Last week was host to the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, arguably one of the most well-known mental health awareness campaigns. As most likely know, the campaign gets folks talking about mental health, mainly through social media. I think of myself as someone who prioritizes mental health and advocates for simply talking about how we are, being honest with our emotions, active listening and seeking help when we need it. It’s always great to see my social media newsfeeds full of people joining the cause and conversations being sparked about how our mental health matters.
This week in particular, I’ve been thinking lots about the consideration of mental health for ‘helpers.’ To me, helpers are those people in our lives who tend to be the go-to people for support, to ask questions, and to lean on in times of need. These roles can be personal or professional (think: social workers, health care professionals, therapists, educators). I bet you can think of that person who plays the helper role in your life and you could very well be that helper for one or many people in yours.
What is interesting to me is that these helper-people are one of the least likely groups to seek help when they need it. The perception that you need to stay strong in the face of need or crisis; that since you’re usually the one people lean on, you can never do the leaning; and the idea that if you ask for help this one time, no one will ever come back to you for help is prevalent among helpers. I hear these concerns from fellow helpers all the time.
It is incredibly important that we take care of ourselves, that we practice self-care and most importantly, walk the walk. As student affairs professionals and educators, we often look at taking care of ourselves as second priority to offering our help to students. Ironically, we encourage others to seek help when they need it, to reach out to us and repeatedly express that of course we are willing to listen and to help out when and where we can, don’t be silly but can’t seem to apply that same thoughtfulness to ourselves. We need to remember that to be a provider of support does not mean we can never be the one who seeks support – sometimes taking care of our mental health means making our own health a priority.