ok leaving on their own? Nothing as far as I can see. As the saying goes “your actions may not change the world but they could change some bodies world”.
I highly recommend that everybody in thesecurity industry completes the SAFEtalk and ASIST courses. They are both free and specifically aimed at suicide awareness. They teach you to recognise the signs of a person potentially considering suicide and the first steps to helping them. The skills learned though translate to life. They help to recognise a person who might just need a chat or some company. At any time of year the trauma of suicide or a missing person can be terrible. At Christmas it can be even worse. Your kind words at this time could be nothing or they could save a family from this trauma. You may never know but just imagine how you would feel if it did.
A final thought
If you have made it this far thank you. This hasn’t been easy to read. Now I ask you to please put it into action. If you are feeling down please talk to somebody about it. Realise that you are an exceptional human being and there is only a single you. The world needs you at your best and nothing is as bad as it seems. If you think your colleague needs support then be the person who’s there for it. We have a tough enough job already and we need to be there for each other. We all go through tough times and we can all come through them. It’s the small things that count the most for people so whether It’s you, a friend or a stranger in the bar, be a decent human and check in on them.
If I could ask you to do me this one favour. Check on somebody today and make sure they are ok. A friend, a colleague or a stranger or doesn’t matter just show them as an industry that we care.
Samaritans 116 123
Pieta House 1800 247 247 (Text: HELP to 51444)
Ive linked to both websites above and to both the SAFEtalk and ASIST courses. Please save these numbers and pass them on.