#MyMentalHealthMatters: People see me and think 'he must be happy'

October 10, 2022 - Kenneth Mullen

It's World Mental Health Day, and we've asked some of our staff to contribute their thoughts on the subject of mental health and what it means to them.

Kenneth Mullen, lecturer in Engineering, had this to say:

Well, this one’s tricky because everyone’s mental health, feelings and thoughts are vastly different. What makes one person happy can make another sad and feeling lost. I have been asked what mental health means to me, so, yeah…Kenny stay on track!

We never really focus on our own positive mental health, it’s all the negative feelings we seem to dramatize and heighten within our heads. People see me with my big moustache and flowery shirts and think 'he must be happy and outgoing', and that can be the case sometimes, but not all the time.

Like everyone I have bad days too, days when getting up and going can be a struggle, days when just opening the curtains can feel like a mountain to climb. Over the years I’ve learned it's okay to have bad days, accept them and take hope and comfort in the chance that tomorrow could be a wee bit better which is positive progress.

It's okay to be vulnerable and it's nothing to be ashamed of. We live in a crazy world that can be overwhelming at times and sometimes it’s my body putting the brakes on and telling me to slow down.

My work-life balance has changed over the years thankfully for the better, from working 70-hour weeks in industrial machining for oil and gas to having a much better balance working here at Ayrshire College. As my father always tells me “Nobody said life was going to be easy” and sometimes you need to grind through the hard times, they shape and mould you and they make you appreciate the good ones. Now my work-life balance is more evenly weighted thankfully but if I didn’t go through the hard times I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now.

That’s looking at the bigger picture, the long-term goal but really it all starts with small steps, drastic changes are hard to maintain and can certainly seem unreachable, so small positive changes are much more manageable.

I find walks in the woods always really help me, no time limit, no phone, or music to distract me, just the sounds of nature really seem to blow away the negative and I always feel better after I’ve been out. Sometimes just sitting in the forest watching nature pass really calms the mind. It doesn’t need to be good weather either, walks in the rain are just as good.

I also spend time in my garden tending to my ducks, yes ducks I have two, Francis Drake and White. They are awesome, swagger about rain, hail or snow and bring me joy.

Mental health affects all of us, don’t shy away from speaking to someone. Talk to someone, talk to anyone. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen, so talk and you will find that people will listen, they will open their hearts and their arms to you, and you may just feel it lifts some of that negative energy from your shoulders.

Guys, I’m talking to you especially, it's okay not to be okay and there is strength in vulnerability. Do not lose yourself in misery. Take positive small steps, find out what makes you tick, and what you enjoy and try and make time for that. I have started meditating, I know, it sounds boring, eh? I use a google app called 'Balance' and it’s amazing what 10 minutes a day does for my mental wellbeing.

I hope this wee blog has maybe shown you it's okay to be open about your feelings, it’s not something you should feel scared or worried to share. In a world where young people see everyone’s wonderful lives on social media just remember…

“The only person with whom you have to compare yourself is you in the past”

Sigmund Freud

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