Articles about mental wellbeing often start with a "trigger warning" intended to help steer people away if the content of the article might have a negative impact on their wellbeing. Wouldn't it be nice if we saw an equal number of articles with "resilient resources" on display, to help spread the word about what can help with resilience?
"Trigger Warnings" are frequently dished out when it comes to mental wellbeing articles. Sharing what it is like to have a mental illness is vital to help educate others that it is, in fact, an illness and nothing to do with being weak or incapable.
So sharing personal stories about mental ill-health is generally a good thing. And it is sensible to start with a trigger warning, so that the article doesn't have an undesired negative impact on the reader.
If I wrote an article about my mental illness I'd have to give a trigger warning; because I'd be telling you my story about post traumatic stress, brought on by a child bereavement, specifically a stillbirth. And I'd be telling you that PTSD consists of awful flashbacks to that tragedy, along with even worse flash-forwards as my brain anticipates new tragedies because it is now hyper-vigilant as a result of my condition. And when the hyper-vigilance is really bad, I get depression. So my personal story would look something like this.
My experience of sharing a personal story like this is that it helps. To a certain extent. It helps to educate others on what mental illness looks like. And it leads by example; because the more we are willing to talk about mental health, the more we can encourage others to do so.
What I think would help even more though is if those with mental health challenges shared their resilient resources.
I've spent hundreds and hundreds of hours coaching others to help them manage their wellbeing challenges. I'm not a therapist, so I've never been able to help with the awfulness of the condition. So as a coach I'm only able to help by supporting the individual to discover more about what makes them resilient.
It can be as simple as asking: "what helps you have a good day?", or "describe what's going on when you feel more in control of your challenges?" and so on.
And from simple, open questions like this, the vast range of resilient resources I've seen is incredible.
Alongside some awful conditions and challenges I've seen some incredible resilient resource. I've worked with individuals with depression so bad they can't get out of bed some days, anxieties that result in panic attacks that are utterly debilitating, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, life-threatening eating disorders. As I say, I can't treat the illness; but the range of resilient resources is astounding. This is the thing that I think we should all share.
Mine looks like this. I can keep my terrible condition well-managed if I have autonomy, space and trust to do things calmly one at a time, the ability to arrange my own day, the flexibility to commute and be at home with my family, honest conversations and feedback. Who'd have thought that these simple, everyday things, could help manage a chronic illness?
So, by all means tell your personal story. But if you can, share your resilient resources too.
I wish you well — Jonathan Phelan
About Jonathan Phelan
Jonathan is the author of “The Art of the Mentally Healthy Conversation” which tells the story of how Jonathan learned how to manage the challenge of a mental health condition following a child bereavement. The book helps the reader discover how to have mentally healthy conversations, which are more likely to result in support, rather than stigma. It also promotes the benefits of workplaces, universities and schools nurturing a culture in which it is normal for people to talk about their mental health and to offer mutual support for wellbeing and resilience.
Jonathan has held a senior leadership position in a large financial services organisation since 2004, with a long-term career in law, law enforcement and consumer protection. When he went through the trauma of a child bereavement he gained an insight into the obstacles people face when they have mental wellbeing challenges. More importantly he learned how to overcome those obstacles by improving the way we talk about our wellbeing and resilience.
Through his talks, workshops and book Jonathan shares his personal story. Using the drama of how mental health has been portrayed in film, and his own particular take on how our brains process information, Jonathan guides the listener to discover more effective ways to talk about mental wellbeing.
Jonathan also promotes the concept of mutual support for wellbeing; based on the belief that we should all aim to make it normal for people to talk about their mental wellbeing, just as we are already willing to talk about physical wellbeing.