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  • Maeve Waite

    Maeve Waite

    24 year old work psychologist, mental health advocate and future dachshund owner. occasional writer, baker and photo taker. posts have been featured on time to change and mental movement magazine, and I sometimes like to write all lower case.

    Mental Health at Work | #1 | Zoe, Stephanie & Nisi


    Welcome to the first of the Mental Health at Work series on this here blog! A few weeks back, I posted a tweet out asking if anyone would like to be involved in talking about their experiences of mental health at work - maybe how it's affected by work, or how it has been affected. You can read my story here.

    Today's post features the lovely Zoe, Stephanie & Nisi who have spoken about their experiences at work.

    Zoe


    Has your mental health been affected by your work or affected your ability to work? Can you explain how?
    I’m lucky in that my worst mental health episodes happened when I was still in college, and before I entered the workplace. Otherwise I’d probably be telling you a different story today. I have depression and anxiety and while I cope with these, I have good and bad days. On bad days I doubt and criticise everything I do in work. I assume my colleagues don’t like me. I rely on praise and validation from co-workers and managers to build my self-worth. I have been unproductive and made mistakes in my work because of my mental health. I have run into the bathrooms to cry before. I have called in sick to work when I’ve had a ‘bad day’.
    I’m one of those people who tries to keep consistently busy to manage my mental illness – and work helps me do that. On good days, work is my distraction, a coping tool. It gives me purpose to get out of bed in the mornings, even on days where I don’t want to – I feel like I have to. But some days my mental illness wins.

    Were you supported at work? If not, what helped you deal with the situation?
    I’ve worked in my current office for two and a half years, and I haven’t yet told anyone on my team or my manager about my mental illness. While I’ve told them that I volunteer for mental health organisations, I still am not comfortable telling them about my illness or what I’ve been through with it.
    My biggest coping tool to manage my mental health in work is self-care. I use my weekday evenings to unwind, relax and get ready for the next day of work. You see, work really takes it out of me. It’s like I use up all my energy just to get through 9-5 every day. I try not to make plans for weekday evenings so I can focus on building up my strength again. For me, self-care is the simple things like making sure I eat dinner, having a cup of tea and getting to bed early — I make sure I always try to get my 8-hours sleep. It builds me back up again and helps me get through another day. 

    What do you think are the biggest problems in companies in terms of MH in the workplace?
    I’ve overheard co-workers saying inappropriate and stigmatising things about mental illness and it hurts like hell. Whether it’s debating the links between terrorism and mental illness, or joking about depression isn’t real — these simple conversations have shown me that stigma still exists. Stigma means that I don’t feel comfortable about being open about my mental health in work, either with my manager, my HR department or even work friends. I fear discrimination because I’ve heard so many stories about this from friends and fellow mental health activists. And I don’t want to be treated differently to my co-workers.

    What do you think companies could do that would help support people with mental health issues at work?
    I would love to see more workplaces availing of wellbeing programmes, with talks on positive mental health. General awareness of mental health issues can help defeat stigma, and make employees more comfortable with being open about their mental health in work. Even just knowing that I wouldn’t be treated differently or discriminated against for opening up about my mental health would make a huge difference to me. A heavy workload can cause stress to anyone and put them at risk of burnout, but this risk is exacerbated for those of us already trying to manage a mental illness. Managers and HR departments need to be more aware of this and not put employees under undue stress.

    Zoe is a 25-year-old mental health blogger charting her journey with depression and anxiety on http://www.ibelieveinromeo.com/. You can also follow her on Twitter at @ZoeAlicia101!


                                             

    Stephanie


    Has your mental health been affected by your work or affected your ability to work? Can you explain how? 
    Yes, I sit in a crowd of 30 desks all next to each other. I get really bad panic attacks and I can't focus.

    Were you supported at work? If not, what helped you deal with the situation? 
    Yes completely. My boss moved me down to back where I was previously with more of an opening.

    What do you think are the biggest problems in companies in terms of MH in the workplace?
    Levels of support.

    What do you think companies could do that would help support people with mental health issues at work? 
    They should try and understand more. They should be there for their employees.

