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Why I wear the Green Ribbon: Richard Martin
Task trackers, alarms on phones, shopping lists or a gentle nudge from a co-worker. We all need little reminders on occasion to make sure we tick off the tasks that help us navigate from one week to the next.
The latest in our 'Why I Wear the Green Ribbon' series explores the value of raising awareness to individuals, no matter where they might be in their mental health journey. It can be a sign that you are not alone, it can be an invitation to have a chat and, most importantly, a reminder to practice good self-care.
This month we spoke to Richard Martin, Chair of the Steering Committee for the This is Me campaign. He works with leading workplace consultancy Byrne Dean to provide training on mental health and leads the Mindful Business Charter, a cross business initiative to reduce the unnecessary sources of stress in the ways we work so as to create healthier and more effective ways of working.
The green ribbon is one of the most powerful and subtle ways to communicate two things to those around us. One, it says that we are available and open to a conversation about mental health, if that would help the other person at that time. Secondly it provides reassurance that, whatever they might be experiencing, and even if they don’t want to talk about it, they are not alone. That there are other people who get it, who understand, who might themselves have experienced difficult times. It might lead to a conversation, a smile of acknowledgement, or nothing in the moment, but it might just be the spark that encourages that person to reach out for the support they need.
I have spoken and written extensively about my mental health crisis in 2011. At that time I didn’t know that lots of other people, normal people, people I spoke to every day, had experienced their own challenges or knew someone who had. I didn’t know that it was something one could talk to other people about, apart from my doctor. I didn’t have the language, but more importantly I didn’t think I had the permission, and I felt very alone as a result. So for me the green ribbon is about breaking through that silence and that loneliness.
Of course mental illness is not something that happens just for one week in May, or a global awareness day in October. Mental health and mental illness are with us all year round. And so, while it is great that we see lots of ribbons around at particular times of year, seeing people wear their ribbon and demonstrate their openness and support all year round, on those dark cold days in January and through the blissful heat of Summer, means that those who may be struggling can see that support when they need it, and not just according to a scheduled series of awareness-raising dates.
For me, like many others, mental illness is not a thing that happened once, got sorted and now doesn’t need my attention. I have to manage my mental health. There are times when I struggle but I have the benefit now of greater awareness of what is happening and the early steps I can take to address issues if I feel them coming. In that way wearing the green ribbon is a constant reminder to myself to be aware of my own mental health and to do what I need to do to look after me.
Find out more about The Lord Mayor’s Appeal This is Me initiative including the Green Ribbon Campaign here