Dealing with mental health and business

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.

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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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Mental Health and Professionalism

Mental Health and Professionalism: An Interview

When I’m at work, I want to be perceived in a certain way. I want to be confident, competent, likable, and cooperative. Which is attainable most of the time, but there are times when I don’t feel like I can keep it together. Many people feel this way in high-stress situations. People depend on you to learn quickly perform well under all types of circumstances. But sometimes those circumstances are not the ideal environment for those struggling with their mental health.

For the past two weeks, I have shared stories, experiences, and thoughts from our peers about how mental health effects their careers, families, school work, etc. Last week’s interview was on Mental Health and Spirituality with Jessica. If you would like to participate and share your own stories, please feel free to shoot me an email at helloprofessionalgirl@gmail.com. I think it’s incredibly important that we take the time to really listen and learn from others about these vulnerable topics. It’s the only way to change the current narrative.

I am so excited to introduce Hayley this week! Hayley is my best friend from back home in Illinois. We met when I was in junior high school and for years she’s been my “brain” and my “filter” in all kinds of situations. I love her and her husband to bits and can’t wait for you guys to hear more about this topic from her perspective. In addition to her educational and occupational background, Hayley is also a dog mom to Bandit, a plant lover (especially succulents), and a former band geek. She also has a blog that you can check out here.

Hayley, What is your educational and occupational background?

I have a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and am working on a Master of Arts in Industrial Organizational Psychology and Masters in Business Administration. Currently I am a recruitment coordinator for a large company in the Chicagoland area. Previously, I was a server/bartender at various restaurants in the Chicago area as well as my hometown.

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Mental Health and Professionalism

 

Have you ever thought about mental health and how it relates to professionalism?

Until now I had not. I know that with certain mental health issues it can be hard to hold down a job. Most of my knowledge is very basic and just talks about the symptoms and very basic information about those issues, not much on living with them or how it might affect one’s career.

Do you think adequate mental health awareness/training is given in the workplace?

I think that, in general, mental health is not something that is given enough awareness or training. Those of us who have a degree in psychology or who have friends/family who have mental health problems are definitely more aware of how those issues affect people. I don’t remember if we had any training on working with individuals who suffer from mental health issues, but if we did I don’t believe that it happens often enough. I think that if we were to have more training in the workplace about these sort of things, people would be less likely to use terms like anxiety, depression or schizophrenia so flippantly.

Do you think your educational background gives you a better understanding of mental health?

Yes, in some ways I believe it does. I took many classes during my undergraduate career that gave brief insights into many mental health issues. However, I will say that my knowledge is very basic as I chose to go into a different subfield of psychology and have not gone into deeper studies of those mental health issues.

Do you use the knowledge of mental health you have learned from classes, in the workplace?

Most of the time I am working with the same people every day and those who are not my coworkers I either speak with over the phone or via email. Also, many who have mental health issues do not disclose that they have one due to the stigma surrounding them. However, I would like to think that if needed I could use some of the knowledge from my classes in the workplace.

MAKAYLA

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