Mental health support at work

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Posted on 12/02/2015 |

Fiona blogs about her journey to find a supportive workplace with an understanding of mental health.

Having depression and anxiety has meant that I often have low self-esteem and little confidence, particularly in my ability to make the right decisions, leaving me unable to stand conflict and avoiding any situation that’s potentially inflammatory.

After working in a difficult environment with managers that haven’t understood my mental health and feeling bullied, a few years ago I searched for a more empathetic working environment – one with supportive management with sensitivity to an individual’s needs to negotiate through the bumps in their lives. And I thought working for a charity would better match my background and sensibilities a little more closely. How wrong could I be?

It would be the last place that I would have expected that, when I was struggling with extreme medication side effects, including inability to sleep and suicidal thoughts, I would have had no support. Instead, despite explaining the situation and being forced to share very personal details and thoughts when I was signed off by my psychiatrist for 2 weeks, I received numerous phone calls at home from a manager at head office. He wanted me to say when I would be back, to go into the city to meet him to discuss my illness and told me that I would have to decide whether I wanted to stay in the job.

At no time in his interactions with me did I detect a glimmer of compassion, something I so wished I could find within a sector whose basis is in benevolence and kindness. Management that respects the individual was what I needed.

As I was unable to cope generally, all these calls did was to pile on additional pressure to someone who was already feeling that they were a burden - that the world would be better off without them. Unable to answer his questions and handle the pressure he was causing, I resigned…after all, feeling as much of a burden as I did, how could I not when he explicitly told me that, as a charity, they needed me functioning properly?

To the colleagues who never knew the reasons, we got on so well and had loads of laughs, I am truly sorry I didn’t tell you the real reason I resigned: I felt bullied and discriminated against and just couldn’t cope. I should have said something. It may even have been happening to you too.

I’m now in a job with an understanding manager, and realise now that when I am supported with my mental health at work I can thrive. But this has not always been my experience, and clearly more needs to be done in the many workplaces where there is a lack of understanding of mental health. We have work to do.


We have information for employers and employees on our website.

We also have information on the laws that protect you from discrimination at work.

Categories: Work

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