    You can find Stephanie on Twitter at @stephaknee_!

                                             

    Nisi


    Has your mental health been affected by your work or affected your ability to work? Can you explain how? 
    I was an elementary school teacher. MH affected my work mainly in my interactions with other adults (other teachers, parents, etc). I wasn't "out" with my issues at the time and it became increasingly difficult to deal with other adults. I didn't intend to, but because just the idea of dealing with so many people sent my anxiety through the roof, I became seen - as I found out after leaving the position - intimidating, aloof, & cold. I was great with the kids. They do not and still do not give me anxiety as adults do. I ended up leaving that job - after teaching for almost 17 years, to take a position as a security guard at a residential school doing the overnight position. I needed to find a job where I would have to see as few people as possible. It's the only way I could function. Teachers, especially those of young ones, are seen as happy, bubbly, social - at least where I worked. I chose to eat lunch alone and that was a small break where I could do deep breathing and relax just a little. And, there was constant after-work socialization I couldn't bring myself to attend. The cliquishness became a burden mentally as well. So I guess at that job.

    Were you supported at work? If not, what helped you deal with the situation? 
    That would be no. Maybe if I had shared my feelings...but I really don't think I would have been understood at that institution. At the next job, I was open about my issues, and being as it was a school for special needs children, I felt more comfortable expressing my concerns and they were wonderful about helping me avoid situations I found stressful, and many were willing to talk to me when I needed it.

    What do you think are the biggest problems in companies in terms of MH in the workplace?What do you think companies could do that would help support people with mental health issues at work? 
    I really think that, just as companies frequently have mandatory sessions on sexual harassment and other training, MH should be an open topic. Until there is certain misconceptions, about depression and anxiety especially, (depressed people just feel sorry for themselves, anxiety is a weakness) MH issues are always going to be viewed as something to scoff at or be embarrassed by. There should be a person staff know they can comfortably approach when they are in need that will know of MH issues and know where to steer workers for resources. I have found this is a very neglected part of human resources in most companies/places of work.

    You can find Nisi's blog over at http://nisiwanders.com/.
    If you're interested in being featured on the MHAW series, please feel free to get in touch - details on the contact page!

    M x

    Welcome to the first of the Mental Health at Work series on this here blog! A few weeks back, I posted a tweet out asking if anyone would like to be involved in talking about their experiences of mental health at work - maybe how it's affected by work, or how it has been affected. You can read my story here.

    Today's post features the lovely Zoe, Stephanie & Nisi who have spoken about their experiences at work.

    Zoe


    Has your mental health been affected by your work or affected your ability to work? Can you explain how?
    I’m lucky in that my worst mental health episodes happened when I was still in college, and before I entered the workplace. Otherwise I’d probably be telling you a different story today. I have depression and anxiety and while I cope with these, I have good and bad days. On bad days I doubt and criticise everything I do in work. I assume my colleagues don’t like me. I rely on praise and validation from co-workers and managers to build my self-worth. I have been unproductive and made mistakes in my work because of my mental health. I have run into the bathrooms to cry before. I have called in sick to work when I’ve had a ‘bad day’.
    I’m one of those people who tries to keep consistently busy to manage my mental illness – and work helps me do that. On good days, work is my distraction, a coping tool. It gives me purpose to get out of bed in the mornings, even on days where I don’t want to – I feel like I have to. But some days my mental illness wins.

    Were you supported at work? If not, what helped you deal with the situation?
    I’ve worked in my current office for two and a half years, and I haven’t yet told anyone on my team or my manager about my mental illness. While I’ve told them that I volunteer for mental health organisations, I still am not comfortable telling them about my illness or what I’ve been through with it.
    My biggest coping tool to manage my mental health in work is self-care. I use my weekday evenings to unwind, relax and get ready for the next day of work. You see, work really takes it out of me. It’s like I use up all my energy just to get through 9-5 every day. I try not to make plans for weekday evenings so I can focus on building up my strength again. For me, self-care is the simple things like making sure I eat dinner, having a cup of tea and getting to bed early — I make sure I always try to get my 8-hours sleep. It builds me back up again and helps me get through another day. 

