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‘Just snap out of it’

Mental illness not simply a case of the blues

By Brian Kreissl 

There must be 10 different topics I could blog about this week, but for some reason I’m suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. Part of the problem is none of the topics I had planned really interest me right now, and I don’t have a lot of time or energy to write about something that would require any significant amount of research. 

My wife suggested I write a post about New Year’s resolutions for HR practitioners, but I already did that last year. She also thought I might want to write about how many people these days seem to be afraid of Syrian refugees taking their jobs, but that sounds a little too controversial and political — especially for how I’m feeling right now. 

Feeling a little melancholy 

The truth is I’m feeling a little melancholy right now — probably because the holidays are over and yet another year has just flown by. While the New Year is generally a time for optimism, renewal and a fresh start, I’m still more focused on 2015 and how it didn’t quite live up to my expectations in many ways — particularly from a personal perspective. 

Don’t get me wrong, I did some fun and interesting things in 2015 like visiting New York City for the first time, spending a few days at a cottage with friends, tubing down a river in Northern Ontario, doing lots of swimming and enjoying concerts, parties, restaurants, bars, water parks, amusement parks, a beer festival and social events. I also completed a book manuscript along with my colleague Yaseen Hemeda and saw several work projects through to completion. 

But I also had several health, fitness, social, family, academic, travel, home improvement and financial goals that didn’t quite come to fruition during 2015. 

Nevertheless, I made a ton of resolutions for 2016 and have made a serious commitment to maintaining a healthier lifestyle throughout the holiday season, the New Year and beyond (and have actually been pretty good at sticking to my resolutions so far). The problem is the holidays seemed to be a bit of an anticlimax for me this year, and I don’t feel like I have much to look forward to right now (other than a concert coming up in March). 

I am also trying hard to exercise some willpower and avoid giving into the temptation of all of the Christmas chocolate in my kitchen — especially the gigantic Toblerone my wife gave me. Right now, I would love to rip open that massive chocolate bar and eat about five triangles of it in one sitting — but I’m going to resist, even though it isn’t easy. 

I have given up sweets for at least a couple of weeks, and I have cut back on carbohydrates and portion sizes in an attempt to lose some weight and eat healthier. After that, I’m planning on limiting my intake of sweets to very small portions once or twice a week to avoid completely denying myself the things I enjoy. Having all that chocolate in my house will be a major test of my willpower, but I’m up for the challenge. 

No one immune from mental health challenges 

However, this blog post isn’t really about New Year’s resolutions, weight loss or healthy eating. Instead, it’s about how none of us is immune from feeling sad, depressed, angry, disappointed or lonely at times — even if we’re just suffering from the post-holiday blues or regrets that we didn’t accomplish everything we had set out to do. Because we all have days when our mental health isn’t quite what we would like it to be, we should be more understanding and compassionate towards people who are suffering from serious mental illness. 

Nevertheless, I’m not conflating serious mental health issues like depression with simply having a minor case of the blues. That’s why I believe the latest “Bell Let’s Talk” advertising campaign to promote awareness and help end the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace is so thought-provoking. 

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about 20 per cent of people will experience some type of mental illness in their lifetimes. But in spite of the prevalence of mental health challenges, like the advertisements tell us people who are suffering from mental illness cannot simply “snap out of it.” As HR practitioners, we need to be particularly mindful of that.

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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