Mental health, Work and Me

For many of us, work plays a major part in everybody’s lives. It is where we spend much of our time. Where we earn our income and often make friends. Having a job you enjoy can be great for your mental health.

We’re going to be exploring the ways on how employees have dealt with their mental health at work and how employers have helped their employees feel safe at work, from learning why companies have mental health ambassadors and how that helps their employees to do their jobs; to employees sharing their experiences at work and how they have been able to cope under pressure. We all have times when life gets on top of us, it is important that we address mental health at work for those with existing issues.

There have been times we have all been down, anxious or stressed. Most of the time those feelings do pass but sometimes they develop into serious mental health problems like depression. In some people this can affect their daily lives, these mental health problems become more complicated and require support and even medication for long periods of time.

Working in Madame Tussauds London , a famous London attraction, it tends to get very busy, very quickly and sometimes overwhelming which is not helpful especially for those suffering from mental health problems. Speaking to an employee who works in the attraction, Yash, 21, says “ Work has supported me so far, but I feel like you never know when you will get the support because it is unpredictable and not always certain when you need it”. Having a stable supportive system at work is really important to be able to have a productive team. An ex employee, who wishes not to be named, used to be a mental health ambassador at the attraction. They have said “ I was the only mental health ambassador in the department, it’s not a bad thing but I wish I had more support. I don’t think the company takes mental health very seriously as it took ages for me to be trained”.

Good mental health at work and good management work well together and there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental well-being are more productive. Ava, 20, who works at the Harry Potter studios, another well-known attraction, doesn’t feel as supported as she feels she should. She has said “ I’ve called in sick multiple times due to mental health issues. I’ve never been contacted for help or have even spoken about it. I’ve seen the way they treat people at work who have bad mental health issues and who make it known and it is not good”. Making your staff feel unsupported means a low work ethic within the workplace. It is important to check up on employees who do announce that they have a mental health problem especially as it is bothering them at work.

Different companies have different ways of monitoring mental health at work. Many include helplines that employees can call and they can remain anonymous. My experience of working in two different types of jobs one in retail and the other in attraction work, both jobs have different ways of battling mental illness within the workplace. Courtney, 19, who works in Debenhams has said “When I first started working in Debenhams I was pointed to a poster mentioning a number if you need to talk which was monitored by my manager. However, I never called in sick or called the number for stuff like that and I never really opened up at work about anything either”. At my current workplace we have mental health ambassadors and we have an anonymous helpline. I had a talk with a manager to discuss how to keep on top of everyone’s mental health in this current climate. He mentioned “ everyone works differently so we have to work to what that person is comfortable with. We have one-to-one meetings quite often to discuss progress within the company. In those meetings we discuss progression journeys, how they improved from the beginning of the year till now and how they are coping with their mental health within the company. If they’re not comfortable with something we make arrangements to make sure that they are off that section for a period of time and then slowly ease back into it.”

Everyone suffers differently and everyone gets support which is altered for everyone. However, sometimes plans don’t go right. Mary, 23, is a key worker in a supermarket and she has her experience of opening out to her managers. She has said “ Opening up to managers, it’s very nerve-wracking. In my job it got so bad that I ended up shouting at a manager saying that they don’t support me and that I have been crying for help for ages. I know it’s not their place to help me but work is meant to be that escape from everything I’m suffering from. It would just be nice to go into work and for someone to recognise that it’s harder for me.” Especially due to COVID-19, It is important to recognise mental health whether you’re a key worker or not. Make sure you reach out to anyone, not just people at work. If you are working make your trouble known. It doesn’t have to be to a manager but saying something is better than keeping it bottled up.

All these experiences show that no one is alone when it comes to mental health. It’s important to express these feelings and it’s important to show awareness that mental health is real. Everyone’s experience isn’t always positive however it can be a learning curve on how to address it next time. Don’t forget you’re not alone.