    What do you think are the biggest problems in companies in terms of MH in the workplace?
    I’ve overheard co-workers saying inappropriate and stigmatising things about mental illness and it hurts like hell. Whether it’s debating the links between terrorism and mental illness, or joking about depression isn’t real — these simple conversations have shown me that stigma still exists. Stigma means that I don’t feel comfortable about being open about my mental health in work, either with my manager, my HR department or even work friends. I fear discrimination because I’ve heard so many stories about this from friends and fellow mental health activists. And I don’t want to be treated differently to my co-workers.

    What do you think companies could do that would help support people with mental health issues at work?
    I would love to see more workplaces availing of wellbeing programmes, with talks on positive mental health. General awareness of mental health issues can help defeat stigma, and make employees more comfortable with being open about their mental health in work. Even just knowing that I wouldn’t be treated differently or discriminated against for opening up about my mental health would make a huge difference to me. A heavy workload can cause stress to anyone and put them at risk of burnout, but this risk is exacerbated for those of us already trying to manage a mental illness. Managers and HR departments need to be more aware of this and not put employees under undue stress.

    Zoe is a 25-year-old mental health blogger charting her journey with depression and anxiety on http://www.ibelieveinromeo.com/. You can also follow her on Twitter at @ZoeAlicia101!


                                             

    Stephanie


    Has your mental health been affected by your work or affected your ability to work? Can you explain how? 
    Yes, I sit in a crowd of 30 desks all next to each other. I get really bad panic attacks and I can't focus.

    Were you supported at work? If not, what helped you deal with the situation? 
    Yes completely. My boss moved me down to back where I was previously with more of an opening.

    What do you think are the biggest problems in companies in terms of MH in the workplace?
    Levels of support.

    What do you think companies could do that would help support people with mental health issues at work? 
    They should try and understand more. They should be there for their employees.

    You can find Stephanie on Twitter at @stephaknee_!

                                             

    Nisi


    Has your mental health been affected by your work or affected your ability to work? Can you explain how? 
    I was an elementary school teacher. MH affected my work mainly in my interactions with other adults (other teachers, parents, etc). I wasn't "out" with my issues at the time and it became increasingly difficult to deal with other adults. I didn't intend to, but because just the idea of dealing with so many people sent my anxiety through the roof, I became seen - as I found out after leaving the position - intimidating, aloof, & cold. I was great with the kids. They do not and still do not give me anxiety as adults do. I ended up leaving that job - after teaching for almost 17 years, to take a position as a security guard at a residential school doing the overnight position. I needed to find a job where I would have to see as few people as possible. It's the only way I could function. Teachers, especially those of young ones, are seen as happy, bubbly, social - at least where I worked. I chose to eat lunch alone and that was a small break where I could do deep breathing and relax just a little. And, there was constant after-work socialization I couldn't bring myself to attend. The cliquishness became a burden mentally as well. So I guess at that job.

    Were you supported at work? If not, what helped you deal with the situation? 
    That would be no. Maybe if I had shared my feelings...but I really don't think I would have been understood at that institution. At the next job, I was open about my issues, and being as it was a school for special needs children, I felt more comfortable expressing my concerns and they were wonderful about helping me avoid situations I found stressful, and many were willing to talk to me when I needed it.

    What do you think are the biggest problems in companies in terms of MH in the workplace?What do you think companies could do that would help support people with mental health issues at work? 
    I really think that, just as companies frequently have mandatory sessions on sexual harassment and other training, MH should be an open topic. Until there is certain misconceptions, about depression and anxiety especially, (depressed people just feel sorry for themselves, anxiety is a weakness) MH issues are always going to be viewed as something to scoff at or be embarrassed by. There should be a person staff know they can comfortably approach when they are in need that will know of MH issues and know where to steer workers for resources. I have found this is a very neglected part of human resources in most companies/places of work.

    You can find Nisi's blog over at http://nisiwanders.com/.
    If you're interested in being featured on the MHAW series, please feel free to get in touch - details on the contact page!

    M x
    . Thursday, 22 February 2018 .

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