The workplace can be one of the most daunting arenas to speak openly if you’re struggling with your mental health. People worry that if they tell their colleagues or their manager that they are struggling they will be stigmatised or discriminated against. If you have, or suspect you have, a mental illness talking honestly and openly about it can seem impossible. So what we need to do is change the culture of fear and silence around mental health. We want to get to a place where workers can speak openly if they need help with their mental health, without worrying about the consequences. We think our new ‘Power of Okay’ campaign will help us to start seeing these changes.
Before we launched the campaign See Me carried out a survey of Scottish workers, which found that 45% think people in their organisation wouldn’t speak about their mental health for fear of discrimination from their colleagues. In the same survey, 48% said people don’t tell their employers about mental health problems for fear of losing their job and 55% thought that people would be unlikely to disclose a mental illness as it could result in being passed over for promotion or moved to another post.
Unfortunately, these fears are not unfounded and while speaking out about mental health does help some people, others find it has a detrimental effect on their career and changes the way their colleagues act towards them. But there are lots of reasons why speaking about your mental health is fundamental to getting better. Firstly, the more you hide it and the more you bury it deep inside you, the more you can start to believe that it’s just you. We can promise you that it isn’t just you. Secondly, the more you hide it, the more serious the problem can become. This can lead to more serious physical and mental health conditions later on. So the earlier you seek help the better.
Having the courage to speak out can help you feel better in yourself, and more accepted by others. But never feel under pressure to do so if you don’t want to. We believe that we all need to be comfortable asking each other, ‘are you okay’ and opening up conversations about how we really feel.
However, we are not there right now. If someone says they are not OK, people are worried they won’t know how to help, or could even make things worse. So with the ‘Power of Okay’ campaign, we want to show some of the right things to say when someone opens up to you. Simple steps like reassuring someone that you are there for them, that you care and that they can speak to you in confidence can make a huge difference.
We would love for everyone to get involved in the conversation, by using #powerofokay on social media and sharing these two videos:
We want to see people all over the world having discussions on mental health and supporting each other. Are you worried about someone? Ask them if they are okay today.
Nick Jedrzejewski is the media and communications officer for See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.
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