Last week was #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek (mildly ironic use of hashtag). You’ll probably already know this because you’ll have seen your bank, supermarket, broadband provider, that random website you bought hen do decorations off three years ago tweet/email/Insta-story about it.

That’s annoying.

It makes mental health ‘fashionable’ rather than a real subject we need to feel genuinely comfortable discussing.

It’d be easy for me to point out those that are just paying lip-service (hello “mental wellness champion” health insurer that won’t provide income protection if you’ve taken anti-depressants within the last two years). But, the point of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek is to raise awareness.

Over the past few years there’s been a slow but steady move towards normalising the way we discuss our mental health. Yes, more organisations and brands have been talking about it — some of whom have well and truly commandeered the band wagon — and this doesn’t necessarily mean a change in behaviour. However, it does seem people are starting to realise it’s okay to ask for help — and that it’s really important to offer it. Google Trends shows a gradual climb in UK searches for “mental health support” and “mental health help” over the past five years. Many (although, by no means all) businesses are introducing real, impactful measures that show they understand their employees’ mental health just as much their physical health.

But what better time to assess how far that has come, than a time when the global population is dealing with massive uncertainty, anxiety, grief, loneliness — something like the consequences of a killer virus that changes life as we know it?

I’m lucky that my agency is one of the businesses now genuinely trying to push this movement forwards. We’ve a way to go, but steps are being taken that is making a difference. This week, we asked for company-wide suggestions for an ‘It’s okay to…’ list (see here for background). Some of the contributions were poignantly candid. Some were just hilarious. All of them were honest. And because we’ve made such strides in mental health awareness not just as a result of Coronavirus, but as a result of people coming together to make this the new ‘normal’, I don’t think the response would have been the same had this been one or two or five years ago.

Actually, it’s put us in a much better situation to cope with whatever the hell is currently happening than if we’d not shifted the dial so much.

In recent weeks:

  • I’ve had friends duck out of Zoom calls because they weren’t feeling great that day
  • I’ve read Linked In posts from strangers on the guilt and stress of being a working parent right now
  • I’ve felt comfortable telling colleagues I wasn’t in the right headspace because seeing my sister and new nephew for the first time from a distance (but not being able to cuddle them) floored me for two days

All of this — it’s been okay.

It’s more than okay to talk about your mental health. I think there will be many silver linings after this horrific period is over, and I really hope being able to say “I’m not okay” is one of them.