Written by David Thuillier, MD at MA
On 2nd July 2009, my daughter was born making me a proud dad for the second time. Unfortunately, this joyful moment came with the sad news that what had been diagnosed as gestational diabetes was diabetes type 1, an irreversible auto-immune condition that would have a life-changing impact on my wife’s day-to-day and health. As she was getting to learn how to live with and manage her condition, life threw another challenge at my wife. A few months later, her dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. Needless to say, 2010 was an extremely difficult year for my wife.
In 2011, my father-in-law passed away and a long period of grief started.
It was only towards the end of that year and the beginning of 2012 that I realised these events had also taken a toll on me. For 2 years, I had been focused on being the best support I could for my wife and my family but also very busy managing the aftermath of the infamous subprime financial crisis on MA. I had been handling a lot of stress without necessarily thinking about it as everything I did was the right and obvious thing to do. Besides, I, like too many - and men particularly - had been maybe too proud to reach out to anyone for help.
And above all, it would have been very embarrassing to melt when the one the most affected was my wife.
But one day, I realised I had been talking to my physio as if he was my mental therapist and I had been going once a week for 10 consecutive weeks although he could not find any physical issue with that right hip I had been complaining about. It was about time I started looking after myself too. I was simply on the edge of a burn-out but one of the lucky ones who recognised the signs before it was too late.
Indeed, 1 in 5 people experience common mental health problems. Depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major if not the major contributor to suicide.
Before getting to these extremes and without bombarding you with tonnes of facts & figures or expert literature, there are basic principles we should all know and consider to ensure good mental health and most fall into 3 key categories:
- Self-care: we need to look after our mental health as much as our physical health and there are more and more guidelines backed by serious studies that one must not ignore
- Talking about our feelings: talking about our feelings can help us stay in good mental health and deal with times when we feel troubled
- Care for others: caring for others is looking after others but also a proven way to look after ourselves
With what the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown at us, MA has decided to take Mental Health Awareness Week more seriously than ever before - not only to raise awareness but also to open the dialogue with you.
As we launch this week, I would like to take the opportunity to remind all employees of MA, you all have access to our EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) which provides you with confidential emotional support delivered by trained clinicians.
In my role, it is also extremely important to acknowledge that good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand and that we can do more to train our managers to support staff on the emotional front. Not only do we have a duty of care for our employees, but it is also proven that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive.
So I invite you all to engage this week in one way or another. At MA, along with sharing my story today and daily educational cards throughout this week, we are giving all our employees the afternoon off on Thursday to get outdoors and connect with nature in support of this year's official campaign theme - nature. We hope by raising awareness and sharing lived experiences and knowledge, we can help to make MA a workplace that helps everyone keep their mental health on the watch and as fit as can be.