Mental health at work: Why it matters

For so long, so many of us struggling with our mental health have tried to keep our issues well hidden. When asked why there’s unaccounted time-off on our CVs, we’ve simply put it down to ‘taking some time out to develop much needed skills’. If asked at interview if adjustments need to be made for any reason, we’ve shied away and shaken our heads to confirm that no, we don’t need help or support. And this is fine.

However, should we, in this day and age, be hiding our mental health conditions away like diseases we don’t want people to catch?

Courtesy of Mind

Blogging for Mind about mental health at work

When I was starting out in my career, I went at it full force, nothing was stopping me, I could work 24/7 and nothing affected me. Then the paranoia started; were people at work talking about me? Were they doubting my ability to do my job? Did they know I was struggling? Then the Glandular Fever happened and then came the downward mental health spiral.

At interviews for future jobs, I didn’t mention my mental state to anyone. I thought it would jeopardise my career and I already had a low opinion of myself and compared myself to everyone else. Everyone else looked shiny and professional and I was falling behind and falling apart. When I eventually had to tell someone I was struggling with depression, it was dismissed like I was making it up. I needed a doctor’s note as ‘proof’. Then I was given verbal warnings and given the choice of ‘getting better or leaving’.

This shouldn’t ever be a position that someone should find themselves in.

Since I’ve received a diagnosis and been more open about it, the shame is starting to disintegrate, although I do still worry about it and whether employers see me as weak. However, after blogging for Mind and having an amazing response, there are so many people out there being discriminated against for their mental health and IT’S NOT RIGHT.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether you tell your employer about your mental health condition but if you do decide to and they treat you badly or differently, it’s discrimination and YOU HAVE RIGHTS. Read more about these on Mind’s website here.

Here are a couple of pointers that might help to start you on your way:

  • Sit down with your Manager in a quiet and calm space
  • Take deep breaths and remember why you’re telling them
  • Speak slowly and don’t feel pressured to rush
  • Be honest and explain what’s happened and what’s going on
  • Let them know you decided to tell them because you’d value their support
  • Ask if there are any adjustments that can be made (if you need them – Have things in mind, for example, starting work later in the morning if you struggle to sleep at night or if driving at rush hour makes you edgy)
  • Thank them for listening and for being supportive

Your Manager might want to talk to HR about your chat so they can get support themselves if needed. Not everyone will know how to help you so they might need some input. All the better if it’s going to help you in the long run.

There’s an interesting article here on Psychology Today about anxiety, stress and mental health in the workplace.

In the end, sharing the state of your mental health and your condition is entirely up to you. No one else. If your workplace is still stigmatising mental health and you don’t feel comfortable disclosing it, you don’t have to. However, if you do want to share, your employer should be open to listening.

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Mental health at work: Why it matters

  1. I struggle with this. My boss knows about my issues, but I’ve been reluctant to ask for adjustments when I think I need them. My boss has complained of low productivity and difficulty dealing with students (I’m a college librarian), so I’m reluctant to ask for more help, but I’m wondering if I should reduce my work hours a bit to be more productive the rest of the time. That seems like going backwards, though.

    I’ve only told one or two of my colleagues. They would probably be supportive, but I don’t really know how to have that conversation.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m really sorry to hear that 😦 Maybe reducing your hours might help? It’s sad that they know you’re not feeling so good and still complain of low productivity. Do they not realise it’s part of being depressed/anxious? You’re already making big moves and you should be really proud 🙂 Take it one day at a time and see how you feel.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Agree totally! I work from home now, but when I worked corporately I spoke to my boss about my anxiety/depression and she was more than accommodating – allowed me to make up extra time if I needed to go to a therapy or drs appointment, and understood why I would suddenly need to go home ‘sick’ some days. She kept it private and kindly asked me how I was doing at least once a week. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and I’ve also realised I have prejudice against myself after recently being diagnosed with BPD. That’s a mind fuck 😛 https://bit.ly/2ExxvSI (wrote about self prejudice in mental health here if anyone wants a looksie)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, I can’t believe your boss made you make up the time for going to the GP. That should be part of your contract of employment that it’s ok for you to go to official appointments. I guess it’s each to their own in terms of employers. BPD is indeed a mind fuck, I agree! I will definitely have a read 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant post Beth. I’ve spoken to a few people lately who ha e had poor experiences with their employers and line managers. We spend so much time at work and it has so much impact on our mental and emotional well-being. If you don’t feel supported it can have devastating effects and can make a tough situation so much worse. I think employers are starting to recognise the importance of being open and supportive about mental health. The difficulty can then be getting that culture embedded with all members of staff at every level. It’s great if you have good policies and procedures to deal with mental health issues… but if a particular manager does not really understand, or see the importance then it can all fall apart. I’d like to see managers have some training in how to deal with staff and colleagues who need support, and have accountability if they don’t follow the company policy on how to treat colleagues with mental health issues.

    We are playing with people’s lives here and it’s serious stuff. I’m so heartened that things are changing for the better.

    Keep up the great work Beth. You are an inspiration.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks my lovely. Have you? It seems to be quite common but on the other hand, as you say, employers are getting better. You’re so right about getting managers to have the right training so they can support their teams. You’re awesome lady and you’re just so inspirational. I hear you’re a lifesaver for so many who are struggling which is amazing 🙂 x

      Like

  4. My husband has similar situation since he is suffering with depression. one of his worries is being ask of what he do on his time off, is he fit to work again and etc.. ( those things )

    Glad to know you share this senstive issues.
    I was on the edge of caregiver’s burnout.. Almost crying everyday @ the office for my husband’s situation. I cant show my husband that I’m weak, I need to be strong for him. Good thing that I work in an organization who supports mental health issues, they know that my husband has depression and I was given a break to look after him.

    hope I can share our story as well
    I write a blog too ( mainly for mental health )

    http://www.rheaevangelista.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Rhea, thanks so much for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear that. Do you have any support as a carer? Mental health charities are amazing at giving advice and guidance to carers. That’s amazing that they gave you the time to look after him. Thanks so much for sharing the link to your blog. I’ll definitely give it a read 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh wow, thank you for this article, it’s really useful. I actually had no idea that it was discrimination to discriminate on the basis of mental health. In a previous role, my contract specifically stated that if an employee has mental health issues that they reserve the right to terminate the employment of the employee. In that case, is t discrimination?

    Like

  6. Thank you so much for writing this, in my first job I never mentioned to anyone that I had mental health issues sometimes and eventually when it got to the point that i needed to start taking mental health days off, they thought i was making things up. I ended up leaving after 5 years, for other reasons. but when starting my new job i mentioned that i couldnt work 5 am mornings because i have problems sleeping at night and when i dont sleep enough it tends to trigger my depression and anxiety, they still think that i am making excuses for not wanting to wake up early, i get it because no one LIKES waking up early, but still.. they dont understand and i think that mental health NEEDS to be talked about more and understood better in work places. Thank you again for your words, keep it up

    Liked by 1 person

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