World Mental Health Day is a pivotal moment this year as we learn from the past six months and prepare for a difficult winter
Winter is coming.
I never was one for Game of Thrones. Like most people. It’s cultural impact far outweighed its actual viewing figures. But the programme’s most quoted cliche feels particularly apt at the moment. Not just because it’s objectively true. It’s October and the weather and the light levels have taken a turn for the worse in the last few weeks. But because this is set to be a winter like no other.
Saturday October 10 is World Mental Health Day and it feels like a hinge point this year. On the one hand it’s a moment to look back at the mental health challenges 2020 has already thrown at us, consider what’s worked and what hasn’t in coping so far. That applies to individuals and employers.
Many working dads have had particular challenges this year. Work life and home life have been smashed together. Many of us have had our pastimes, pleasures, pressure valves taken away from us by Covid restrictions. And, even when they’ve been permitted, finding time for them has been problematic.
Many of us have had more time on our hands than we’d like thanks to furlough and redundancy. That cohort is only going to swell through the winter.
All of the above impacts employers too. Bosses and line managers have had to take the mental health of their team seriously in an unprecedented way.
And that’s where the hinge comes into play. Now is also the time to look forward to a difficult winter.
At least up till now we’ve had decent weather. Darkness and chill will make the next phase harder. But what will make it easier is that we’ve lived through the best part of a year of coronavirus. We must take time now to consider what lessons we can learn from the past six months to apply to the next.
That, too, applies to individuals and employers. Like Covid, there’s no inoculation that can protect mental health. But giving some thought to your mental health now may help. If walking round the block to create a break between having breakfast and sitting down to work at the same kitchen table is helpful then programme that in going forward, even if it’s raining. Joe Wicks may have quit his online PE classes but they are all still there on YouTube. It’s indoor exercise and there’s some evidence to back up his over used exhortation that it’ll make you feel “AMAZING!”
Most kids are at school now and the government seems determined it stays that way. But this is an odd academic year and they’ll need extra attention and support. If you’ve responsibility for smaller children then the option to chuck them in a soft play for the morning is no longer there. Now’s the time to draw up some ideas for keeping them occupied on dingy winter mornings.
And employers need to be aware that the parents they employ are facing these difficulties. Of course I’d recommend our White Paper as a first port of call but there are very wise ideas in there. Learn from other companies. Partner with charities and NGOs who want to help. Think about training up some mental health first aiders, consider how you’re going to keep in touch with your teams as homeworking continues into spring and possibly beyond.
One quality many of us have learned or improved through Covid is empathy. Seeing into your colleagues homes via Zoom, judging their bookshelves, learning that they have a life beyond the 9-5 that includes kids and pets and hobbies and caring responsibilities has expanded our hearts and minds. Empathy is good for mental health. Like a shot of Vitamin C it doesn’t cure any particular ill but it is good for you. We’re going to need it through this winter and we must ensure the seeds of empathy sowed through the summer take on strong roots going forward.
Crucially we must be there for each other. At workingdads.co.uk we’ll be here sharing case studies and best practice. We’re open for your enquiries – if you’ve got a question we’ll get the Dadvengers team of experts on it. A problem shared is a problem solved as far as we’re concerned.
And we’ll be looking to focus on positives. Drawing up actions that working dads can work towards as employees and employers in order to embed the best of this strange and trying year as we go forward, together, through the worst of it.