Mental Health in the Workplace: Ending the stigma.

Daisy Doardo, Student at the School of Law, University of Essex has written the below article to share her experiences with her own mental health.

1 in 6 workers are suffering from depression, anxiety or work-related stress at any given time. In 2018/2019, 54% of sick days taken in the UK were related to depression, anxiety or work-related stress. The human suffering linked to those figures is hard to comprehend. Following a global pandemic that isolated many of us, it has never been more important to ensure that workplaces are safe places by creating an inclusive culture where people are supported through challenges, rather than stigmatised. But how?

10 years ago, I was suicidal. I was addicted to self-harm, massively depressed and admitted to the psychiatric ward twice after suicide attempts. Since then, I’ve struggled with anxiety and panic attacks.

Asking for help can be extremely hard. As a teenager, I asked for help and was told that I had a chemical imbalance and needed to take medication, possibly for the rest of my life. I was passed between different counsellors who parroted my words back at me. I found the whole experience quite distasteful and traumatising. Though I was desperate for connection and relief, by 16 years old I was firm in the belief that nobody could understand me and certain that nobody would help.   

”One of the brighter moments when I was 16 years old’

In 2019, I asked for help again. Suffering from panic attacks and anxiety, I called my GP only to be told that there was a 9 month wait to speak to somebody.

As our politicians fail the NHS, the NHS fails us.The lack of accessible mental health support is pushing more people to look to their workplaces for help. What are they finding?

Although the number of people reporting being disciplined, dismissed or demoted upon disclosing a mental health condition to their line manager is lessening, it still stands at 9%. People with a mental health condition lose their jobs at double the rate of those without.

The human cost of this is vast and so is the financial. Businesses are losing £1,300 every year per employee whose mental health needs are unsupported. In total, this costs the UK economy £34.9 billion every year. It’s vital that we get this right.

Offering mental health support, like therapy and mental health days, to your employees is a game-changer.  But what if they fear to access that support? How can you ensure an open and safe culture in the workplace where people are free to talk about their mental health without fear of judgement?

Sharing your story is a powerful tool to end the stigma of mental health

The more conversations we have about mental health, the better. Change starts from the top and I encourage more senior leaders to share their mental health challenges with their teams. Whether it’s over a cup of coffee, in a ‘townhall’ or on LinkedIn, by sharing your story you can show everybody that there is no shame. When I struggled with anxiety and depression, I needed an example to follow. I needed to see somebody who, like me, struggled with mental health challenges but found a way through them. I needed to be inspired. I needed hope.

Speaking out about mental health helps to create cultures where people can seek help when they need it and where employees are given permission to prioritise their mental wellbeing.

16 people in Great Britain took their own life every day in 2018. The more we can show that there is no shame in mental health challenges, the more lives we can save.   

Daisy Doardo is the Marketing Manager and a Trainee Solicitor at Tiger Law. She has been named as an Emerging Leader on the 2021 InsideOut Leaderboard for her efforts to end the stigma of mental health in the workplace.

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