Mental illness is a general term for a group of illnesses that may impact a person’s thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and behaviours as defined by Betterhealth Victoria. People engage daily with a raft of mental issues in the same way as they may also have diabetes, high blood pressure, or gout. However, we seem to feel less threatened by physical ailments than mental health disabilities. We need to change that. Normalising mental health would mean that you feel the same amount of concern for a physical list of problems as you would the following:
- psychosis and
Both physical and mental health is treated with medication, both are prevalent in societies and both need research and development. The R U OK? initiative is to help normalise mental health in society. Removing stigma and embracing difference is how you decrease shame and fear. To reach out and ask R U OK or accept help from someone that is concerned for you is how we normalise mental health issues.
Real Estate and mental health
I have discussed perception in other blogs and that perception is how we focus on one part of an image or story and reduce other elements to rationalize our decisions. In real estate, people enjoy the interactions in property investing. They look at all the good things that come from buying real estate while simultaneously ‘reducing or ignoring’ the negatives that exist.
Financial success is perceived as making good decisions, status and the trappings of wealth. However, real estate mistakes do happen and often those mistakes are perceived as failure. Whilst we place different emphasis on success and failure it could be argued that failure impacts us much as success. As real estate agents, EWRE is a proud supporter of Lift the Lid another mental health initiative. Creating awareness that mental health is as important and physical health and in real estate mental health is central.
Withdrawing from loved ones or worse, committing suicide, from perceived failure is tragic. People hide their ‘failings’ often with the same rigor as they demonstrate their achievements. When we rely on external measurement for success and failure, we risk our mental health. Expensive cars, property and possessions send messages of financial ‘successes.
Cultures and society often support those external benchmarks and for those that ‘perceive they are failing’ the pressure can be overwhelming. We have generations of people that are aspiring to achieve what was standard 10 years ago and will be laden with debt to accomplish those goals. Often when the expectations can’t be met there is a reluctance to discuss the financial distress because saying it out loud seems to admit defeat and ‘failure’. We need to adjust financial expectations and have more important measures of success. Creating personal goals and achieving them is the real definition of success.
Think of recovering from an operation we are proud of every small achievement that gets us out of the hospital and back to our lives. The small improvements are what make you proud and happy and that is what mental health is. Learning another language, climbing a mountain, or being more relaxed are major achievements. You start from not being able to do something to being challenged, stimulated and amused during the process – all-important for mental health.
We also rely on others for support and draw on their strength when ours is depleted. Asking family, a nurse, or a doctor for help and encouragement of a physical ailment is not generally seen as a failing. We need to feel that unencumbered for our mental health as well. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help and equally not be afraid to ask someone R U OK if they need help. The more we reach out the more we diminish perceived failure.
Mental Health affects every industry
Clearly, the declining affordability of homeownership and an inability to achieve housing goals creates frustration, disappointment, failure, anxiety and stress. Financial stressors such as being behind on mortgage payments, being heavily indebted or feeling overwhelmed increase the risk of experiencing mental ill-health.
Covid has now piled on more stress as people are seriously frustrated having their freedoms curtailed indefinitely. Covid misery stories seem endless. Real estate activity is not exempt from the gloom because it is where we live and property value is not just about money.
As agents, we are experiencing client anxiety daily from angry sellers that are keen to sell to frustrated buyers that are watching their chance of homeownership disappear. There are landlords that can’t make repairs because of restrictions to the supply of resources and tradespeople resulting in loss of income and mortgage pressure and tenants that are worried about people, that might have Covid, coming through their homes. Loss of income is a constant threat during Covid and that inability to make plans is affecting everyone.
These issues are creating mental stress and the breadth and depth of Covid induced misery are breathtaking. EWRE is passionate about creating awareness of mental health issues in our industry. People equate real estate with financial success but the stress in real estate can be devastating. Financial pressure, home insecurity and anxiety is the not so sexy part of property transacting and bringing awareness to mental health issues is a more holistic view of real estate.
Put simply financial pressure is when you go from coping to not coping with your finances. Objectively, meeting day-to-day and future expenses and managing unexpected financial events are indicators of financial wellbeing. Feeling in control, financially comfortable, and secure is subjective financial wellbeing. Covid has taken away some important certainties and that has affected mental wellbeing.
When work that could be once relied on becomes precarious, or savings levels decrease because of irregular income, stress accelerates. Not being able to recover is not something people broadcast, but there are signs people are suffering. Having to sell or move to relieve stress is also not something you recover from easily.
Real estate macro-economic and household factors have changed and not everyone has the individual characteristics to get through. Often the social groups people identify with as part of their success can become a problem. Regularly people perceive their worth by being able to keep up with their peers and they aren’t going to admit they are not doing as well to the people they identify with.
Aspiration has become stressful but Covid has perhaps identified and exposed stresses we were once less keen to discuss. Covid has let us all know we are all just human and talking freely about problems makes the problems less powerful. Financial stress is not a secrete you hide but a normal part of life and should not be shameful. You can reduce the impact on mental health by reaching out to someone you are concerned about and ask R U OK? If you are unsure how to ask go to https://www.ruok.org.au/how-to-ask
As property managers we service landlords and tenants and vetting and acquiring housing is more stressful for some. Lone parents and singles households experience more precarious housing because of insecure work and child care costs. Ongoing health and wellbeing, as well as economic and social effects of precarious housing on themselves and their children, absolutely affects mental health.
Covid has ravaged opportunities for young people and they are more likely than other age cohorts to be in precarious housing. Often working in a casualised workforce, employment insecurity impacts mental health too. The young are more likely to be in unaffordable housing, private rental, overcrowded households, and to have experienced a forced move. Another affected cohort is older private renters (that is, people older than 65 years). Again, financial stress and housing insecurity can be isolating.
It is important to note that a chat will not fix mental health issues. The point of offering an ear is to bring the problems out and normalise stress. Mental health is powerful when it is cloaked in mystery, exclusive to some, and the opposite of success. In real estate, success and stress live side by side but one we celebrate and the other we hide – we need that to stop.
Reach out, ask R U OK of someone you are concerned about. Let’s all shine a light on dark thoughts. Help by acknowledging we all suffer stress, that they are not alone and that there are is as much to be happy for as there is to stress about.
R U OK? Allows us to diminish anxiety.
Property is a home, an investment and often an achievement. During Covid, we have taken comfort in the fact that we are in it together. We all have to put up with restrictions, inconvenience and the irritations of Covid. We also have to deal with the stresses but we don’t all do that the same way. R U OK? Is about leveling the playing field so if you need to vent you feel safe knowing you are not alone. We need to inculcate that mental health is as important as physical health and that anxiety is very common and pervasive.
There are many signs of anxiety but not all are obvious. If someone you know is exhibiting or stating they have these signs of stress it’s time to ask if they are OK.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms they may experience include:
- nervousness, restlessness, or tension;
- a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom;
- an increased heart rate;
- breathing rapidly (hyperventilation);
- feeling weak or tired;
- having trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry;
- having trouble sleeping;
- experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems;
- having difficulty controlling worry and
- having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety.
You can be proactive in improving mental health by asking R U OK, donating for research – Lift The Lid. More immediately you can dismiss societal benchmarks and make your own goals the central measure of mental wellbeing.