Today, I had a read of John Sutherland’s post, “Silver Linings”. He was a high-ranking police officer in the Metropolitan police who had to leave the force when he became mentally unwell. The stress of the job caught up with him.
I wish I had known, when I was 26, that we would one day talk more openly about issues of mental health. Thirty years ago, when I entered the legal profession, that didn’t happen. In the ’80s, there was a “macho” culture, across many professions and jobs, in which strength was exemplified and perceived weakness was scorned. At least, that’s how it felt to me. Certainly, I did not feel that there was a safe space for me to speak honestly about my fears, anxiety and lack of confidence in my ability to do the job. Unspoken, I think such feelings can build to unbearable stress, which can cause people to be ill and/or to leave their jobs. At least, now, there seems to be greater recognition of the need to devote as much attention to mental as to physical health.
I was cheered to see a news piece about teenagers in a UK school, who were being taught how to maintain mental well being and to support their peers to have good mental health. The earlier in life people recognise the need to focus attention on mental, as well as physical health, the better, I say. When those kids are 26, I hope they are better equipped than generations before them, to deal with the many and varied challenges that life inevitably will throw out to them. I also hope there is no slippage on this mental health focus. There is a lot of work still to be done.