Time to end the silence on directors’ mental health

Craig Fearn, Lighthouse Mentoring

Craig Fearn runs Lighthouse Mentoring. He is a sustainable wellbeing expert and wellbeing ambassador for IoD South West.

Directors are hesitant to broach the topic of mental health but we must speak up. Now is the time to back our directors to tackle this problem head-on.

So, how can you assist? Firstly, by talking about the subject more openly. You could learn more about mental health and the challenges faced by directors. Of course, you should also watch out for your own emotional health.

Directors are under great scrutiny, and it’s time for an open discussion about the psychological challenges they encounter.

Perhaps you’re wondering ‘What pressure?’ or ‘I can’t fathom what he or she is feeling.’

But you do, and I mean it literally. You’re under intense pressure to stay afloat, meet strict deadlines and financial constraints and earn everyone’s approval. You’re trying to keep track of a million different things at once and chances are that you’ll end up feeling like you’re failing at every one of them.

Factors indicating directors may have mental health problems

It can be difficult to detect early warning flags for directors’ mental health. After all, they are expected to project an air of authority and superiority. A few cautions, however.

Look out for signs of alcoholism or drug misuse, unexpected shifts in mood or behaviour, isolation from those closest to them and a general lack of transparency about their mental health.

It’s crucial to call out and give assistance if you suspect a friend or family member is struggling with mental health issues. Although it may be challenging to do, the rewards are great.

Even directors feel the pressures of their positions and they may be even more vulnerable to them than anybody else. This is because they are often expected to carry out several tasks while having little say in the ultimate outcome.

In addition, directors are generally the last to admit they are struggling under pressure. They are so used to putting in long hours and giving their best at work that they fail to see the damage this is doing to their health. When they do, it’s usually already too late.

Directors may make use of stress-reduction strategies, which is excellent news. All they need to do is reach out for assistance and say they are having trouble.

Creating a balanced perspective as a leader

Maintaining a positive frame of mind is crucial to your emotional wellness. And that’s not always simple, particularly in the thick of a challenging undertaking.

There are, however, actions you can take to improve your situation. First, realise that you are not alone. Several other directors have had (or are facing) similar difficulties.

Taking care of your body is equally important. Ensure you’re getting enough shut-eye, eating well and exercising frequently. Keep your mind active and alert.

Last, but not least, always remember to put yourself first. Spend some time doing things that cheer you up and put you at ease. Try activities such as reading, watching movies or walking in nature.

Dealing with stress

Some directors use positive coping methods and prioritise their own emotional and physical wellness. But not everyone is as proactive or blessed with a strong network of friends and family. So, if you’re having trouble, what can you do?

Talking to someone is the most vital step. This might be anybody from a close friend or relative to a professional counsellor or even a crisis hotline. Having someone you can confide in, who can relate to your situation and give sound advice, is crucial.

If you are a director experiencing mental health concerns, please know that you are not alone. Plenty of valuable materials are available online.

You should first speak to other directors you know and tell them about your problems – even though this may be challenging. You will feel less alone and more supported due to communicating with people.

However difficult it may seem, the first step is to speak out. Share your experiences with loved ones and encourage others to do the same. Directors need to be able to share their stories and ask for assistance when they need it.

Be bold about reaching out for assistance. There’s no shame in saying you’re having a hard time; we all do.

The road to recovery is possible and supportive resources are available.

This is a guest blog which contains the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the IoD.

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The IoD supports directors and business leaders across the UK and beyond to learn, network and build successful, responsible businesses.
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