She points out how difficult it can be to help others if you haven’t been thought what they’re suffering:
When we are not equipped to support loved ones through a hard time, our discomfort can compel us to point out a bright side or offer a simple solution, which may come across as dismissive. Sometimes, my patients say they walk away feeling judged or burdensome. While putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and treating people how we want to be treated are generally useful principles, they are not always the most effective ways to cultivate compassion. It is hard to imagine being in a situation that you have not actually been in, and people differ in what they find comforting.
Gordon goes on to give five pieces of advice:
Ask them how they are feeling. Then, listen non-judgmentally to their response.
Show them that you want to understand and express sympathy.
Ask how you can support them and resist jumping in to problem-solve.
Check in to see if they are suicidal.
Reassure them, realistically.
I found these resources really useful, so thanks to Kottke for sharing them. I hope by re-sharing these resources here means they reach a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have seen them.
Some research I did during the Black Lives Matter protests pointed me towards Seeing White, which is Season 2 of the amazing Scene On Radio. I’ve been catching up with other series of the podcast since then, and the third series about toxic masculinity is also excellent.
However, it’s an episode of the most recent season which I want to focus on here. Season 4 concentrates on the origins of American democracy and, towards the end of March 2020, the hosts recorded a special bonus episode.
I listened to the episode this morning and it put into words something I’ve really been feeling about references to ‘the economy’. Thankfully, Scene On Radio provides audio transcripts.
Here’s the main host, John Biewen, talking to his co-host and collaborator, the academic and activist Chenjerai Kumanyika. They’re discussing the tension between the economy and democracy.
John Biewen: So in those cases from our series, and in others that we’ve looked at, it seems clear that building a healthy economy, as the ownership class understands that, is usually not the same as achieving wellbeing for most people. And here we are today, this argument still seems to be very much with us.
Chenjerai Kumanyika: So, you look at what we’re dealing with right now with this crisis, there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that this thing of prioritizing profit has a lot to do with why our disaster preparedness is so far from what we need right now. Most of y’all have probably heard that Trump dismantled a pandemic preparedness team inside his administration that had been created during the Obama administration. But what you really have to look at is how he explains hisreasoning for this. In a press conference where he was describing why he cut thepandemic team and other things, he said, “I’m a business person….”
They play a clip from Trump where he says he doesn’t want people ‘standing around’ being unproductive. But of course that only makes sense if you think countries should be run like businesses.
Chenjerai Kumanyika: And so there’s all these ideas circulating that everythingin the world should operate like a business and that somehow businesspeople are the best equipped to do everything. But in this case what you see is that business instinct was incredibly shortsighted. When we’ve actually known about these kinds of flus for decades, and people have been warning about just this kind of global pandemic — including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s playing such a prominent role right now. He’s the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and you’ve probably seen him talking about this. He’s been warning about flu pandemics at least since the 1990s. But with that government pandemic unit cut from the budget, the decision of whether or not to develop and mass-produce vaccines and tests was an economic decision left in the hands of people figuring out, like, are we gonna profit from this?
So there we have it. By ‘the economy’, what politicians and others mean is ‘profits for wealthy people’. This is why, with a straight face, they will talk about the ‘balance’ to be struck between the economy and the number of deaths caused by the pandemic.
Put like that, as profits for wealthy people, I don’t particularly care about getting the economy restarted. I care about human lives. Trickle-down economics has, after all, been debunked as bogus.
Note: This is a slightly modified version of a post I made to the Moodle HQ forum earlier today as part of our Wellbeing Week.
According to Heads Up, an Australian organisation focused on mental health at work, there are nine attributes of a healthy workplace:
Prioritising mental health
Trusting, fair & respectful culture
Open & honest leadership
Inclusion & influence
Mental health support
Just over a decade ago, I burned myself out while teaching, spending a few weeks signed off work and on antidepressants. It was undoubtedly the lowest point of my life. The experience has made me realise how fragile mental health can be, as other members of staff were struggling too. Ultimately, it was our workplace environment that was to blame, not individual human failings.
These days, I’m pleased to say that, most of the time everything is fine. Just like anyone who identifies strongly with the work they’re doing, it can be difficult to put into practice wisdom such as “prioritising family” and “putting health first”. Good places to work, however, encourage you to do this, which is part of what Wellbeing Week at Moodle is all about.
Currently, I work remotely for Moodle four days per week. I travel regularly, but have been based from home in various roles for the past six years. While others might find it lonely, boring, or too quiet, I find that, overall, it suits my temperament.
When I worked in offices and classrooms, I had an idea of remote working that was completely different from the reality of it. Being based in somewhere other than your colleagues can be stressful, as an article on Hacker Noon makes very clear. I haven’t experienced all of the following issues listed in the article, but I know people who have.
Dehumanisation: “communication tends to stick to structured channels”
Interruptions and multitasking: “being responsive on the chat accomplishes the same as being on time at work in an office: it gives an image of reliability”
Overworking: “this all amounts for me to the question of trust: your employer trusted you a lot, allowing you to work on your own terms , and in exchange, I have always felt compelled to actually work a lot more than if I was in an office.”
Being a stay at home dad: “When you spend a good part of your time at home, your family sees you as more available than they should.”
Loneliness: “I do enjoy being alone quite a lot, but even for me, after two weeks of only seeing colleagues through my screen, and then my family at night, I end up feeling quite sad. I miss feeling integrated in a community of pairs.”
Deciding where to work every day: “not knowing where I will be working everyday, and having to think about which hardware I need to take with me”
You never leave ‘work’: “working at home does not leave you time to cool off while coming back home from work”
Career risk: “working remotely makes you less visible in your company”
Wherever you spend the majority of your time, the physical environment only goes so far. That’s why the work the Culture Champs are doing at Moodle HQ is so important. Feeling supported to do a manageable job in a trusting and respectful culture is something independent of where your chair happens to be located.
So, I’d like to encourage everyone reading this to open up about your mental health. Talk about it with your family and friends, of course, but also to your colleagues. How are you feeling?