The stigma about having a mental health issue still perseveres and it is not the same as having a cold or any other type of illness.
When I “called in sad” (as Adam Grant notes in this post) from work I wound up getting fired from my high-profile law firm job.
We have a systemic problem in most industries – especially law – when it comes to taking time off or saying that you have a mental health issue and it needs to change.
Many employers offer employee assistance programs (these services are often touted as confidential, but even so, some employees feel uncomfortable using them.) I didn’t. I didn’t say a word. I was afraid of the stigma.
I work for myself now because I have not yet found an employer that provides a mentally healthy workplace.
It’s great that celebrities and athletes help to bring awareness to these issues but there are a lot of every day people struggling with a mental health problem who don’t get cheered on. I am cheering for you.
Oftentimes employers don’t realize there is an issue because it is hidden by negative performance or work absences at first.
My employer knew I was struggling and still chose to cut ties with me at a time when doing so could have been catastrophic for me.
It’s not all work and productivity at the end of the day – especially after the cataclysmic workplace shifts that happened during the pandemic.
Here’s an example that recently happened to me. I had a panic attack about going to an in-person client meeting because some of the employees in the office have not been vaccinated and they don’t have a mask mandate, and I just did not want to go. The Delta variant has me nervous even though I am fully vaccinated. I did not want to say that I didn’t want to attend the meeting due to my uncomfortable feelings about being in an office with others so I told them it was about not having someone to walk my puppies during the day (which was also true as I would have had to leave them for a full day).
My decision not to go to this meeting was not received well by the client and they are no longer a client of mine.
There is much more that can be done to ensure that employees don’t fall through the cracks and that companies prioritize mental health and wellness. Employers have a responsibility to their people that is compounded by the fact that many of its people are now working remotely.
Your mental health matters; it’s critical for success in every area of your life.
One in four people are struggling right now with a mental health issue. We should spread awareness every day that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes and protecting yourself and boundaries are crucial.
And it should be okay to say no to going to in-person meetings if you’re not ready for any reason at all. This is all a new frontier that we are trying to navigate.