Slice of Life with Adam Land
Adam Land is a mental health at work role model for the InsideOut LeaderBoard, heads up the Remedies Business and Financial Analysis group at the Competition and Markets Authority, and works tirelessly to raise awareness of mental health and suicide.
With Suicide Awareness Day on the horizon, Adam joins us to talk about his own tragic losses, his hopes for the future, and how people can find meaning following suicide bereavement.
After experiencing the devastating loss of a loved one to mental illness, you made the brave decision to take your experiences and inspire change. Can you tell us more about the work you’re doing to raise awareness?
I’ve lost two very close relatives to suicide — my sister Penny in 2003 and my daughter Eloise in 2018. When Eloise first became ill, I reconsidered my own previous episodes of mental ill-health, which took place in the 2000s.
Before then, I had considered my lived experience as ‘stuff that happened to me’, but seeing my daughter become so unwell, and after meeting her new friends in hospital, I recognised the importance of mental illness as a societal issue, and as part of my own identity. I decided to open up about my past experience of mental illness to my work colleagues and professional network, and to play a leadership role in promoting positive mental health in my own workplace and the UK Civil Service.
When Eloise passed away, I felt it was important to be open about how she had died and that we did not see this as a source of stigma for us or for her. I wanted people to remember her and talk about her, without feeling like they would be treading on eggshells. I also got involved in mental health charities focusing on young people; for example, I am taking part in the London Duathlon to raise vital funds for YoungMinds on 5 September. You can read more about why I’m putting myself through a Duathlon here.
In the last year, I have acted as project sponsor for a Civil Service initiative on managing bereavement and loss in the workplace.
What impact has all of this had on your own mental health?
Being open about my loss has been positive for my mental health. I am able to ‘bring my whole self to work’ and I know that sharing my experiences has been helpful to others, as well as enabling people to show me kindness.
Suicide sometimes feels like the last ‘taboo’ when it comes to openly discussing mental health. What advice would you give to anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts, or worrying for a loved one?
Please talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you can tell a friend or trusted colleague, that’s great. If you can’t think of anyone you know, there are lots of good helplines available. If you are worried about someone, follow your instincts and don’t be afraid to approach the topic or to seek help.
There will no doubt be people reading this who have tragically lost friends or family members to suicide. Do you have a message of hope, or a word of advice for life after loss?
You have experienced something terrible; it’s understandable to feel sad about it. Your loss will always be a part of who you are now, but it doesn’t define you or mean that you cannot experience happiness again. You have plenty of life left to live, so please make the most of it.
Thinking about Eloise and Penny, I know they would both want me and the other people they loved to be happy and fulfilled, so that inspires me to keep moving forward.
What are your hopes for the future of suicide prevention and mental health awareness?
There has been a huge change in public attitude in the five years I have been actively involved in raising awareness about mental health. You saw that in the greater appreciation of mental health issues during Covid19 and the lockdowns, as well as the positive public reaction to Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka opening up about their wellbeing this year.
As more people feel able to talk about how they are feeling, that will enable others to listen and show empathy, which will save countless lives.
If you’d like to sponsor Adam in his London Duathlon for YoungMinds on 5 September, head over to his JustGiving page.