Today, October 10th, marks World Mental Health Day and the theme for this year is work and mental health. As I am currently unable to work due to my mental health, I decided I would think about what things I would like from an employer to help me manage work and my mental health.
1. Time for appointments – I have been lucky in the past that my employers have made time available for me to attend appointments, be it a doctor’s appointment or weekly therapy. I know some people aren’t so lucky. Being allowed the the time to attend these appointments is vital to improving well being and keeping yourself well so that you are able to function and continue to work. Hopefully an employer will understand this and therefore be flexible with working hours to accommodate appointments.
2. Be approachable – If an employer is not approachable it is going to make the whole job of looking after your mental health more difficult. However if they are good at listening and therefore you feel you can talk to them when things are difficult it will make the task of managing your mental health easier. It also means it will be easier to ask for things, like time off for appointments, without the worry of how they are going to react.
3. Confidentiality – This is a big one and links to being approachable. It is important to know that what you discuss is not going to be shared with anyone who does not need to know about it. It is your choice, to an extent, which colleagues you wish to know about your mental health problems. Trust is important to making you feel secure. Obviously there will be some people they will need to tell in order to allow you time off. But it is important to know it won’t become part of gossip.
4. Understanding – I would love for my employer to have understanding of mental health and mental illness, and how it doesn’t mean I am incapable but that sometimes I might need extra support. I have faced stigma when attending a job interview, where I was told I was unsuitable as I wouldn’t cope due to having depression. This is wrong. I was not even given a chance to show my capabilities in the interview but was instead judged on my mental illness. This is unfair and shows a lack of understanding about mental health and mental illness.
So those are a few of thee things I would like an employer to be when dealing with me and my mental illnesses. What other things would you like from an employer? Please feel free to share in the comments.