What I Wish I Knew

A Snapshot of My Experience with Mental llness at Work

By Mandi Luis-Buckner

Seven years ago I was a successful employee at a large financial organization, anding achievement.

But depression did hit me, and it hit hard. I underwent an 11-month struggle before I realized that I was experiencing depression. During that time, a number of personal life challenges erupted which compounded the stressors at work. My confidence ebbed day by day—I was suffering. As a result the quality of my work also suffered. I lost a career that I loved.

I now know that with the proper information and trauma of losing my job.

Depression looks different for each of us

Perhaps you are unable to start projects, focus on tasks, or meet deadlines – and people are noticing.

Perhaps you are obsessed with details, or everything seems like a blur.

Perhaps you are worried about your lack of productivity, and feel guilty about letting your team down.

Perhaps you are irritable with colleagues, and feel like they’re ganging up on you.

Perhaps you feel overwhelmed, guilty, frightened, and see your self-confidence slipping away.

Perhaps you feel powerless to voice your needs because you can’t seem to determine what they are.

Perhaps you wish to have time off, but you’ve used up all your sick days and the paperwork to apply for long term disability overwhelms you.

Perhaps you are concerned about losing your income if you go on long term disability.

Perhaps you are worried about losing your job because you are experiencing depression.

I wish I knew…

I was at risk for depression

Within four months I went through the loss of a significant relationship, had a near death experience and work stress increased my risk of developing depression.

Resources

About mental health and_Choices/challenges_choices_aboutmhprobs.html” target=”_blank”>Overview

Minimizing your risk for mental illness: Health Canada: It’s Your Health

I was ill, not weak

I started to lose my memory and hopelessness were symptoms of depression.

Resources

Understanding-mental-illness/depression/” target=”_blank”>Canadian Mental Health Association

Information about treatment

My doctor prescribed an antidepressant medication and my illness.

Resources

Treatment Options – Fact Sheet (Mood Disorders Association of Ontario)

Treatments for Depression – Information Guide (CAMH)

Depression would impact every area of my life

My experience with depression affected my relationships, my daily routines, my physical well-being, my ability to be productive at work and friends.

Resources

Family Toolkit: BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information

Programs and Services: Ontario Ministry of Long Term Health-Mental Health Programs

Family Association for Mental Health Everywhere (FAME)

Family Members and-caregivers/” target=”_blank”>Resource Centre (CMHA Ontario)

I needed help earlier

After 11 months of struggling, I finally told my manager that I was having trouble coping, and it was suggested I use the services of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). I wish that I, my colleagues, my subordinates, or my manager had noticed that I was struggling. I wish someone had suggested assistance.

Resources

Making the workplace more mentally healthy, from an employers perspective: Employers (Mental Health Works)

I was not the only one

I felt isolated at work, I was not understood and my productivity declined. I wish I had had someone to talk to at work who had themselves experienced depression.

Resources

For more information about Peer Support, visit the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

I needed to be valued at work

Although I was struggling at work, I had contributed 25 years of my life to the organization and current performance was highlighted. I wish that my problems had been looked at in context of my highly successful work history.

Resources

Why mental health in the workplace matters: Mental Health Facts (Mental Health Works)

Reducing the social and Mental Health

It was okay to ask for my manager's help

I had been taught not to bring my problems to work, so for 11 months I struggled and that my employer could have been a major contributor in my recovery.

Resources

Making the workplace more mentally healthy, from an employees perspective: Employees (Mental Health Works)

I needed the people at my workplace to listen

As I gained greater acceptance of what was happening to me, I wanted to talk about it at work so that we could seek solutions together. I was told that workplace policies advised against this, since what I wanted to share was seen as confidential and values.

Resources

Background information about recovery from mental disorders: Recovery (BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information)

Mental health recovery and developing a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP): Recovery Tools

I needed ongoing support at work

Being referred to EAP was not enough to improve things at work. Work processes continued as before, and my manager did not inquire as to what I needed to do my job. I wish that my manager had known how to work with employees who are in distress.

Resources

Suffering in Silence: stigma, mental illness and the workplace: Canadian Health Network

I needed my benefits to cover more than six sessions of therapy

Through my Employee Assistance Program (EAP) I was referred for psychotherapy, but my benefits only covered six sessions. This was not enough time to establish trust with my therapist, identify my issues and begin to address them. I wish that my benefit package had been designed to meet the therapy needs of people with depression.

Resources

Mental Health Works – Accommodations

I needed organizational support when discussing my recovery

When I returned after six months on short term disability, I felt intimidated, confused and information so I could make better choices.

Resources

Mental Health Works: Talking to employees

Canadian Mental Health Association booklet: Strategies for Job Retention: Hangin In There (PDF document)

I needed to return to work gradually

I was entitled to have my job adjusted as part of the recovery process so that I could gradually resume full time employment. I didn’t know how to state my needs, and accepting of the accommodations being offered, even though it didn’t work for me. I wish that I had known about job accommodation.

Resources

Mental Health Works: Talking to your employer

”Information,
It can take a long time to recover from depression

With each doctor and I would bounce back to being me. I had no idea that it could take a long time to recover effectively from the effects of depression. I wish I had known that recovery can take months or years.

Resources

An introduction to the recovery approach: Rethink

As a peer, I use my story to help others who are experiencing mental health problems in the workplace…

What I discovered is that recovery is a process based on continual growth, occasional setbacks, and community. My hope is that you will explore the recovery process fully – while you are still employed.

Mand employer.

Mand Peer Consultant specializing in the field of Mental Health. After leaving a 27 year career in the financial industry due to depression, she shares her story to help others experiencing mental health problems at work.

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