I’ve been mulling this idea over for some time now and I thought today – with #thrivingatwork trending on Twitter, and the topic of mental health in the workplace being widely discussed – would be a good time to share it.

I want to create an ‘openness in the workplace’ scheme

Now bear with me here, I haven’t worked out any of the finer details, but the basic idea would be that managers can sign up to have a little sticker or badge on their desk which shows their team they’re open and sympathetic to mental health struggles. Other members of staff could also display their support, with the goal of creating a safe environment, where people feel comfortable being open if they’re struggling. Anyone can sign up – whether they have personal experience of mental illness or not.

This would only be a small part of a wider campaign and I have yet to think of a catchy name, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

I’m aware there are potential pitfalls

For example, I in no way want this to become a ‘counselling’ service. People involved in the scheme shouldn’t be treated like a substitute for qualified mental health professionals, nor should they give any sort of advice – just support and understanding.

In fact, this may be a crap idea altogether, so please feel free to tell me if you think it is! What I’m hoping is I can get enough people interested in getting involved and we can have a bit of a brainstorming session and bounce ideas off each other. Please get in touch if you’d like to be involved in any way.

People shouldn’t feel afraid to phone in sick if they’re having a bad mental health day

I’ve seen far too many people on Twitter saying they’ve often felt too afraid to be honest with their boss when calling in sick. We shouldn’t have to lie – mental health is as important as physical health. The goal of this campaign is to reduce stigma and help people to understand this.

I want talking about mental health at work to be as commonplace as talking about having a cold. In the same way you might grumble about having a headache, if you’re feeling anxious at work, I believe you should be able to mention it to your employer and be able to take a few minutes outside without it being a big deal. I have personally experienced working in an office like this and it was a wonderful, supportive environment that everyone should have.

If I can be a part of making that happen, even on the smallest possible level, I want to. Let’s do this!

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I tweeted about getting some MEGA EXCITING news yesterday.

I sort of planned to wait until everything was finalised, contracts signed etc., but I just can’t wait any longer.

I am thrilled to announce that…

GIF of Mel doing a drum roll

Drum roll please!

I’M WRITING A BOOK!

I will reveal more details later, but for now let me just say that I am ridiculously, deliriously happy. It’s a memoir, so I’m going to have to dig deep and get nice and personal – I hope you’re ready!

It’s all thanks to this little blog that I’ve been offered this incredible opportunity, so I’d like to thank you all for your support, encouragement and kind words. I really feel like I’m part of an amazing online family and I’m grateful for that every single day.

All my love,

Mel

(A soon-to-be PUBLISHED AUTHOR – WHAT?!?!?!?!)

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a few tweets about the mental health blogger convention I’m hosting next year. I’ve had a few questions about it, so I wanted to answer them all here. I’m so excited (and nervous!) about this event and I hope to see loads of you there.

Where is it?

It will be in Bournemouth, at the Queens Hotel.

This is roughly a ten minute walk from the train station and a two minute walk from the beach if anyone fancies wandering down afterwards. If you’re driving down, there is free parking at the hotel, but it’s limited. Don’t worry though, there is plenty of street parking around, though please be aware it’s all pay and display.

When is it?

Saturday 14th July 2018, 11am-6pm.

Will there be food?

There will be tea and coffee on arrival as well as a light buffet. If you have any allergies, please check with hotel staff on the day.

Where can I stay afterwards?

There will be a small amount of discounted rooms allocated to this event. Please contact the hotel directly to make a booking and explain that you are attending the event.

Failing that, there are loads of hotels nearby; my recommendations would be any of the Oceana Hotels or The Orchid, which is very affordable.

What’s the running order of the day?

I’m still nailing that bit down, but currently I have plans for the following:

  • Talks from people in the MH blogging community
  • Exhibition stands with products
  • A booth with a make-up artist/eyebrow lady (sculptor/artist/stylist/whatever the term is…!) giving makeovers
  • Potentially readings from authors and a stand-up set
  • Selfie area (I will also be running a competition for the best selfie!)
  • Lots and lots of mingling and great conversation with like-minded people, in a relaxed, comfortable environment

Sounds great – how can I buy tickets?

Tickets are £15 each and you can buy them here.

You won’t get a physical ticket, but I will be sending email confirmations, which you will need to have with you – on your phone is fine!

Can I vlog the event?

Please feel free to take photos on the day and write blog posts after – the more the better! However, at the moment, I think I’d prefer it if there wasn’t any vlogging (though I may film some of the talks myself). I only say this because I want everyone to feel comfortable and some people may not feel relaxed being on camera.

