Mental Health Week – an article by Detective Chief Inspector Dion Brown
Detective Chief Inspector Dion Brown talks about the importance of looking after your mental health at work and at home.
This week is the perfect opportunity to take time to reflect on how we take care of our own mental wellbeing and the importance of doing so.
I am a father of five and two of my children have autism. I am also a Detective Chief Inspector with the Metropolitan Police. Through my work and personal life I have seen on numerous occasions the significant impact mental health challenges can have on individuals, families, friends and colleagues. In years gone by mental wellbeing has been a topic that people have been keen to avoid speaking about, which only compounds the issue.
Although as a society we still have some way to go, it is important to recognise the progress that has been made. In my view, there has never been better awareness and understanding of mental health as there is today, which can only be a good thing.
I recently completed a Mental Health First Aider course through work, and it really made it clear to me how important it is to look after your own mental wellbeing in order to be able to effectively support others who may be struggling.
Balancing work and family life can be tricky at the best of times for most of us, when you throw in raising a child who demonstrates challenging behaviour on top of this, it can have a really detrimental effect on the atmosphere within the home and the mental wellbeing of us all. It can lead to feelings of isolation, dread of going anywhere socially and cause a reduction in your friendship circle.
You quickly discover who your ‘real’ friends are. However, getting to know others who are in a similar situation to yourselves and understand the challenges and feelings this brings is hugely beneficial. In relation to friends, as with many things, I would take quality over quantity every day of the week!
I work full time and the nature of my job means it can be stressful at times. My wife Sara has been on a five year career break and has recently made the decision to resign to focus on raising the children.
Without having Sara at home, there is no way I would be able to do what I do and provide the necessary care and support to our children. With this in mind, I am very aware of how isolating this can be for Sara in terms of not having the break away from home and interaction with colleagues that employment brings.
It is therefore vitally important that we make some time for a break from it all, to do something for yourself, even if this is for a very short period of time. For example, my wife will go for a long walk with a friend every Thursday evening, this has become part of the weekly routine and gives her that much needed time out of the house where she can enjoy some adult company without the interruptions and distractions from the children.
I like to make some time to exercise and really appreciate how much better I feel after doing it, not only physically but mentally too. This coupled with watching football are how I like to make time for myself, although how I feel after watching football very much depends on how my team have done! In addition to this, the area of the Met Police that I work in, rub wellbeing sessions every Thursday afternoon.
These sessions are very well attended and benefit from having a number of guest speakers sharing their own stories of challenges around mental wellbeing and some of the strategies that have helped them and others. It is also a safe space to discuss how you are feeling and offer and receive support from colleagues.
I would also like to highlight here that the Metropolitan Police have been very supportive of me and assisted me in maintaining a good work / life balance by allowing me to work a flexible shift pattern which allows me to have every Wednesday off. This is something that I continue to be grateful of.
The impact of Covid-19 on the mental wellbeing has been significant for some. Having restrictions on who you can see and where you can go can be difficult and lead to feelings of isolation. However, I am also eager to focus on some of the positives that have come about as a result of the pandemic.
For example, I have spent much less time commuting for work and as a consequence have been able to spend much more time with Sara and the children than I would have otherwise been able to. I have also heard from those who find social situations challenging, that feel the restrictions of Covid-19 and the reduction in contact with others has helped to ease their anxiety. As ever, I always try to look at the glass as being half full.
Thanks for reading. Best Wishes – Dion Brown