Mental health in the workplace. If you think it is not your problem. Then you are mistaken.

It has been a tough week. I have had the blues bad and had a week off work. I work part-time so it is not entirely difficult to re-schedule my work. I also could see the warning signs. So I met all my deadlines the week before. Checked in with my boss and said I just needed a week to re-configure (I take this type of leave without pay). He was cool about it. Like I said my boss and his company are trying hard to meet the diverse needs of our employees.

But what I discovered today is we still have a long way to go…

After a week of ups and downs, I still haven’t come a complete 100% but that is a rarity and so planned to return to work next week nonetheless. What I wasn’t expecting was to find out a fellow employee attempted to commit suicide last week. Nobody had informed me until today. It has been a week. I was gutted!

Due to the sensitive nature of this subject and wanting to protect the privacy of this employee I won’t go into further details of their situation. But what I will say is that when a fellow employee suffers from mental illness or distress it is everybody responsibility in the workplace to be supportive. To do this a culture of care needs to be developed. A culture where we are not afraid to discuss mental health in the workplace, where it is ok to say I am not coping, and it is not seen as a weakness. Only then will we have workplaces where all employees can move from just surviving to thriving in the workplace.

Our company is just a baby we haven’t been around for a long time. We don’t have all the answers, clearly! But we are open to learning and being better employers. Can you say the same about your workplace? Can you say the same about how you behave towards colleagues in your workplace?

You don’t have to be in management to create a change. It can start with a simple, ‘are you ok?’ To a fellow work mate. If the answer is no. Then ask ‘how can I help?’ and then follow through. It can be shutting down idle gossip in the staffroom about a colleagues mental state. It can be through meeting comments that are discriminatory or stigmatizing to mental illness with a steely gaze. All of these supportive actions create ripples, and we know that ripples can make waves.

I am thankful, so thankful that my fellow colleague was not successful in their attempt. That they did reach out for help, that they are safe with family now. I will be making sure that our company does everything that we possibly can to support them emotionally and help their return back to work be as comfortable for them as possible.

The saying goes…be the change you want to see.

If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

These are New Zealand help numbers if you live overseas please Google your helpline number.



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