This week I was given the opportunity to share the story of my Mum Heather’s working history and more importantly discuss the role that mental health plays within the workplace. Deciding to choose my Mum to interview and share her story, I knew that there would inevitably be certain values that we would share. Not just because she raised me but also because the topic of Mental Health is something that is close to my heart.
Both the topic of mental health and the reason why she is so passionate about training people in suicide prevention coincides with my own journey. For five years I have dealt with my own struggles around mental health, and her realisation of this became a driving factor in her wanting to make a change within the workplace.
Heather works as a Suicide Prevention Field Officer within the Construction industry, a charity organisation that’s goal is to “reduce the high level of suicide among Australian construction workers” (Mates In Construction, 2019). Through conducting a narrative interview with her and understanding the absent but implicit, I found that something that she values within not only her personal but working life is the ability to be able to give back to society.
This is apparent through her decision to study a Certificate IV in Community Services, where her initial goal was to give back to the community by helping other single parents, as she knows the struggles of raising two young children alone. The value of giving back within the workplace is something I share, with my goal being to work for a company that is making an active contribution to bettering society.
Although I had hesitations that delving into this topic would be detrimental to my own Mental Health, I found that by being given the opportunity to not only share my Mum’s story but further understand the work she is doing in lowering the rate in suicide, allowed me to open up the conversation about mental health.
With this week coincidentally being ‘Mental Health Week’, I think it is important to open up the conversation around Mental Health and that being open with our struggles we can continue to reduce the stigma around it. By being able to share this story, I was able to learn more about other people who have had similar experiences to my own, and hope that by speaking out others will feel more comfortable in reaching out for help if they are in need.
The role that mental health plays in my journey within the workplace has been to hide it at all costs. I have often feared that speaking up about my journey with Mental Health may be detrimental to my chances of getting future employment and that employers may choose not to give me the role because of it. However, through this process I have learnt how common this issue is, and that by speaking up about how we are feeling we are helping to reduce the stigma around it.
Reading Ebony Middleton’s post ‘Something’s Got To Give, How Can Work, Work Better’, something I highly recommend you read, reiterated the power of destigmatising mental health and the shared feeling that being open about our struggles could subsequently result in being unemployable. But as she says we are more than our mental health, we are human beings who deserve the right to feel safe and have a sense of belonging within the confines of the workplace.
With it being inevitable that mental health will play a role in the future of work, it is important that we are creating safer environments for individuals to work in. Without creating supportive and understanding environments for individuals to work in, for someone who is suffering from mental health issues in the workplace it can be further damaging to their health.
Statistics show that “Ninety-one percent of employees believe mental health in the workplace is important. However, only 52 percent of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy (TNS, 2014). With a large portion of employees identifying that they believe “mental health in the workplace is important”, it is something workplaces need to consider more in the future of work.
- TNS (2014). State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia. Melbourne: Beyond Blue. Available at: https://www.headsup.org.au/training-and-resources/statistics-and-references
- MATES in Construction. (2019).About Us – MATES in Construction. Available at: http://matesinconstruction.org.au/about/ [Accessed 12 Oct. 2019].