I’ve done so since I was a young teen. I regularly struggle with bouts where it’s more prominent, rather than underlying. Some months I can cope, some months it knocks me for six. It takes over my life at times, and it can climb on top of every priority I have when it’s at it’s worst.
It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but certainly not something I’m ashamed of. Because of that, if someone asks me about it I’m not afraid to explain (though sometimes, I might need a bit of a push).
Despite that, I’ve never said something first. I’ve been ostracized for it before and I’ve felt alone so many times before that the idea of being immediately upfront about it has hardly thrilled me. You can bet I wouldn’t be this open if you were in front of me.
You’re probably wondering what the sob-story is about, and I’m fully aware that I’m one of many, many people who has a mental health issue. It might seem kind of off-topic in regards to work. But, as with most of these blogs, something happened recently that made me think about how I saw things, and brought some important things to light for me.
So Why Are You Telling Me This?
You see, I was called into the office for a one on one meeting. In my previous experience, this can go one of two ways. I’m a natural worrier. I braced myself.
But what my boss said next threw me.
“I’m just wondering how you were doing. It just seemed like you might not be doing so well right now, so I’m just worried.”
I’m paraphrasing, but that was essentially it. It caught me completely off guard. I had spoken to everyone I worked with prior to explain that things sometimes hit a low for me, and it’s nothing personal if I’m down. Everyone here is so supportive of each other, but I still wasn’t expecting anyone to take the time. We’re all incredibly busy.
So, I opened up. The conversation was calm, collected and comfortable. We spoke about how it affects my life, work and many other things. Once everything was said and done, I went back to work like nothing changed. I know that I can speak to anyone in the office if something is troubling me, and vice versa.
It doesn’t necessarily fix the long-term problem. But all of it does make me feel cared about at work. And everyone should feel like that.
Speak Up About Mental Health
First and foremost: don’t suffer in silence. Employee, manager, CEO, unemployed or anything else. Whoever you are, your mental health is as equally as important as your physical wellbeing. Problems shared are problems halved if you’re having a tough time. Its hard to speak for some people but bite the bullet and tell someone.
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to fix the problem anywhere else if the problem’s work-related. Strike at the source and speak to someone who can help nip it in the bud. If you’re feeling over pressured, people might not be aware of it until you mention it. Speaking to someone might be all that’s needed for action to be taken and for you to get some relief!
Even if it isn’t to do with your work life, it’s still worth bringing it to someone’s attention. This is especially true when you feel it might be affecting your work or if you’re concerned it might do so in the long run. Additionally, take time off. Whether this is to take a break from workplace stress or to dedicate some time to try and fix external problems, time to yourself can help you recover and regroup.
Managing Workers Who Might Be Struggling
As a manager, supervisor, or even just as a co-worker, you have a duty of care to make sure everyone around you is as safe as possible at work. But did you know that this also applies to their mentality as well as their physical wellbeing? Just as you’d be made liable if you endanger your employees health and safety, you’ll be held liable if you fail to take measures to help those who appear to be struggling or suffering with mental illness. It’s common law, and falls under HSE regulations (The HSE have provided an overview of Work Related Stress and the dangers of it. It even has pages to define how you can help tackle work-related stress on any level of a corporate ladder, from CEO to employee).
As if that wasn’t enough reason, studies have shown that happier workers are more productive and capable. This isn’t to say you should dismiss or discriminate those who aren’t in best frame of mind. Being a company that cares means that employees feel valued. Even better, employees are more loyal, dedicated and are happier when they feel appreciated.
To ensure you know how well your team is doing, you don’t have to be a councillor. It can be as simple as taking time to talk:
Making first contact with staff members and workers if something seems wrong. It not only helps identify problems, but workers appreciate when you care about their wellbeing.
Speaking to your workers both as a team and individually. You don’t need to organise anything. It can be spontaneous passing (but still private) chats, or impromptu ‘group hugs’ that provide a forum for everyone to voice opinions and issues in a more open environment.
Keeping up to date with any previous issues raised. Following up and checking shows your workers that you listen and want their needs to be fulfilled.
Make No Mistake, Make No Assumption
We make assumptions every day. The vast majority of them occur without us even realising it: we assume when roads are safe to cross, we assume the timescale of our work set for the day. However, people are complex and sometimes our assumptions can get the better of us.
That someone is okay if their manner or usual behaviour has changed, or their mood is lower than usual.
That you aren’t responsible for other people’s wellbeing. Consider your actions and don’t give in to the ‘bystander effect’ that someone else will help. You might not be responsible for them entirely, but you can always check in and try to help.
That you understand everything about mental health, even if you know the person – everybody is different and reacts to things in a different way. Equally so, mental illnesses differ in every case.
Finally, if an individuals mental health concerns you and the safety of those around them, never assume or act too hastily. Handle problems tentatively and approach them delicately due to their sensitive nature. There may be a specific reason they’re acting the way they are. Perhaps they have recently changed their medication or dosage. Perhaps there’s been a traumatic event, such as a grievance that has been overwhelming.
Whatever the reason is, they may not be aware of their effect on others and their work. In most cases, it’s better to try and approach the situation with the aim being to help those who may not feel in the right place.
The point is: If you are struggling, long-term or short-term, there are ways to support you for as long as you need.
Things can get on top of you before you realise it, and going it alone isn’t always the way forward. It can go against your pride, but you won’t regret reaching out to someone in the long run.
If you’re struggling to find your voice, or you feel your words fall on deaf ears, there are plenty of places to talk to who might be able to help you find yourself or help you out. You can speak to your HR Department, GP, friends or family about mental health. If you’d prefer confidential help, plenty of charities and helplines can provide guidance, advice or just a listening ear.
MIND – The leading UK mental health charity. Has information on a variety of mental illnesses from bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia to name a few. It also provides advice on what to do if you think you or someone you know could be battling mental illness. It also has contacts if you need urgent help.
Samaritans – Usually contacted through freephone (116 123), the Samaritans are a non-profit organisation who provide one service: listening. You can speak for as long as you need, receive advice (if you want it) and even just have someone to chat to about things if you’re feeling lonely. Even when things are in a critical state, they can help talk you down and give you hope. Speaking from experience, don’t hesitate to call if you feel you need to.
Papyrus – Suicide might be a touchy subject for some, especially young men. Despite this, it’s the biggest killer of men under 45. For young people (man or woman) who struggle with suicide or suicidal thoughts, PAPYRUS will listen. They provide a service that will listen to you and take you seriously regarding your suicidal feelings and how to best deal with them.
Maytree – If you feel the rut you are stuck in is inescapable, Maytree can offer you respite from the demands of the world for a brief time. The Maytree charity offers sanctuary for those feeling suicidal. There you can stay and speak about your feelings and find guidance over four days. You can catch up on sleep, speak to people who understand, be fed and regroup in a comfortable environment.
Anxiety UK – Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental health problem in the UK. We all feel anxious at times but chronic anxiety can be damaging to your lifestyle. Sometimes it works alone, but sometimes its part of a bigger picture of underlying problems. Either way, it’s horrible physically and mentally to regularly feel on edge and worried, and you can lose part of who you are in the process. If you want help tackling your anxiety and learning how to get on top of it, Anxiety UK offers resources to help you do so.
Make sure you speak to someone before things get worse. The possible outcomes of unassisted mental health are a very serious issue. There is always a way out and ways forward. If things can’t seem to go any further and you feel you’re at your most desperate, reach out.