MHAW16: I can’t disclose because of the taboo, but colleagues support me without even realising Author: GUEST POST     
Date: 18th May 2016



The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 is relationships. Today an anonymous graduate working for a housing association speaks openly about what prevents them from disclosing their condition at work and how important relationships with their colleagues are for their mental wellbeing.


 

Can you give us a bit of background about your health, and your occupation today?

I work in and have always wanted to work in the non-profit sector. My own experiences of mental ill-health and seeing friends and family members go through difficulties has emphasised how much more work needs to be done around breaking down taboos and having more support and early intervention in place. Non-profit organisations have had a big impact on addressing this, and will continue to play a key role in lobbying for political change, conducting research, and providing support to people struggling with mental ill-health, and their families and communities.


 

“My colleagues (unknowingly to them) can be an important factor in the difference between struggling with a down period or getting myself back on track”


 

So as someone with a mental health condition, what measures, if any, has the organisation you work for taken to support staff wellbeing?

My organisation is flexible around working hours and usually around where you can work, such as from home. This has been incredibly helpful when I haven’t been feeling well, as taking away the pressure to be in the office at 9 am has made those days much more manageable, and allowed me to still complete my work.

However, it would be better I think, if they could run wellbeing events and talk about mental health and wellbeing more openly, as this has been a factor in me not disclosing my mental heath issues. Speaking to trainees in similar organisations, it seems that proactively having those conversations, breaking down the taboo around mental health and investing in staff well-being has a positive impact on staff cohesion, and makes for a more enjoyable workplace for everyone.


“I would encourage everyone to chat to colleagues and help create an enjoyable workplace, as it might be having more of a positive impact than you think!”


 

What personal steps, if any, have you taken to look after your own wellbeing at work?

For me personally, socialising and being around other people is really important to my mental health and wellbeing. Therefore, I try to make the effort to chat to other people, for example by going to see them rather than emailing them where possible, and taking the time to speak to other people outside my team and department. One thing that I have learnt this year is just how much of an impact the people you work with have on your wellbeing. I am very lucky to work with a great group of people who always greet you in the morning, have an interest in what you do outside work, and who you can have a laugh with.

I haven’t disclosed my mental health issues to anyone at work, but I have seen the very same people look out for colleagues that have been off with mental ill-health and be so supportive during their return to work. I always look forward to going to work, and often my colleagues (unknowingly to them) can be an important factor in the difference between me struggling with a down period or getting myself back on track as soon as possible. I would, therefore, encourage everyone to chat to colleagues and help create an enjoyable workplace, as it might be having more of a positive impact than you think!

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