Why Mental Health Awareness Makes Good Business Sense
I’ve been self employed now for around 9 years. Like many others I left behind a career in mid level management on the corporate treadmill, in exchange for the rollercoaster that is business ownership. I wouldn’t swap my decision to ‘go it alone’ for anything, but there are certain challenges that only come with being responsible for your own income.
When I was nearing the end of my schooling, I became aware of having extended bouts of melancholy. I put it down to the stress of final exams and the pressure of life choices. After several months, I found a health professional and was diagnosed with depression. That initial diagnosis began a journey and conversation with, as Winston Churchill named it, “The Black Dog” that continues to this day.
From that time, I made a conscious decision to never hide nor be ashamed of the fact that I walk with the black dog…why should I? As a business owner who is by any definition a ‘success’, it intrigues and confuses me when I am applauded for my bravery and honesty around my battles with depression.
Why is the topic of mental health still one that’s met with shuffling feet and awkward stares? As business owners, what is it that we need to know to protect our own mental health, and that of our employees?
We are all responsible for our own mental health wellbeing. As a society, mental health issues impact the economy to the tune of over $60 billion per year with around 45% of all Australians facing a mental health issue at some stage during their lives, and around 20% of people facing a mental health issue within any 12 month period.
Having walked with my own black dog for over half my life, I’ve learnt everyone lives with, handles and suffers from mental health issues in their own way. But there are certain behaviours business owners can adopt to bring the topic out of the shadows and make it as ‘normal’ as talking about an injury sustained over the weekend playing sport.
First of all, educate yourself. Australia is blessed in its abundance of organisations that can help educate you. From R U OK Day to the Black Dog Institute, from Lifeline to Beyond Blue; there really is no excuse to be in the dark around the facts on mental health issues.
If you are one of the many who is impacted in some way by the black dog, then take some time to get to know what your triggers are. Once you have a good understanding of your own stressors, you have the ability to put preventative measures in place.
Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learnt in recognising and living with depression.
- I temper my workload with down time. I work from home, so my dog acts as a great alarm to take a break from the computer. A few times per day, he will trot in with a toy and remind me to get outside and play, no work and no phones. I’ve learnt many things from my dog, and one of them is to appreciate being in the moment.
- If I find myself opting for fast food, which usually coincides with a looming project deadline, I know I am at risk of beginning to feel overwhelmed. If there is a deadline on the horizon I will plan ahead, do a big cook up on the weekend, or throw something in the slow cooker. Bad food choices for me are a big trigger and a slippery slope.
- Lastly, I make sure I am getting plenty of good quality sleep. I switch off the TV around 30 minutes before I want to go to sleep and head for bed with a good book (purely fiction for me at night time). I give my mind time to wind down before going to sleep.
Living and working with the black dog is doable. As business owners and employers, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our families, our employees and our clients to become educated around mental health awareness and to put preventative measures in place that will keep the black dogs sleeping peacefully.
About the contributor:
Tracy Sheen has always enjoyed storytelling. Tracy launched her small business podcast “Not Another Business Show” in 2015 which is listened to in over 60 countries by thousands of people each week. Tracy is a regular commentator on the subject of podcasting.