Last week was an amazing week for raising awareness for two very important subjects mental health and the menopause.

BBC launched their week-long schedule “ Wake Up to the Menopause.” Information jammed programmes focusing on all aspects of the Menopause be it onset of early Menopause to Menopause in the workplace.
Meanwhile Mental Health Awareness Week 13-19th May was a welcomed initiative to bring some normality to an otherwise ‘awkward’ subject and to hear the Duke of Cambridge, footballer Peter Crouch, spin doctor Alastair Campbell all discussing openly their issues with mental health and the challenges that this presented for them and those around them.  As high profile individuals they are constantly in the limelight, seemingly ‘having it all’ and appearing to be in complete control. Only now are we hearing about the issues that they had to face by themselves for fear of opening up, being misunderstood and perceived as weak.

Can menopause heighten mental illnesses in women?

With these two high profile initiatives coming into the media it did focus the attention of the perfect storm brewing for women and the pressures they have during the menopause which could lead to mental instability and insecurity in some capacity.

Effects in the workplace

For those that have worked all their life or returned from time away from the workplace, there are examples of women who, despite being top of their game have suffered a major crisis of confidence resulting in poor or no decision making.

The demise in performance has for many years in a working environment been attributed to perhaps the best years having passed by or harshly, a previously valued colleague seemingly no longer a fit for the company. Imagine the scenario when your job is a struggle, a job which until recently was well within your capabilities and expertise. Now, thanks to better education we now know and understand it’s not you failing, it’s the menopause.

Changes in children and in the family home/growth of the family home

Children leaving home and the empty nest syndrome kicks in. The lack of focus, the feeling of redundancy and self-worth all can contribute to low self-esteem as the children, quite rightly, make their own way in life. Exciting futures for them to discover with not so much as a by your leave as the front door closes on the creature comforts you have created. They no longer need you as much, what is your role? You have always been something a worker, a mother, now what? The pressure to find a new position in the family can be overwhelming.    

Then there is the mother of the teenage children. The pushing of the boundaries, the concoction of hormones and the incessant push of social media makes the home a truly fearsome and highly flammable environment. The management of such a high octane cocktail requires skill, thick skin and resilience. The strength needed is a big ask when confidence levels are reduced, tiredness takes hold and the normal stresses of trying to preserve family life and your own sanity present themselves.

Thank goodness things are on the move in the right direction and as we cast our mind back to our own childhood it is perhaps with sadness that we realise the lack of empathy our mothers were shown as they must have tried to understand their own irrational behaviour. If only they had had the support and information now available to recognise that “I’m not going mad”. It’s perfectly normal, I am normal.

May 22, 2019 — Barbara Warren

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