Dealing with Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health is a broad and vast topic. There are so many facets and branches of it, which can make it hard to understand. Even those who study psychology often don’t receive the training they need to identify mental health problems or understand how to apply their knowledge in workplace settings. Since that’s the case, it’s no wonder people have a hard time relating to and expressing concerns or feelings around mental health.

That’s why I’d like to introduce Keli. She has been diagnosed with severe OCD, moderate Social Anxiety Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, seasonal affective disorder, situational depression, and ADHD. I met Keli in the dorms during our freshman year of college. Since then, Keli has gone down a few different paths including a study abroad to Ireland, transferring colleges twice, leaving the religion she was raised in, becoming a more involved activist, losing her older brother, and meeting the love of her life. I admire Keli for her spunk and bravery. Whenever we get together she always has something new going on, whether it’s a new job, volunteer opportunity, or event she’s attending.

Keli’s story is amazing to me because she’s been through so much in these few short years, and yet she continues to persevere and try to improve. That’s why I’ve asked her to answer some questions for us, because I feel that we can all learn from her experiences and thoughts. Keli is a very outspoken person and is not ashamed or afraid of talking about mental health. She has a dream of pursuing marketing in public service or the non-profit setting so that she can help affect change for causes she believes in.

Other Posts in This Series:

dealing with mental health in the workplace

Do you feel like your diagnoses influence the way you handle professional situations? If so, in what ways?

More so than I used to think. I never noticed a big effect on my work when I did odd jobs like retail, food service, and hospitality. But as I’ve been more actively pursuing marketing and gaining experience in that field, OCD and anxiety affect my work quite a bit. In terms of OCD my obsessive thought is often surrounding failure and judgment, and my compulsive behavior to neutralize those fears is avoidance. I’ve had issues with meeting deadlines and fulfilling expectations, let alone going above and beyond which is needed if you want to get further in your career. I also can feel overwhelmed with stressful situations sometimes, like if there’s too much stimuli at once or if I don’t know how to do something. It’s frustrating because I know how capable I am and that I’m a hard worker, but I’m not always able to put my best self forward.

Have these diagnoses kept you from getting/accepting certain jobs or keeping jobs?

Not until recently. I did just turn down a job that I knew would be too stressful while I’m simultaneously working through therapy and learning how to cope better with OCD and anxiety. I also quit my last job, which was remote and was mostly self managed. It was too difficult to do well and meet expectations since I literally had to do it all, and I never had physical contact with my office or managers, which is really important to me personally. Self management and discipline is difficult when there wasn’t strong accountability in place and like I mentioned, my stress coping mechanism is avoidance haha.

Do you feel like most people have an understanding of mental health conditions?

Definitely not. I feel that it’s slowly getting better, especially with more general conditions like anxiety and depression that affect a good percentage of the population. But the stereotypes and misconceptions with OCD are still alive and well. I even had to personally relearn things I thought I knew about having OCD!

What helps you deal with your mental health struggles?

Talking about it. This is where understanding comes in though. Society is still super uncomfortable with honesty and emotions in general. People don’t ask “how are you?” expecting you to answer honestly. I feel silenced, and that it’s not okay to talk about my reality unless it’s “normal” and “acceptable.” But the only way to help us heal is to let us talk about it, listen to us, and still treat us like normal human beings. Shame is not conducive to healing.

Do you feel like companies accommodate for mental health struggles? If not, what do you think they could do to be more accommodating?

Not really. It’s frustrating because I understand that you can’t just call out sick every time you have a panic attack. But mental health is an illness just like any physical ailment is. If I’m at home with the flu, my boss will forgive me for calling out of work. But mental health doesn’t have the same luxury. We’re expected to just deal with it, and this is exactly why homeless and unemployed populations have some of the highest rates of mental illness. I think the biggest thing is just trust. Trust us to know our limits and our bodies. Don’t just assume we’re exaggerating or making stuff up. It’s erasing, and that’s why our culture still has a hard time believing mental health is real.

Is there anything else you would like to add about mental health and professionalism?

I want people to understand that mental health does not equate to ability. NEVER assume that someone is unable to do their job or be successful just because they have a certain diagnosis. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean someone can’t be an amazing CEO or president. So don’t treat mental health any differently.

MAKAYLA

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7 thoughts on “Dealing with Mental Health in the Workplace

  1. Thank you so very much for this! This is a wonderful topic to speak up about, and one that a lot of us often refuse to accept the existence of, in the first place. I’ve been diagnosed, and I could totally relate to this. Thank you for starting the conversation, and I hope you’ll keep it going.
    Great post!
    I’d love it if you’d check out my new post at https://wp.me/p7thtM-rI
    Khanak x

  2. Thank you for this! There is a huge need for mental health education in the in the workplace. Some employers require its employees to be trained in issues related to sexual harassment and diversity issues, etc, but they complete neglect the importance of mental health education. Work alone can cause mental health challenges in those who have never experienced those challenges on a chronic level. Those of us who are fortunate to have jobs spend most of our lives and time in the workplace, so why isn’t this an issue that employers explore and educate its employees about? I myself have PTSD along with depression and anxiety and had to leave a job bc of the lack of understanding and support. I am fully capable of doing the work, but when I am overwhelmed and unsupported my ability perform suffers. I am so lucky now to have a boss who understands the value and importance of taking a sick day for mental health.

  3. This is great. The more we talk about it, the more we learn and can effect change in the workplace. Thank you both!

  4. What a great post. Thank you for shedding light on this important topic. The stigma associated with mental health makes it very difficult for people to be honest about what their diagnosis is and how they are coping.

  5. I felt like I was reading my own story. I’ve never been diagnosed. Mostly because I’m cheap and basically too nervous to. Mental health really is such a huge topic. I’ve barely learned to cope with it in my life. It’s also genetic for me. But all I have to say is Keli, you are not alone!

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