It is so refreshing to hear people talking about Mental Health and things we can do to keep ourselves well. Businesses are starting to realise that helping staff to keep well has huge positive impacts on the workforce, the culture and the bottom line.

It has helped with well-known New Zealanders speaking out and owning their own mental health challenges, this appears to have helped to start breaking down barriers and the stigma, firmly attached to mental health issues for years.

As with physical health there are conditions, which are just ‘lived with’ and conditions which have a huge impact on ones quality of life. However all conditions take energy and commitment to accept, manage and minimise the negative effects.

Case Study:

Donna is a 32-year-old mother of one who has worked in admin since she completed her Business Technology diploma when she left school. Donna was the top of her class and every employer has valued her immensely. Donna has had a number of positions and looking at her C.V.; she has traditionally stayed in the position for between 6 to 12 months and then moved on. From an employer’s point of view, Donna is actually very good at her job and has great skills and initiative; however, her short employment episodes have been frustrating as most positions take a few months to become confident and a true asset to the business.

Donna believes that due to her ‘work history’ she is now finding it harder to get to the interview stage of the recruitment process.

Donna has tried to manage her anxiety and her depression and there has been very few people in her life who she has felt comfortable in discussing the daily challenges she lives with.

Typically Donna is excited about a new job and she puts her ‘brave face on’ and is seen by her new work colleagues as diligent, and outgoing, however this is really difficult persona for Donna to maintain as it takes a lot of energy for this ‘front’ and to hide her daily challenges. After a couple of months, Donna typically starts to take time off work due to her anxiety and her depression, sometimes on these days off Donna doesn’t physically get out of bed as she feels she has no energy and no reason to.

Donna will often see her doctor at this stage and he will often prescribe her more anti-depressants and mood stabiliser drugs. Donna finds these make her put on weight and feel very drowsy.

Over a period the work mates and bosses lose patience with the unreliable attendance, Donna becomes isolated at work and leaves, and the whole process starts all over again for everyone.

What if Donna was able to be up front and work with her employer to get the best from her – this could include: better understanding from her colleagues, flexible hours when she is unwell and other options which would suit the specific requirements of the workplace.

Bringing mental health out of the closet to enable better understanding and empathy for both parties will be the result of mental health being talked about, understood and better managed. If support and understanding keeps a valued staff member at work and productive, why wouldn’t an employer look at options and discuss possibilities to best suit their workplace and the employee?