Mental Movember

[This is a post I just wrote for my own site http://www.bluejester.com – but figured it is worth sharing here as well]

I haven’t posted anything in a while because I’ve not really had anything to say.

Actually, that isn’t true. I’m notorious for having “something” to say: whether it should be said or not. But if I didn’t self censor sure this part of the Internet would be full of the ramblings of madness that I should keep to myself.

But today I figured what the hell.

As most folk will be aware, it currently is Movember. That wonderful charity event that happens in November and makes folk walk around like 1960’s pornstars with lip caterpillars that belong consigned to the bins of history.

Originally it was an event targeting testicular cancer, the whole purpose being that folk sporting a ‘tache were meant to encourage people to talk about this topic. One thing the male folk are notoriously bad at is talking about health things with each other. It probably stems from the whole “man-up” culture that was prevalent for so long in the world, but luckily we’ve evolved past that and people are needing gentle nudges to talk about things these days. I learned recently, however, that the scope of the event has changed in the last few years. No longer is it about just testicular cancer, rather the purpose of Movember is to encourage men to talk about all manner of health concerns: mental and physical.

It’s the first health topic that I figured I would post an entry about today, because it is just as important in this world as the physical health conversations. Maybe even more so.

Recently I was at a conference for work and there was a fantastic talk on this topic called ‘The Unmonitored Failure Domain: Mental Health’ by Jaime Woo who works at Incident Labs. The whole premise of the talk was that the world is now moving at such a fast pace that people can find it hard to look after their own mental health. More importantly the talk highlighted people need to pay attention to external signals to identify a problem, much like how a computer system needs to be monitored.

The example explained how system monitoring itself may never see that an issue is occurring, as it contiguously makes adjustments and corrections to remain at 100%. But external signals viewing the system can come back and point out that the constant adjustments are not keeping things in a healthy state but rather compounding the problem.

Just like a person who is fighting with their black dog. They can keep telling themselves that the mood swings, the dark thoughts, the lack of motivation or interest in things that bring them joy are all normal. Part of everyday life. But that is how the black dog works, whispering in your ear that joy is bad and misery is good. It is the system making those adjustments to prevent you truly questioning if you’re doing okay or not.

Then somebody comes along and asks ‘Is everything okay?’ – the external signal that has seen something isn’t as it should be.

With Movember now encompassing all manners of health it is important for people to pay attention to their external signals, just on the off-chance their black dog is tricking them. Never forget that people, generally, have good intentions when they ask these questions. You should never assume they are trying to trick you or are pointing out a flaw. Rather if a person has asked this question it is coming from a good place, because they want to be part of the solution and not add to your problems.

Plus, as I’ve said before on this topic, talking is really easy to do. You open your mouth and words come out. Maybe they don’t start as the words about your problem, but like water falling over a cliff it is very hard to stop the flow once it starts (anybody who leaves comments about dams and the likes can just bog off :P). But the joy of Movember is that the world is going to be full of people for the next month literally wearing a sign that is basically saying ‘I am doing this charity event so that people like you can have a stranger to talk to if you need it.’

All you have to do is ignore the fact they look like a 1960s pornstar and have that chat, you’ll feel better for it.

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