We’ve never shied from conversations on mental health at Honan, but with 2020 throwing us a raft of unparalleled challenges, RUOK? Day proved particularly pertinent this year. Yesterday, we were fortunate to have Dr. Mitch Anderson (Dr. Mitch) lead our company-wide Town Hall for a powerful conversation around mental health. Dr Mitch shared some great insights about how to check in with others, and the importance of prioritising our own mental wellbeing too. 


A sports doctor, physiologist and physiotherapist by trade, Dr. Mitch is also a powerful advocate for mental health, having suffered depression in his adult life. He is also a fierce endurance athlete, competing in eight Hawaii Ironman World Championships and achieving a number of Ultra Cycling Association World Records including almost 900km in 24 hour of non-stop cycling. He has raised both funds and awareness for depression as charitable acts in the last few years. 


An hour of power with Dr. Mitch gifted us a wealth of tips and tricks – here are our top takeaways:


  1. ASK without expectation. If you’re checking in on someone, be mindful of the fact they may not be ready to share. Don’t be dismayed if your gesture gets seemingly ignored – your colleague, friend or loved one might need more time to open up, or perhaps never at all. Most importantly, you’ve offered the opportunity for them to do so, and offered a path to be revised if, and when, the time is right.


  1. LISTEN like you care. Show your care and genuine interest in the sentiments being shared by offering physical expressions of engagement. Offer eye contact, listen more than you speak, take the conversation slowly and be present in the moment. Avoid jumping straight to ‘action’ mode – dedicate at least one and a half to two minutes to your initial ‘quick’ check in. Use minimal encouragers, even the shortest conversation can be meaningful, and commit to focusing on the task at hand. Initial conversations are critical for building trust – the bedrock of quality relationships.


  1. ENCOURAGE ACTION & EXPLORATION of what works best. If you can sense a friend is struggling, open their mind to the exponential range of additional help available through formal or informal networks (RUOK, Lifeline or Beyond Blue websites and phone numbers to start). Encourage further conversations with their loved ones, suggest another option of a mutual trusted friend, or feel out their interest for professional support. Whether it’s a GP, psychologist, psychiatrist, or simply giving BeyondBlue or Lifeline a call, continuing the conversation is what matters most.


  1. CHECK IN, with a proper conversation. Sending a text here and there is a nice gesture, but there’s nothing like the power of a proper and connection of a direct human conversation. Social media can feel like a quick and easy way to check-in, but using your voice offers colour, connection and far less room for confusion. Because there’s nothing worse than things getting lost in translation. #faceplantemoji


  1. KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Just because you care enough to check in, doesn’t mean you’re the sole custodian of someone else’s mental health. In fact, unless you’re a trained professional, another person’s mental health is never your responsibility. Know your boundaries, and stick to them. You’ll be more comfortable and a better agent or change than in an area you find sticky! If a conversation ventures into territory you’re uncomfortable with, or you find yourself becoming an unfettered emotional helpdesk, be sure to correct course with safe suggestions to alternative sources (as previously mentioned: BeyondBlue or Lifeline).


  1. EXERCISE, but not always. Getting active outdoors offers a wealth of benefits for our physical and mental wellbeing. From turbo-charging feel-good endorphins, to the perks of feeling physically fit, exercise is great, but it’s by no means a guaranteed sole-panacea for ongoing psychological strain. In fact, relying on prolonged periods of exercise in isolation could at times make matters worse. Pay attention to the musings while you’re active – is it silencing inner demons, or making them louder? Maybe a walk and talk with a mate, or a quality podcast in a sunny chair would offer more reprieve. Test the waters, get clear on what leaves you feeling good, and acknowledge when underlying issues may not be abating.


  1. SURPASS THE STIGMA & stay the course. Mental health challenges come in all shapes and sizes. The majority of us will experience psychological struggles at some point in our lives, but the severity, types and our responses will vary greatly. Accordingly, adequate treatment will vary too. For some, a weekly chat with a loved one will keep an even keel, while others will require ongoing medication due to significant ongoing chemical imbalances inside the brain. Importantly, there’s no one-size fits all – finding a plan that works for you, or a close mate, is likely to take research, testing, tweaking, and often a whole lot of time. Most importantly, be patient with the process, surpass the stigma of ‘being weak to speak’, and commit to finding a way that works for you.


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