Is the venue wheelchair accessible?

Yes!

Help! I have more questions!

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know in the comments, or drop me an email: geekmagnifique1@gmail.com

MH Blog Con logo

 

Ours is a story about friendship. But it’s also about love, family and all the strange ways life manages to throw people together.

I always find it amazing that when a person comes into your life, you never really know how important they are going to become to you.

I certainly didn’t realise when I came to your house with a bottle of gone-off Bucks Fizz (I think this was an attempt to get us through our English Lit revision?), that you would one day be like a sister to me. We laughed as we poured ourselves a disgustingly flat yet chunky tipple, and our friendship started.

I’d pick you up on my way to sixth form and we’d eat croissants in my car. I fed you cream cakes while you were working on the tills at Morrison’s. You know, all the usual shenanigans you’d expect from two seventeen-year-olds.

We ended up going to the same university, even though we both picked different ones as our first choice. We chose the same joint honours course (Journalism and Media Production), before both deciding at the end of first year to drop journalism. This wasn’t planned or talked about, it just happened.

It was at university that I met Dave, who very quickly stole my heart. Some time after that, Dave met Pete, who soon became his band-mate and one of his best friends.

After university Pete came to live with us in our flat down in Bournemouth. You’d moved back to Hastings (I missed you so much!) but came down regularly to stay with us. In fact, you were there the weekend Pete moved in. We ended up watching Hole in the Wall and learned that it’s one of the greatest TV shows ever made.

Photo of me and Julie

One of my favourite pictures of us, taken shortly before you moved to Bournemouth.

Friendship between you and Pete eventually turned to more. Dave and I got engaged the same weekend the two of you had your first date, and soon after, the four of us were living together.

You moved out (thankfully only down the road!), Dave and I got married, then you and Pete followed suit soon after. It wasn’t long before you bought your first home together (again, thankfully only down the road!) and from time to time we’ve helped with fun jobs like smashing up concrete in your back garden and taking trips to the tip.

When you told us you were having a baby I cried. I knew instantly that I would love your child so much; I was so excited to be Auntie Mel to a little person you created.

Over the many years our lives have been so intertwined. We’ve shared ups and downs, holidays in Cornwall, birthdays and early Christmases that have felt just as special as the actual day itself. We’ve racked up massive phone bills to each other, commiserated failings, stayed up until 4am giggling like fools and celebrated loads of amazing achievements (in my case, many a new job!).

Today Dave and I officially bought our first home together. Naturally we’ve remained in walking distance of you, because it’s become obvious that there’s no way we’re getting rid of each other.

This move has been a long time coming for me and Dave; a bright spot at the end of some difficult times. A fresh start.

And because we’ve always been in sync and our lives have this funny way of slotting neatly together, today is also the day you welcomed your son into the world.

You and Pete are like family to me, so of course your son is going to be like family to me too. We have made more amazing memories than I can count and I look forward to making many, many more.

And so, I’d like raise a glass (of something that isn’t Bucks Fizz!) to the birth of your beautiful baby boy.

To my best friends, my family, and to serendipity.

x

A little side note: I got the text announcing your little man’s arrival just as I was getting into my car to go and pick up the keys to our house. About five minutes later this song came on the radio. It always makes me think of you.

 

 

 

A while back I talked about how mental illness and therapy are portrayed in various TV shows.

I found this a really interesting post to write and since then, I’ve been particularly impressed by how mental health has been explored in two particular shows. Spoilers ahead – though I’m talking about season 5 of Suits and Star Trek TNG, so I wouldn’t worry too much!

Suits

This may sound strange, but when Harvey started having panic attacks at the start of season 5, I was thrilled. It was great to see a strong, confident man experiencing severe bouts of anxiety, rather than the tired, predictable portrayals I’m used to seeing (Big Bang Theory’s Stuart, I’m looking at you). I think this helps to drive home the point that mental illness can happen to anyone – regardless of wealth, success or any other factors – and remind people that outward appearances can be deceiving.

Harvey Specter having a panic attack

Harvey up until this point had been portrayed as a stoic character who, it could be argued, is not very in touch with his emotions. Problems in his personal life began to take a toll on him however, and his panic attacks frightened him so much that he started seeing a psychiatrist.

In these sessions with Dr Agard, we see him resisting her efforts to help him, as he struggles to be honest with her. She starts to dig a bit deeper and it becomes clear that his current problems stem from much larger, more deep-rooted issues. I’m only a few episodes into the season, but I’m excited to see how this story line develops.

