There has been more information out there about mental illness as the media has now picked up on the subject. Almost on a weekly basis I have been receiving notifications about people’s experiences of Mental Health this could be because I have connected to many people who work in the Diversity and Inclusion field. I am very pleased that we now see more on Mental Health but what I am not so pleased about is the lack of engagement I am seeing from organisations.
It is said that Mental Health is a topic that no one wishes to talk about. The stigma is so great that it is thought that ignoring it is the best way to deal with the problem. Clearly that isn’t the case as ignoring it only makes it become a more challenging issue for the organisation. The employee is sometimes taken to task for poor productivity or challenging communication then the process of formal disciplinary is activated or a grievance is taken out.
I know of one such case where an individual had mental challenges due to issues at home, he was under a lot of pressure. His relationship with his boss was quite poor. His manager did not give him the time of day and just gave him more and more work to do. There came a point in time that the individual felt it was becoming too much and he registered a grievance against his boss because of the undue pressure. The Manager couldn’t understand why this had happened and felt that it was the individual who just wasn’t able to do the work and decided to put him under performance management. Rather than carry on the individual resigned, luckily he sort counselling and managed to get the help he needed.
Initiatives to improve the Mental Health of employees are sometimes seen as lack lustre and without thought. If organisations had better employee engagement most would have a stronger understanding of the needs of their staff, thus being able to have a clearer strategy to support those in the organisation who suffer Mental Health issues. How many good employees have been lost because little or no effort is given to support them. What is required is a clear pathway to support and a real effort from organisations to help those who need it.
From an employee prospective I wonder how many feel comfortable speaking to their employers about their issues? Mental Health challenges are not always visible, people can seem to be ok but they hide deep distress and anxiety. I have myself suffered PTSD which was quite devastating to go through. You find yourself wearing a mask of pretence in the hope that you are not found out. There is also an element of shame that is attached to having Mental Health challenges, why I don’t know but I distinctly remember how ashamed I felt that I was in a position like this especially as I always saw myself as a strong black women.
Some of you may be aware that I am a Board Member of a charity called Certitude. Certitude support people with learning disabilities and mental health issues. Over the weekend I was at a Board Away Day. We had a very constructive and involved meeting which looked at many issues. During the course of the day we met service users and support staff from the mental health team. We heard amazing stories from the services users who recounted their experiences before and after using the services. We were all in ore of these two individuals so much so tears could be seen running down our eyes.
We also heard from support staff from the learning disabilities team. What struck me was the mental strain that parents had been put under to get care for their loved ones. The usual issues appeared, not being listened to, treated as though they were a burden to others, thought of as aggressive and challenging. The parents suffered trauma and anxiety just to get support for their loved ones.
Today is the one year anniversary of Grenfell spare a thought for the Mental Challenges that the survivors and community are going through. The survivors are still not being fully supported and require more intense support. I have seen many news segments of survivors saying how they still are not able to cope with what has happened. The Enquiry has put a lot of stress on them and they can see no way out of the negative spiral.
You may not know it but some of you reading this article could be experiencing Mental Health challenges. Big or small we must speak up and try and get support. There have been two high profile cases that occurred last week Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade both have come as a shock to many. Some have used these deaths to remind people that we must reach out for help and support. We cannot close our eyes to people’s suffering, neither can those who are suffering stay silent.
On a final note, I would like to highlight the Mental Health Challenges of Black people. Why? Well there is documented evidence that shows that we are poorly supported, we are more likely to be sectioned and limited investment is given to the black community to support those who need it. So I would like to thank BlackThrive and Certitude for pushing the agenda to make positive change in this area.
I dedicate this article to the two brave men who came to talk to us at the Board Away Day.
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