World Mental Health Day is a recognised day on the 10th of October of every year, with this year touching on the struggles of the pandemic and the impact it has had on people’s mental health. Here at CEL, our three mental health first aiders, Jasmine, Melissa, and Kourtney, recently hosted a Wellness Wednesday in support of World Mental Health Day 2021.
With mental health being such an important topic, and CEL having a whole host of means to support our staff, from mental health first aiders to multiple chill-out areas where we hold mediation sessions, we will never shy away from the so-called ‘stigma’ that attaches itself to mental ill-health. Jasmine, Melissa, and Kourtney wanted to share their own personal journey as to why they each became our mental health first aiders.
I was 27 when I developed significant health anxiety which I battled with for over a year in 2018. I don’t know how or why it began but I became obsessed with the thought that I had a terminal health condition and I would visit my doctor only to become frustrated when their tests revealed no such conditions. I became convinced that my doctors were missing something and eventually my anxiety reached a point where I had a panic attack at my desk at work and my colleagues had to ring an ambulance for me because I was insisting that I was about to die.
After this point, I began to receive Cogitative Behavioral Therapy (CBT) through Talk Liverpool, however it took me a long time to accept that the underlying health conditions which I thought that I had were all in my head. At the time, I didn’t understand that I had a mental health condition and I found it incredibly difficult to accept help as I saw it as a sign of weakness. I recall being embarrassed about my anxiety issues for a long time, however when I began opening up to people, I discovered that so many people fight similar battles on a daily basis and there is no shame in reaching out for support.
It was for this reason that when a spot opened up on the mental health team in 2020, I leapt at the chance of becoming a mental health first aider. I am incredibly passionate about destigmatizing the taboo which surrounds mental health as my experience has shown that the more, we talk about these issues, the more we realise how normal they are and the more we can support each other. There is nothing lonelier than fighting mental illness and I therefore think that it is so important to remove any fear or shame from talking about any issues which people may be struggling with.
I am excited at the ideas we have come up with as a mental health team at CEL Solicitors so far and I only hope that we can take steps to open up a conversation about these issues within the company.
Around a year ago I had a complete “nervous” breakdown and I started having panic attacks.
At the time, it was completely out of the blue and I was signed off work for around three months because I simply could not function in any ‘normal’ capacity. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, I couldn’t focus on anything beyond making cups of tea.
I was the epitome of rock bottom. I had to be reminded to do the most basic of tasks like brushing my hair and I had to write myself reminders when my husband went back to work.
I was thankfully diagnosed very quickly with anxiety and depression by an amazing GP who spent far too long on the phone with me than he was meant to under the NHS guidelines while I simply sobbed down the phone in the middle of all the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Turning to the present day, I am currently on number 16 of 20 Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions through Talk Liverpool and I am doing much better as the therapy has given me so much clarity.
I have been so fortunate that CEL Solicitors have been so accommodating and I have been able to complete my sessions at work in one of the meeting rooms on my lunch every Tuesday.
In all honesty, my mental health issues were a long time coming, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I had not been coping very well for quite some time, but I didn’t know the signs to try and stop things from escalating to the point they did.
Whilst I would probably describe my breakdown as one of the worst times of my life, to see how far I have come with the help of CBT and from my family and friends in just a year is miraculous to me. I haven’t just gone back to a time before panic attacks, but I can see a way back to a time where my anxiety and depression didn’t really have a grip on me.
I have seen mental health issues from all sides, as a relative, a friend and as a sufferer myself and I have seen the impact this has on everyone involved. I am so fortunate that I have the opportunity at CEL to help someone who is struggling with their mental health. I never want anyone to reach the point that I did where I thought there was no hope and that I was completely alone.
I think it’s so important that we share our experiences, not only to destigmatize mental health in the workplace but also in the legal industry as a whole.
By simply being open and honest and having a chat about our struggles, we develop closer connections with our friends, family and colleagues making the struggles we do have seem easier to deal with.
It is a terrifying prospect to open up, but in doing so, we can hopefully move towards a time where admitting your mental health struggles is no different to telling people you have broken your leg, and I am so excited to potentially be a part of that ongoing change.
I have struggled with my mental health since late-primary school which got progressively worse when entering secondary school and university. I had severe social anxiety and would have daily panic attacks when put into group situations and I would overthink and dwell on every conversation that I had which made me depressed and isolate myself from others. I thought for the longest time I was broken, that this was just happening to me, and I would always compare myself to others and beat myself up because everyone else I looked at seemed so confident, happy, and free from stress, like they had their lives all figured out.
It got progressively worse to the point where I was severely depressed and all I would do is sleep all day because that was the only thing I found comfortable, so I decided I needed to seek help. I attended weekly CBT & group therapy sessions for over a year which were incredible in helping me change & challenge my beliefs, deal with overthinking and helped me choose what thoughts throughout the day I would pay attention to. The most important thing I learned was that it wasn’t just me who was fighting these battles, so many other people out there were going through the same struggle I was, and I didn’t realise that until I started opening up and talking to people about it.
A lot of the shame, guilt and loneliness I carried around on a daily basis, as a result of the issues I suffered with, began to decrease because I knew I wasn’t the only one. Connecting with others and opening up about these topics made me feel so much less isolated and it made the battles I had slightly easier to deal with and face head-on.
Talking about my mental health and getting help was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, from being that anxious I was terrified to even go to the shop for food, to giving a presentation in front of 50+ people and feeling okay, there’s no way I could even comprehend doing that 2 years ago!
I have been at rock bottom and when you’re there it can feel like there’s no hope, but I know through experience. It can change and it will get better, we just need to start talking about our mental health more. The more we talk about it, the more we can destigmatise the subject and help others struggling and make them realise that these battles aren’t something you have to go through alone.
I am really excited to be a part of the mental health team at CEL Solicitors and the ideas we have will hopefully help spark more conversations surrounding mental health and will encourage more people to open up.
‘Your Health is Your Wealth’
Jessica Hampson, owner and director at CEL Solicitors, said: “At CEL Solicitors, we firmly believe that ‘Your Health is Your Wealth’. That’s why it’s emblazoned, in pink neon writing, in our amphitheatre – a safe place where we meet each week to discuss important topics such as good mental health, a session led by our mental health first aiders recently, for World Mental Health Day.
“The health and wellbeing of our staff is paramount, not just today but every day, which is why we’ve invested in creating a workplace with good mental health in mind. From chillout areas, where I’ve ran guided meditation and empowerment sessions, to breakout areas where staff can relax on our ‘think swing’ or shoot some pool, it was really important me to create an office environment where people want to come to work.
“Working in legal services can be tough, and burnout is a very real issue across the sector, but we’re committed to doing things differently at CEL. One of our core values is ‘People Before Profits’ so we’ll continue to invest in our staff, and support them in their careers, which means that they in turn will be best placed to look after and support our clients”.
If you wish to learn more, please review our list of recommended books from our mental health first aider team.
• Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig
• The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle
• Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr Joe Dispenza
• Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff, PhD
• Mindfulness, a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Danny Penman