When we talk about workplace health and safety it is mostly directed toward physical, chemical, environmental, and psychosocial risks and behaviours associated with a work environment. What about health and wellness outside of the workplace? Some companies have put in programs for their workers and this is a great start. Gym memberships are a good way to keep workers active and healthy while catering to healthy lunch options is another great suggestion to create a more alert and engaged workforce. Most companies typically offer a policy to handle substance abuse, where they provide help to those who need assistance dealing with addiction. Well, these are great but how many people actually use this? Or do they more likely hideaway because their shame or pride keeps them from seeking the help they need? What I want to talk about is going to take a bit of a turn but I feel the urge to address this issue today. You can thank the copious amount of reading I have done lately that has dug up some old emotions. Or the Ted talks that make me look inward to my own ego and subconscious.
Today is Blue Monday. What is blue Monday you may ask? Well besides being a catchy song made by New order in 1983 and again by Orgy in 1998. Blue Monday is a name given to a day in January (typically the third Monday of the month) reported to be the most depressing day of the year for countries in the Northern Hemisphere. (Thanks, Wikipedia). So we have a Day that we have graciously marked as the most depressing day of the year. This could be from a number of factors. We are finally into the new year and now all that debt we acquired over the holidays is now becoming a reality. Or the uncertainty of our job. In Alberta, and I’m sure is the same in a lot of the country, people are uncertain of what the future is going to hold for them.
I want to look at some stats. In Alberta in 2015 which was the beginning of the downturn of the oil and gas sector. 662 people took their lives, this was a 30 percent increase from the previous year. In 2016 we were on pace to be around the same, I cannot find the total number posted yet.
Now I want to share some personal insight. Some people who read this may already know, that for the better part of my teenage and adult life, I have suffered from depression. Those who only knew me socially would probably not notice. Those who hung around me more would know how I could emotionally shut down. I would just go be by myself for sometimes days on end. I would lock myself away in my own mind. Contemplating why I should keep going. Nothing made sense in the world of my mind. I made this world and would imagine to myself that I could not really attain it. I thought I had to have control of every aspect of my life from age 15, which in turn made me have no control of myself emotionally. So what does one do? Drink too much, start doing drugs? Sure yes, I can say that was an outlet. That only fuelled this false image and made the problems in my own head more prominent. Until one day I thought to myself, what’s the point of going on. If I just end everything then the pain will go away. This was a split second thought, then my A-type personality kicked in and said if I took my own life I was just a selfish asshole. I thought of my mother and all the hardship she dealt with in her younger years. If she could suffer through that and still fight and overcome it all to raise me, how in my right mind could I be so selfish to leave her? Did it fix the depression and pain I internalized? Absolutely not, It kept me from making that one act a reality, however, I never stopped putting myself in situations where I may get hurt. Fighting fuelled by booze was then the outlet for the pain. As I numbed every emotion I had to not feel anything as to build a wall, the only way I could feel anything was through adrenalin and pain. And I enjoyed it. Eventually, I slowly started to separate myself from this destructive path. I did a nice trial and error run of medications. Which had its own vicious cycle of problems. Then finally, I found something that helped and didn’t make me feel like a zombie, which was nice. Once I had a clear head I could start to visualize the own world I had made in my head and deconstruct it. I could separate myself from it and slowly begin to change my mindset. Now, this process has taken me years. And there are always setbacks, but looking back at everything now I can see the majority of my problems were not that bad. They get amplified in our own subconscious. And if we just realize that, we can get through anything.
Now I told you this as just a small insight to show you we all have our own vulnerabilities and imperfections. We are still at an unstable time with our economy and a lot of people are feeling hopeless and stranded. Some are even debating to end it all, look at a few months ago with the horrible murder-suicide that affected our area. These things can be avoided. If you notice someone closed off at work you don’t need to pry, but a happy conversation may be all they needed to break the cycle. Reach out to people, and build connections. Do not feel shame for the thoughts that are running through your head. Acknowledge that they are there, and then break them down. What’s causing you to feel this way? What is the worst-case scenario? Break it down into manageable tasks, there is always a way to make things work. They just might not be the way you had planned. Life happens, it has ups and downs all the time. And if you need to, ask for help. Because remember it is not just you that this decision affects, it is a ripple effect throughout your friends, family, and coworkers that will then feel that pain.