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Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

Yo RO gang,


I was wondering if anyone had any experiences they'd like to share about having group discussions about mental health at school or at work.


I totally understand why it's an important discussion to have, but I find it really uncomfortable to be present during that sort of discussion. The world IRL does not feel like a safe place to be open about personal stuff, let alone with people I see every day. And I feel like somehow by discussing the topics in general, I might accidentally let something slip about how I'm doing, or someone might make an assumption just based on the expression on my face Smiley Tongue


Has anyone here been involved in conversations like that? How did you find it?


Re: Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

Hey @Bay52VU 


Because my course is kind of social-work-y there's a lot of discussions about mental health and mental illness. The hardest thing that I find with those discussions is the assumption that teachers/other students make that nobody in the room has experienced these things. It can be really isolating to hear people talking about 'people with depression' as though we're aliens from another planet or something! It can also suck if the conversation gets steered in ableist territory - I've been in classes where people say things like 'oh he was depressed so he couldn't think clearly enough to not kill his wife' or casually reference suicide in a joking way. Those ones usually just make me cry :/


I've also been in class a few times when I either mentioned that I have mental health problems or people noticed because I was stimming/had a panic attack/started crying or whatever. That's always...interesting. Imo people tended to avoid me a bit after I mentioned stuff. But I've also gotten a lot of 'oh look at the poor thing it can't breath' type looks. People still seem really uncomfortable talking about mental health and I guess the major thing I've gotten out of these discussions is that if you're mentally ill in any way it can be really isolating and stigmatising BUT we also have the chance to educate people on the idea that we're still 'normal' people. 


But at the same time I've learned a lot from those educative discussions - including skills to help myself, with things like narrative therapy etc. And some of the things that teachers have told us helped me to decide that I want to work in the mental health field. 


So basically I think it can be useful and very very important to talk about but only if the person who's leading the discussion knows what they're talking about. And I think it's important to challenge people's stigma, but also don't beat ourselves up if we're too anxious or uncomfortable to say anything. And if we think it's going to be problematic or triggering to hear imo it's also okay to not go to those classes. 


Smiley Happy

Re: Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

@Bay52VU I think @DruidChild has given some solid advise based on experience. 


It's important to have these conversations to help break down the stigmas attached to mental health and make it more understood. I don't think we all have to always lead or take part in these conversations though - it's important to know when to take a step back or when to disengage . If the conversation is upsetting you or could be triggering its always best to move away from it vocally or physically. Likewise, if you think that the conversation is safe and understanding sharing some of your experience can really help to make the problem relatable and tangible for others. 

Re: Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

@DruidChild thanks for sharing your experience. Some of that sounds pretty tough Smiley Sad And yeah that would be annoying to have people talking about it like it's an "us vs. them" issue when mental health is important for everyone to maintain and anyone can be affected by mental illness. Glad to hear that you've learnt some useful stuff though and helped find out what area you want to work in Smiley Happy


Yeah @BazanFan I understand why it's important, particularly for people who don't have as much exposure/knowledge about resources, things to notice and things that can help. I guess I'm just reluctant to be in the room while other people are learning about it Smiley Tongue


The reason I brought this up is cause my workplace does short little health and safety training sessions (like "how to report a safety incident", "slips/trips/falls", "personal protective equipment") and I noticed that one of them was on mental health. So at some point my boss will pick that one to read out to the team. When that one happens I'm expecting everyone to take it seriously and not make offensive jokes - that part will be all cool... It's just that I feel uncomfortable being in discussions about it in general.


Re: Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

@Bay52VU I can definitely understand feeling uncomfortable being around those types of discussions. Do you feel like you'd rather not be there for the training session? Would you be able to give your manager a heads up that it's a sensitive topic for you  and that you'd like to sit this one out? Alternately is there anything you could do to make you feel more prepared and in control of the session, like asking to see the information before it's presented, doing some breathing exercises, or something else? 

Re: Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

Haha letting my boss know that I have any feelings whatsoever about the topic is exactly what I want to avoid @DruidChild Smiley Tongue But I can probably get hold of the training material pretty easily so that might be a good idea so I can practice my "ah ok this is some information" face and check that I'm not making weird expressions Smiley Tongue thanks. Smiley Happy

Re: Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

@DruidChild I've also found that people in the room speak with the assumption that nobody present has experienced the issue at hand. It can be tough! Especially when they speak in a way that perpetuates stigma.


@Bay52VU I'm glad that mental health is included in the training, and that your colleagues are sensitive enough to refrain from making rude jokes. I laughed a little at your reference to the "ah ok this is some information" face. I don't think I pull a very convincing one myself! Sounds like a good idea to have a look at the material before your boss addresses it!

Re: Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

@Bay52VU ah sorry I kinda misinterpreted what you were trying to avoid! I hope you're able to get hold of the training material and that reading it beforehand helps...tbh I know it can feel self conscious but I'm pretty sure nobody will be paying any more specific attention to you than they do in any other OHS talk. 

Re: Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

Every year our school has some local footy players come in and talk to us about mental health and their journey with it so far. I personally don't find it that interesting primarily because I'm not a real sporty guy and I can't really connect with it, but it is really beneficial for the more sporty guys. There is always a Q&A session at the end of it and it really helps a lot of blokes.


Another thing we did this year was have a Youth Health Expo, which was actually created by students for students! It was a really beneficial morning with various organisations coming in and having stalls, running small workshops and even an intimate Q&A session. The best part was that it didn't primarily focus on mental health but also physical health. Overall it was actually really really great!

Re: Discussions/learning about mental health at school/work

@Bay52VU This is a really great topic for discussion (thank you!).  I can totally relate on feeling uncomfortable in group situations like this and not wanting to give people too much information about my own mental health. I think it's great that your workplace is doing a training on mental health though - I think it shows that people and society and slowly starting to treat the topics more seriously. Obsiously there's still a long way to go but that's a great start!


I totally agree with @DruidChild in preparing yourself with the materials before hand so you know what to expect from the training/presentation. Additionally figuring out some boundaries for yourself before hand to determine what you are, and what you aren't willing to share with the group might be a good idea - that way you won't feel put on the spot should certain topics come up. Is there a colleague at your work that you can talk it through with beforehand? It might be good to have that in person support on the day as well. Plus you might find there are other people going through similar thought processes and concerns as you Smiley Happy


@tomo_13 The things your school is doing to improve mental health sound amazing!