Do you remember when you were a child and that 500-word essay you’d received as homework had to be written and handed in on time? It was probably on a subject you hadn’t fully paid attention to. It was a big problem at the time wasn’t it? When you eventually grow up, get a job and have a huge mortgage to pay, that essay doesn’t quite seem to be on the same scale as it once was. It’s all about perspective I guess.
Working in the 21st century has its own set of pressure and stress. If your job doesn’t, you’re probably not doing it properly (or you’re too good at it). For the 1 in 4 of us who live with some form of mental illness, working in any environment can be even more of a challenge. Open plan offices help, having supportive colleagues around you can make a big difference, but the issues we face never totally go away. I say ‘we’, because I’m the ‘1’ in that 1 in 4 statistic.
This blog came about after I saw one featured on Colleagues on Tap regarding mental illness and its impact when you work alone. It really resonated with me and, as it turned out, with a number of other people too. I’ve been a member of Colleagues on Tap (through my content business Left2Write) for some time, but I’ve never attended one of the Co-Working Days. That’s not because I didn’t want to, but my conditions have simply prevented me from doing so. My enthusiasm is intact, my motivation is sound, but my befuddled brain lets me down, just when I need it most.
Let me introduce myself, my name is Gary Pollard and I run a couple of little enterprises here in the North East. I also live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, acute anxiety and depression. I’m a loving husband, proud father and unashamedly geeky. To pay the bills, and keep the wolves from the door, I’m a freelance writer, social media consultant and content creator. As much as I love writing – look I’m doing it now – my main passion lies with the Community Interest Company (CIC) I founded, devoted to men and mental health. I call it Men Tell Health, and you can too. You can even take a look at our new website by going to www.mentellhealth.org, but not just yet…you’re busy reading this!
I founded Men Tell Health to help myself, as much as it was to help other people. There are a multitude of great websites out there related to mental health. They all talk about it in a particular way and offer the same respectful tone when dealing with an admittedly complex issue. They’re great, but I wanted something else to help me and I couldn’t find it. So I did it myself.
Around 75% of people who seek help and support for their mental ill health are women, yet around 75% of those who commit suicide every year are men. This is true in the UK as it is in many other countries around the world. There’s a huge disparity somewhere. Something has to change.
Men Tell Health started purely as a blog for me to write (did I mention I love writing?) about how I felt; about how my mental illnesses affected me and my family. Writing was a release for me. I loved it. It felt good. It made sense (usually). Over time I knew it could be more and it should be more…and, eventually, now it is more.
We launched at the beginning of October and the response so far has been phenomenal. It’s looks different, it reads different and it talks about mental illness differently. It doesn’t flinch from difficult subjects, but it injects humour, honesty and integrity to a topic that too many people find hard to discuss. I wanted to change that. I want to change it now and long into the future.
I love writing about mental health in general, but I also hate talking about it, especially when it comes to my own conditions. Explaining how I feel is embarrassing. I realise how crazy it sounds when the thought of meeting new people scares me. I understand how taking about the fear of going somewhere new must sound to people. I get it. It’s more than just being shy. I’m not shy. I’m a hoot…or at least, I am eventually. No matter how lovely the people are and how well facilitated the place may be, the thought of leaving my own personal fortress of solitude gives me chills…and not in a good way.
I still have the dream of attending a co-working day. I’m working with Jo and some others to create a more mental illness-friendly environment that will continue to promote the incredible ethos Colleagues On Tap already has. I want to help foster that environment, work with amazing people like you to develop my business and help you develop yours. You may well see an inspiring event designed to help people who work alone to collaborate and work better together. I see a big scary room full of new people. It’s all about perspective I guess….but I’m working on it.