This is a tough post for me. You see, I have a great life. I’ve run a business for 7.5 years in Calgary, weathering both great growth and a major slump in the oil and gas industry. I have an incredibly supportive husband (who maintains the stability in my crazy entrepreneur life) and I have an adorable 3.5-year-old who absolutely keeps me on my toes.  We travel a ton (6 weeks out of the year) and as a family unit, value experiences over things.  That said – we also have things. Far too many things.

 

For the last 3.5 years however, I have knowingly suffered from anxiety and depression. While mostly “self-diagnosed” I do believe it started off with post-partum. But truthfully, it’s always been there.  I can keep it under control for the most part but occasionally I start to spin. I can’t focus anywhere, I start fights at home, I feel a heaviness in my chest, I procrastinate (more than usual), I become flippant with clients and I seek constant change. Additionally, I become erratic in decision making, I spend money on things I don’t need and I just disengage from everyone. And maybe I drink a bit more too…maybe.

 

My family, my team members and my clients all suffer. And it doesn’t help that self-deprecating thoughts are at an all time high during these periods.

 

The thing is no one can tell me to stop. No one can simply make me snap out of it. There is however often an event though that says it’s time to change my mindset – not always rock bottom, not always completely detrimental, but big enough for me to have a solid conversation with myself that says “WAKE UP!” And I know that I am lucky that this happens for me in this way. What’s also key is that those who love me are always there when I need them. There isn’t anything I want them to say or even need them to say. But when I finally ask for that embrace or ask for 30 minutes so I can pound out a quick 5 km they are there. I am lucky.

 

In saying all this, having employees who suffer from mental health issues is not easy at all. After all, I have first hand knowledge in terms of how much it impacts business, clients and team member relationships. But I also know that adopting a leadership mindset means I am compassionate with those I have chosen to work with.  And in this case, I encourage all of you to adopt a similar mindset.

 

Here are a few tips if you find yourself supporting a co-worker or team member with mental health issues:

 

  • Don’t be afraid to say something. “I notice you seem off. Is everything ok?” should be your leading question. They may try to avoid the question. Make sure they know you are there to talk (and prepare yourself to listen – they don’t need you to be a problem solver…!)
  • If the behaviours continue and they continue to deflect, let them know how their behaviours are impacting performance. This in itself may be the wake up call. Sooner then later is better in these situations. Be blunt. Be clear. But again – be compassionate.
  • Encourage discussions around mental health at work, regularly. Sure – it’s weird to be vulnerable but something amazing happens when you learn to connect with others who are going through the same things. Vulnerability is key.
  • And remember – those who are currently going through mental health issues are often not rational. So check your expectations at the door. If you are aware that someone may be prone to episodes, have conversations when they are feeling healthy about expectations of you when they are not. This can be tricky to do, but I’ve seen it work on a number of occasions – one employee asked me to call their spouse, another asked for time off (unpaid), while another just asked me to take on a client for a short period.

 

These things are business disruptors but I have found the more I talk about it the more I can plan for it too.  The key however, is compassion – not only with myself but with others.

 

And this is why for January we’ve chosen to support Bell’s “Let’s Talk” as our “cause of the month” at Elevated. Because it truly is time to talk. Join the conversation – the more we work to remove the stigma, means a better for future for everyone.


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