At Snowplow, a part of my job as an Engagement and Wellbeing Specialist is to make sure the team feels supported with their mental health. I’d like to think I’m pretty clued up when it comes to the subject, but what happens when I’m struggling to maintain my own mental health? How can I look after my team when I also need to focus on myself?
It’s all about balance!
Here’s my advice for anyone who wants to be there for their team, whilst making sure they’re in the best position to do so.
My team knows that they can come to me whenever they need to, but they also know that I might need to press pause and get back to them a little later when I’m in a better headspace. You are not superhuman and your team should know this. If a team member messages you and you’re not entirely ready to give them your full attention, set the expectation by letting them know when you can commit to a proper conversation. They’re probably already feeling vulnerable, so the last thing you’re going to want to do is ignore them completely or “leave them on read”.
Hi Jessie, thanks so much for reaching out. I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such a rough time at the moment. I’m just finishing up with a few things at the moment, but we can have a chat after lunch if you’re free.
Avoid phrases such as:
- I promise to get back to you in an hour (Don’t make promises)
- I know exactly how you feel (No you don’t)
- Don’t worry, you’ll be okay (You don’t know this, and it also doesn’t help)
People are way more likely to open up to you if you have been open in the past. This doesn’t mean that you need to air your dirty laundry (figuratively speaking!), but get into the habit of sharing your personal experiences with mental health when the occasion is right. You don’t want to appear tone deaf, so pick your moment carefully. If somebody is opening up to you about their anxiety and you can see they’re quite distressed, maybe now isn’t the time to try to out-do them with a story of your own.
If you’ve recently had a chat with someone who wasn’t doing well, make sure you check in with them when you can. Even if they seem like they’re doing fine now, go back and check in with them. If you’re like me and constantly have to keep on top of 50 unread Slack messages at a time, make sure to keep note of the people who need you the most and take some time out of your day to drop them a message.
Hey Jessie, it’s been a while. Did you want to catch up? I know you had a lot on your plate the last time we spoke and I just wanted to check in.
Practice what you preach!
I think we’re probably all guilty of dishing out advice but never actually following the advice we give. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “If you’re not feeling well and you’re struggling with your mental health, take some time off work to look after yourself”. Have I ever done this? Nope! Do I feel guilty for taking time off work? Yep! Do I think people will judge me and will think I’m being dramatic for taking time off work? Yep! Follow your own advice and lead the way.
Tl;dr – Look after yourself before you can look after someone else, open up to people if you want them to open up to you, take your own advice and just be a good person.
I am so lucky to be able to work for a company who gives me the freedom to build a wellbeing strategy that works for our culture and a company who allows me to speak so freely about topics which could be considered a taboo in many workplaces. You don’t need to be a specialist, team lead or a manager to be somebody who people can turn to for mental health support. All you need is a little knowledge, a bit of patience and a sprinkling of empathy and you’re already well on your way. My journey started 4 years ago when I started volunteering on 7Cups.com, a website for support, counselling and therapy for adults with ill mental health. Next, I trained up to be a Mental Health First Aider at Snowplow and then went on to launch Snowplow’s Wellbeing Portal, which is jam packed with resources, links and services, enabling all Snowplowers to get the support they need, regardless of their role or location.