My First Time to Change Talk

Yesterday, despite being a Time to Change Champion for the past year, I did my first Anti-Stigma talk to around 40 members of the local police force. And it went really well.

I was a little bit nervous about getting up and talking to people about Time to Change and my personal experiences with mental health at work. I’d created some slides with plenty of pictures and (what I thought to be) interesting content. I really wanted to do this talk to find out how the police were approaching mental health with their officers and what help was available.

The weather was awful on the motorway and made the 20-minute motorway journey less enjoyable. Found the venue and chucked some make up on in the car. As we arrived, the nerves started to creep in but not as badly as they used to. I was getting the anxiety sweats despite feeling quite calm so decided my winter cardi had to come off. Alas, I managed to get dressed wrong and was wearing my top back-to-front. The cardigan stayed on and the sweats remained.

The officers were so good and listened to what I had to say. There were questions afterwards which I answered and made sure I didn’t waffle! It was reassuring having one of the co-ordinators from Time to Change there with me for my first rodeo.

After completing the talk, some of the officers complimented me on what I’d spoken about which was really amazing. A few years ago, talking about my mental health, what happened with work places and highlighting the discrimination I faced, was something I would never have done. I’m hoping that sharing my story will help others, especially some of those guys in the police who are so brave and see all sorts of things.

With my sister being an officer, I worry about her and her mental health. I’ve tried to palm her off with leaflets and information but according to the police trainer yesterday, they can access counselling and groups internally. He also said they’d look after her. News to my ears for sure!

If you ever feel brave enough to share your mental health story, absolutely do. You never know who might hear it or see it and feel empowered.

Yesterday, figures were released that said 300,000 people in the UK had workplace issues because of their mental health. There needs to be a change in the way employers approach those with depression, anxiety, bipolar etc. Granted, some people don’t feel comfortable sharing. It all depends on how your boss is.

 

‘Locked door’ approach to mental health from employers

A survey carried out by Rethink Mental Illness has found there’s still prejudice/discrimination when it comes to employers hiring people with mental healthĀ issues.

According to the charity, the figures show:

  • 68% of employers hiring someone with severe mental health issues worry they won’t fit into the team
  • 83% of employers would worry someone with a severe mental illness couldn’t deal with the pressures of the job
  • 54% of employers surveyed wouldn’t know how to support someone with schizophrenia

The one that really made for eye-opening reading was:

“Only 43% of all people with mental health problems are in employment, compared to 74% of the general population.” – Rethink Mental Illness survey 2017

How can society do this to people who have illnesses they can’t help? Would they do the same to someone with a broken leg? The problem is, many employers aren’t sure how to deal with people who suffer mentally. Do you treat us differently? Do you treat us the same but keep an extra eye out?

Recently a lady in the US tweeted about how she needed to take a ‘mental health day off’ and what her boss’ reaction was. Read the article here. It went viral because he responded in such an accepting way and thanked her for reminding everyone of the importance of mental health sick days.

Email resposne

(Courtesy of metro.co.uk)

 

Programmes like Time to Change (of which I’m a Champion – Read my story) are helping to end this stigma and also helping organisations to understand what to do when someone needs help. Years ago, I faced discrimination and not great treatment after I was diagnosed with depression. I was made to feel bad about myself, the work I was doing and the fact I didn’t wear make-up to work to ‘make myself more presentable’.

All of the above is why I got involved and became a Champion. I’m proud of how far I’ve come in my career despite my mental health not always being up to scratch. Being accepted by colleagues and in fact, respected, really helps. I was thanked by someone who’d been having mental health issues for reassuring her that there’s no shame in talking about it. Because there isn’t.

For those who won’t hire someone with a mental health issue, thank you. You make us realise how awesome and how much potential we have. It might knock us down initially but when we find the right organisation, it builds us up bigger and better than before.

If this has happened to you, keep going. You can beat this and find the right job for you.

Stay positive šŸ™‚