Today is Time to Talk day. A day where we're encouraging each other to talk about mental health anywhere, anytime and with anyone.
One of the most important and often, hardest, places to talk about this is in the workplace.

Writing this as a post doesn't feel entirely comfortable, but that's why I'm deciding to write it. It should feel comfortable, and it should be acceptable.
I'm not writing this to name and shame or to shed light on any company in particular, but to show the reality of how mental health can be dealt with at work, good or bad.

In 2018, we should be at a point where we can talk openly about mental health without stigma. And in a way, we already do. We talk about how happy or stressed or annoyed we are, without realising these are all examples of our mental health. 
But when it turns to illness, it's taboo. It's almost like some humans perceive others as inferior if they're ill, when nobody, nobody, ever chooses to be ill.

I've never not been in a job when I was suffering from mental illness. It's been with me in every role, though it hasn't always been impacted by every one.
However the roles that stick out the most are the ones where my mental health has become a factor in my experience there.


The not-so-great one

One day at a particular job, I was scheduled into a meeting with my boss. In the meeting, my boss told me that I constantly looked miserable and essentially that if I didn't buck up, I was to be fired.
At the time I was going through a particularly rubbish depression episode. I was in a role where I wasn't used, barely anyone spoke to me, and I wasn't given anything to do. It felt awful, and for obvious reasons, I didn't enjoy it. It made me feel worthless, and that no one would care if I was there or not.
Back in the meeting, the threat of being fired triggered an anxiety attack. I started crying and then hyperventilating, which was only humiliating. 
I felt backed into a corner; I explained that I was struggling with depression and that I'd sought help, but had been put on a long waiting list (which turned out to be a year long). I didn't feel at all comfortable revealing something so personal to someone who wasn't at all kind of friendly, but I was so panicked that I had to say something.

My boss' response? Maybe if I sat up straight, that'd help my depression.

I'm not even joking.
Not once in this conversation did they ask me if I was ok, if I needed anything, if there was anything they could help with. I was presented with the choice of reveal my diagnosis vs be fired. 
This kind of approach is unacceptable, and if I was the person I am now back then, I'd have said something. I left a week later.


The good one

I had just started one job, and on my first day, I had an anxiety attack. I spoke to my manager and explained about my diagnosis, and even though they didn't fully understand, they took it on board.
They - straight away - asked me what they could do to help, and we agreed between us that if I needed to work in a different place of have regular breaks, that was ok. My boss' only requirement was that I was open and honest about how I was feeling at work, which I was more than happy to do.
This boss was great; they regularly checked in with me and asked how I was doing, they understood how to tell when I was struggling, and most importantly, they were patient and listened to me.
Little things like this go a really, really long way.
I felt my position had been taken on board and respected, and in return I resolved to work harder.


From both experiences, I've learnt how important it is to have support from managers when it comes to my mental health, and I prioritise this going forward!
I'm hoping that by being open about both the good and bad experiences, I can help others to think about how they treat people at work, and maybe just help people think about how they'd like to be treated.

If you've had any experience of mental health in the workplace, I'd love to feature your story for a series. Let me know if you'd like to be involved by contacting through this site, or by tweeting me at @maeveawaits!

M x