What I liked…

  • Harvey’s honesty with Mike when he tells him he’s having a panic attack.
  • Straight after, when Mike asks if Harvey’s alright, rather than brushing it off, Harvey admits he’s not.
  • The realistic way the panic attacks are portrayed, showing the overwhelming physical symptoms: racing heart, sweating, vomiting. I thought these scenes were very well done.
  • The fact that Dr Agard insists Harvey talks to her, refusing to simply prescribe him medication. One thing I’ve learned is that talking therapies and medication go hand-in-hand, and I’m glad this is being explored on the show.
  • The balance between Harvey being vulnerable, while also still being his usual self. Though I suspect he may continue to unravel and I’m interested to see where the show takes him, at the moment I like that he’s struggling, while still being high-functioning. It’s a realistic portrayal of what many people go through each day, and the way the anxiety is slowly creeping its way into his life and affecting his work as he tries to keep afloat is very relatable.
  • The way it showed that therapy isn’t an instant fix. My heart sank when Harvey triumphantly threw his medication away, because I thought the writers were just using the panic attacks as a one-off dramatic device. I’m so glad the therapist didn’t just say a few magic words and instantly ‘fix’ him. It’s much more realistic that he didn’t experience an immediate breakthrough and again, I’m excited to see how his experiences continue to develop his character.

…and what I didn’t

  • The ‘mind-reading therapist’ trope. When Dr Agard told him, ‘I had you pegged from the moment you walked in’ I have to admit I rolled my eyes slightly.
  • Dr Agard’s openness with Harvey. Some of what she divulges to him and the poker game they have later on didn’t really ring true to me, but then again, I’m not a psychiatrist, so who knows?
  • This hasn’t happened yet, so it’s possibly unfair to put it in the dislikes column, but I have a feeling they will end up dating and I really hope they don’t.

The verdict

I’m a big fan of Suits and absolutely love Harvey as a character, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how he continues to try and overcome his anxiety. I sincerely hope he doesn’t just end up in a relationship with Donna (or Dr Agard!) and that’s the end of his panic attacks. I’m so sick of the ‘love fixes everything, even mental illness’ rubbish we see so much in films and TV shows.

Very important scientific side-note:

Would you just look at him? *Inserts a million heart eyes emojis*

Harvey Specter GIF

Star Trek: The Next Generation

I’ve been a huge fan of Star Trek since I was a kid. Everyone knows it’s always been ahead of its time in many ways, but I’ve started to notice recently that it was also ahead of its time in the way it tackled ‘difficult’ subjects like suicide and grief, while normalising the idea of seeing a counsellor.

What I liked…

  • The fact the Enterprise not only had a ship’s counsellor, but that she was an integral part of the bridge crew and a close confidant of the captain. It’s a shame this wasn’t a role that the other Star Trek franchises had.
  • The episode ‘Hero Worship’, in which a young boy attempts to avoid confronting the grief of losing his parents by ‘becoming’ an android and mimicking Data’s mannerisms. With Troi’s guidance, Data forms a strong bond with the child and helps him work through his feelings slowly rather than avoiding them.
  • The episodes following Picard’s assimilation into the Borg collective, as he tries to cope with his trauma and readjust to life back on the Enterprise.
  • The episode where Troi has to help her mother uncover repressed memories of the child she lost. This is all done very symbolically, with Troi delving into her mother’s Betazoid psyche to try and understand the self-preservation mechanisms her mind has put in place. Look out for a very young Kirsten Dunst!
  • Troi as a character. I always admired her integrity, compassion and empathic abilities.
  • Voyager also had a couple of great episodes, my favourite being ‘Extreme Risk’. After finding out all her Maquis friends are dead, B’Elanna starts to deal with her grief in unhealthy ways, such as taking part in extreme holodeck programs with the safety controls off.

…and what I didn’t

  • Nothing! Unless there are any episodes I’ve forgotten about (please comment if so!), as far as I’m concerned, any episodes that dealt with mental health, grief or suicide did so cleverly and sensitively.

Side-notes:

  • Deanna had the most incredible curls and was very much the envy of my frizzy-haired nine year old self.
  • I adore both of these kick-ass ladies and their friendship.

Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher

And a cheeky but very special mention to…Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I could (and probably will) fill an entire blog post with reasons I adore this show – go and watch it, now! It’s funny, relatable and moving in equal measures, and I promise you will fall in love with Rebecca Bunch.

Rebecca Bunch

If you want to watch any of the shows I’ve mentioned, they’re all available on Netflix. You’re welcome.