Last week I missed World Mental Health Day due to some stuff I had going on. I usually make a point of posting something about it on social media but this year I missed it. When I posted about it last year I made a point of reaching out to a few people I know who I had kind of lost contact with. Just a quick message to let them know I was still there. Afterwards I felt bad. Why did I need it to be world mental health day to reach out? What can’t I , you and everybody else, reach out more often? Too busy, too lazy, too nervous or just plain unaware? None of the above are anything to be embarrassed or ashamed about. I’m writing this article as a reminder and a request. Look after each other. This is a tough industry and all we have is each other to make sure we are ok. Mental health is an issue in all of our lives that we have to face up to and take responsibility for. Hopefully this article will encourage us all to be better for ourselves and for others..
Why is it an issue in security?
Firstly, I don’t know that mental health is a big issue in the security industry. I’m by no means an expert and I don’t have any research or figures that suggest that mental health is a major issue in the security industry. That being said from what a I’ve seen, heard and experienced in the last 18 years it seems like it is. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s an issue across society and we are part of society. Some of the other factors that come to mind. Unsociable hours, dealing with verbal abuse, exposure to alcohol and drug addiction, working alone, the list goes on. I know many people in the security industry (myself included) who have suffered with mental health difficulties. The vast majority get through and come out the other side stronger and better. Some unfortunately don’t.
Self Care First
As somebody who has been on both sides of this equation I know this part to be true. If you aren’t looking after yourself you will find it hard to look after others. Take the time to look after yourself. Not just physically but mentally. Taking time out of hectic work and home life to do things that you enjoy is so important. I personally think that a lot of the negativity we end up with in our head is associated with the negative garbage we consume in the media and online (I know it’s ironic that I say that while posting this online). Getting away from that and getting good stuff into your head can be a game changer. I also believe in the healthy body, healthy mind idea but I’m not nearly expert enough in that area to give advice and I’m really aware that for some people that’s not the support they need. I’m also a big fan of mindfulness for security staff but I know it isn’t for everybody.All I’m going to say is to look after yourself in every way that you can so that you are capable of looking after others. If you are struggling then reach out.
All it takes is a call
I’ve realised this so many times. I experienced it only last week. A call to a friend for no other reason than a chat for 5 minutes. Costs nothing but can mean so much to both sides to have a talk and a laugh. You might be thinking that you don’t know anybody who’s struggling at the minute. That’s great but it’s not the point. Be proactive about it. Make the call anyway.
Employers have a role too
For many years (and still to this day in some cases) employers have been terrified of mental health issues in the workplace. For years it was a taboo subject in the workplace. The reality is that employers have a role too. If mental health issues are related to workplace stress or workplace conditions then there is a duty to risk assess and put control measures in place. Without getting all technical and legal it’s also the human thing to do and is a sign of a really good employer. Some employers have started to take action on this and offer Mental Health First aid courses, mental health awareness talks and access to professional help bit these are few and far between. It’s an area I would really love to see the security industry catch up in.
Get some training (It’s free)
There’s loads of free training out there and there is no excuse for not doing it. The HSE Safetalk and ASIST programmes are both brilliant and free. They focus mainly on Suicide awareness and suicide intervention but the skills learned can be applied in of other areas of mental health including on ourselves. The SAFETALK is a half day programme on the basics and the ASIST is a 2 day course. Both are fully certified by the HSE and look great on the CV. I organised some of the SAFETALK workshops around the country 3 years ago for the security industry and there was great uptake. If anybody would be interested in doing it again in groups then let me know. Otherwise you can go to a public course which are ran in every county throughout the year. You can contact your local HSE rep through the link here about courses.
There is also the Recovery college who run free courses around the country in areas like depression, anxiety, sleep, living with addiction which are highly recommended by people I trust to know these things.
Talk to each other
We tend to be quite good in this industry at laughing and joking and having banter among ourselves. We also tend to be quite good at being there for each other in those backs to the wall serious physical incidents. We don’t tend to be great at being there for each other when it comes to mental health. For me it was always nerves. How do you start that conversation with your friend? How do you ask if they are ok or if they need to talk? It’s not so scary when you write it down but saying it always was. I still don’t know why. As soon as you ask the question it instantly gets better regardless of the answer. There’s nobody going to look out for us if we don’t look out for each other and we could all do a little better.
I don’t really ask for much from the people who read these articles. I don’t push sales pitches at you and I give away the vast majority of my stuff for free. I will ask you to do something for me now though. It’s more for yourself than it is for me but I’m asking you to do it. Pick up the phone at doe state today. Call a mate and check on them. Just a chat or a coffee or anything. Nothing serious just a talk and some good company. I know why it’s like when your in that dark place. I also know the feeling of relief when you know somebody is there for. Be that somebody for a friend this week.