Challenge the stigma of mental health at work
Posted Wednesday 18 May 2011
Coming from a family where both sides have experienced mental distress ranging from severe depression to dementia, psychosis and suicide. It could be argued that it was inevitable that I could succumb to some form of mental distress in my life. This is indeed what happened.
What I refused to accept was the debilitating affect that this could have on my life and career. Now aged 46 my first diagnosed experience of depression was at 17. By 34 my episodes had developed into a dual diagnosis of depressive psychosis. Three separate medical teams, family and friends told me that I should give up my Human Resources profession.
Given my family background and vulnerability to mental distress, 11 years ago, with the support of my husband, I set out to learn as much as I could about my condition: what preventative actions I could take, how I could apply the strengths of what I manage, and what were the physical and mental triggers to look out for.
My NHS medical team: GP, mental health nurse and psychiatrist were excellent. Talking therapy, reading materials and research helped to increase my knowledge. I began to understand the boundaries of my health so that my condition became a positive to manage.
Regular health checks continued to occur. To my surprise in March 2010 I was psychiatrically discharged by my GP and psychiatrist, something I thought would never happen because I manage a life-long condition. My condition is now referred to as bi-polar.
With 30 years business and Human Resources experience, 20 years at a global level, and as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development with a Master’s degree in Business Administration I can relate to the fact that “right now, 1 in 6 workers is experiencing depression, anxiety or stress” (Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2009).
I grew up with the stigma of mental illness. From 2007 I have confided in family, friends and colleagues that I trust. This honest approach has enabled people to either discuss their own experience or share an experience of someone close to them.
Mental distress can affect anyone in work no matter what class or social background we are from. It is not limited to genetic factors alone and first or second time episodes can occur without warning. We can all take small, simple and practical steps to make our workplaces more mentally healthy. An example includes taking time to have lunch or a break away from your place of work/desk even if it is for 10-20 minutes. A healthy diet and regular exercise also helps me.
Creating a mentally healthy workplace which does not necessarily mean incurring high investment costs will save organisations money. I have worked with Mind on a voluntary basis for 6 years and they are experts in mental health. They can help you to create a mentally healthy workplace.
Let's start taking care of business.
*Not my real name
Read Mind's information and advice on work, whether it's how to stay well at work, dealing with stress or workplace bullying.
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