Talking to my manager about mental health

Louise, Vice-President Community and Welfare at UWE Last year, I completely and utterly fell in love with the Time To Change campaign. At a time where I felt broken, I was desperately looking for a safety net, I really needed something telling me that things were going to be ok.

Life had gotten really tough and I was struggling to focus at work. It got to the point that there were only two options: ask for help or quit my job.

I asked to have a meeting with the Manager and was already dreading the conversation in my head “Sorry Louise, You can’t work for us anymore. Y’know, your mental health...”

I was preparing myself to be asked nicely to leave that very day. I didn’t really feel much use to anyone, my mind was overshadowed with horrible feelings and I really didn’t see it clearing away any time soon. It was a really scary moment.

I had read up everything you could possible find out about what kind of support you can get from your employer when you have a mental health problem but I’d also read some sad stories from people who had lost their job after disclosing. I was in pieces.

I couldn’t continue in the state I was in so I just had to take deep breathes and hope for the best.

It was a moment I never forgot

I was shaky throughout the meeting and trying very hard to not break into pieces in front of my manager. The response I received was so supportive. Here was me, thinking I would lose my job by the end of the day, and here was my Manager, asking if I wanted time off to rest. This is a moment that I will never forget. I felt valued as a person.

One of the things that worried me was telling them how dependant I was on therapy and how dysfunctional I felt without it. Before I was too scared to ask for time off to go to therapy so I didn’t go for months and just got worse. Their response was incredible and they allowed me to be flexible with my work hours. It may seem like such a little thing but it made such a massive difference.

Often you just want to get on with it and disclosing to your employer that you have a mental health problem feels like disclosing a weakness. And no one likes to showcase our weaknesses.

I was keen to see UWE sign the Time to Change pledge

Through my experience of having such great support from my employer, I was very keen to see the University of the West of England sign up to the Time to Change pledge. I had experienced firsthand the impact that a supportive employer made. It literally makes the difference between you staying in a job, and you leaving.

Having a mental illness is not and should not be a barrier to your ability to work. This year, I have learnt to accept my mental health as part of me. There are times that I get really frustrated that I can’t get out of bed or that I’ve got to turn down socials. But I’ve learnt the importance of looking after myself.

With the support of my employer I've stayed in my job

For so long I saw my mental health as a hindrance to my ability to work. Now, with the support and understanding from my employer, I have managed to stay in my job and I am happy. There’s been challenging days, of course, but the difference is that I don’t feel alone.

"Caring for myself is not a self indulgence, it is a self preservation and is an act of political warfare!" Audre Lorde


Louise is Vice-President Community and Welfare at the Univeristy of the West of England.


What do you think about the issues raised in this blog?

Share your views with us on Twitter >>

Or sign our pledge wall to show your support and find out how talking tackles mental health discrimination.


Comments

i have mental health problems

i have mental health problems but did not have the support from my employer in any way.i got horrible messages instead.im so glad u got support.xx

Brave

Hi Louise What a brave step you took. I was a civil servant for four years and miserable for most of it. As a manager in my own job I never felt I could let the mask slip, even when dealing with others who had mental health problems, but underneath I was frustrated and dying to feel like I could lean on someone. I think it just goes to show that even being a supportive manager to others (like I was) or working in Community and Welfare like you, the stigma of mental health can be so paralysing that we don't allow ourselves to speak up. Well done for doing so, I'm sure your boss is glad to have you :)

What an inspirational story.

What an inspirational story. Your bravery is inspirational, both in asking for help and for sharing your story here. Thank you.

This was so wonderful to

This was so wonderful to read, as I am going through exactly the same at the moment. I have sent it to my manager, as she said exactly the same to me. Now I'm hoping to re-jig my life with this support being offered. For years I've gone from job to job and, looking back, for the same reasons, just not realising it. Now, this clear, concise, delicately beautiful blog has spoken volumes. Thank you.

What a reassuring story.

What a reassuring story. Thank you for sharing it Louise. I too, was very nervous about disclosing my mental health issues at work but was really pleased to discover that not only were people (managers and big bosses included) sympathetic and understanding but also that I was entitled (through occupational help support) to a phased return with reduced responsibilities. Though that was difficult to accept, after my first phased week I'm so grateful! I realise that not all people in workplaces are as understanding but if you're in the same situation remember that at the very least, most employers have occupational health services which are there to help YOU get back to work. Forget the stigma about them being scary: it's not true, they're very supportive. Just ask and you might be surprised what you discover. Good luck to everyone making that step in the future.

Didn't go as smoothly...

I wish I could say the same, when I was signed off from my last job I came back to find that everyone knew that I'd been signed off with depression! I got funny looks, some people didn't even speak to me and my boss was asking me silly questions like "what have you to be depressed about?"...and his wife is a social worker!! I've not worked since (over 7 years) and my depression is worse than its ever been since I was diagnosed 17 years ago. It's good to know there are bosses out there that understand but there's way too many don't, I'm all for this campaign (and Ruby Wax!) and would love to help rid the stigma when/if I can get better. But for now I'm really struggling to cope, giving up on receiving this "help" that everyone seems to mention these days. I've tried books, counselling and courses with no joy, I'm having horrible thoughts often and feel I'm almost at the point of giving up. Sorry for the crap reply but its reality unfortunately, for every story like this there's one like mine...probably more and it needs to stop now.

Find your local IAPT

Find your local IAPT (Improved Access to Psychological Therapy) The first thing they do is set you up with an assessment over the telephone. Try it. You never know. I've been dragging my mental stuff around for years too.

workplace support

I was really nervous when I returned to work following mental ill health. I knew everyone knew about my ill health but somehow that helped. I received a warm welcome back from my work colleagues and good support from my employers. It did take time to get back into my role but a good return to work plan was put in place & I am now back to normal working. I do though think being able to be open about my health at work has given me an opportunity to feel supported when I do feel I am struggling a little and able to say when I don't feel at my best. I think my being able to be open about my mental health needs has made it easier for my employer & colleagues to understand me & enabled them to offer support when required whilst benefitting from what I have to give in terms of what I offer within our team. I do apreciate that I am lucky to work in an area where my needs are understood & considered & would like to promote mental health support within all job roles in order to make sure others are able to work alongside people who understand mental ill health is common place & affects many people who wish to carry on working where possible. My job has been a great source of support & aided my recovery.

Add new comment

Email updates

Keep up to date with all our news, information and events via email.

Media centre

Guidelines and contacts for all those who work in the media.

Resources

Download leaflets, posters, reports and our free magazine.

Need support?

If you need urgent support there are many places to go for help.