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Captain's Log

Ask! Don't guess when it comes to team happiness

Ben Parvey
May 13, 2022
Last month, I stood graveside with my closest college friends. We watched the tragic scene of a mother and two children mourning the loss of a father.
Our friend, Trevor.

Not just a father and husband, but an extraordinary beloved human being, an amazing friend, son and brother. A cardiologist who specialized in heart device implementation.

Trevor saved others’ lives, but he could not save his own. Our friend’s cause of death was mental illness. It is not clear whether he took his life intentionally or just felt a strange urge to go swimming in the Long Island Sound in the middle of the night. But it is clear that he had been suffering a severe mental breakdown in the months before his passing.

Trevor had always been one of the smartest and most even keel people I knew. He had a relaxed, confident yet humble demeanor. Trevor always listened attentively. He was an observer. At the funeral, friends recounted some of the fond memories and we also heard the stories of his recent mania.

Trevor had a serious mental illness that spilled over from his personal to his professional relationships. Since he was so incredibly capable and accomplished, friends and family – we all - assumed he was able to deal with the mental issues plaguing him. We were wrong.

At only 45 years old leaving a legacy of accomplishment and strong family and friendship connections, Trevor died due to mental illness that could have been treated. Trevor was in exceptional physical condition. It was not cancer or a heart attack that killed our friend. It was a rapidly progressing mental illness that cut short an amazing life.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and serves as a reminder - a reminder to check on your loved ones, on those who have been down on their luck, and those who seem to have it all together. Where in your group of friends, colleagues, or family might illness be present? Where can you listen and observe? Mental health is often invisible. We may not see it, and if we do, we may not understand. But we can be present. We can ask!

There are many signs, and while I am not an expert to understand the complexities of psychology and psychiatry, I can lend an open ear -- listening for signals of trouble in the lives of my family and our teammates at work.  

Every Friday for the last few years at BlueSky Power, I invite each team mate to a one-on-one “Happy Meeting”. It is a great way to connect as human beings. It is also an opportunity for them to share anything they wish. There’s no expectation to fake happiness – on the contrary. I ask about personal and professional highs and lows of the week. During these meetings, I’ve seen instances where concerns about mental health have arisen, and I was honored to be able to discuss the mental health challenges the teammates were facing.

A recent report from Indeed found that employee burnout is on the rise: 52% of all workers are feeling burned out, up +9% from a pre-COVID survey. Happy meetings can help address burnout before it happens.

We would often arrive at next steps for addressing these issues. I continue to check in on any issues of concern. This time together is invaluable for me. It improves my own awareness, and it boosts team morale. Simply giving someone a listening ear helps to break down the stigmas surrounding mental health, and ensure that our teammates feel comfortable to share, and less alone. We make sure they are indeed happy, and if not, I do what I can as a friend and employer to help.

 So, this month and from here on out, ask.
Ask! Ask! Ask!
Ask your friend or colleague, “Are you happy?”
Ask,“What’s on your mind?”
Ask,“Are you okay?”
Ask,“Do you want to talk about it?”
Put the phone away and say, “I have time to listen.”
You may help share a burden. You might even save a life, a life of someone you love and care about. Your friend may really need you at the exact time you ask.
So just ask.
Then listen.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please check out/share SAMHSA's resources which can be accessed here.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

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