Mental health and behavioral disorders make people feel uncomfortable. I’m not talking about people who have such conditions, I mean the people who don’t. If you don’t have any personal experience of it, it can be – excuse the wording – difficult to “get your head around it.”
If you see a friend or work colleague with a cast on his or her wrist, or hobbling along on crutches, you can immediately sympathize and empathize. You can process the obvious visual clue, and it’s likely you’ve suffered a similar injury and can “feel their pain.”
The clues that someone has a mental health issue can be far more difficult to identify.
Also, chances are, someone with such a condition is doing his best to hide it. But that position is understandable, while a stigma is attached to mental health. And it can be tricky to know what to say if someone does confide in you, or if you find out some other way.
Social awkwardness is one thing, but the real shame is that people can be extremely reluctant to reveal their condition because of the potential detrimental impact on their careers and on workplace relationships. They can be fighting on two fronts – managing the condition itself, and trying present a “normal” façade to the rest of the world.
I like to think that, as individuals, we can overcome initial awkwardness and confusion at learning a friend or colleague has a mental health or behavioral condition, and we will be supportive and do our best to understand and make certain allowances for her. But can organizations do more to help those with disorders or mental health disabilities to succeed and thrive at work?
Managers have to balance their responsibilities to their team members and to their organizations. So, while they may recognize the skills and strengths of someone with a mental health condition, and create an environment that is supportive and inclusive, they must also establish boundaries regarding what behaviors are unacceptable in the workplace.
What are your experiences of mental health issues in the workplace? If you have managed someone with a condition, what strategies did you use? And if you have a mental health condition that you felt able to discuss with your manager, colleagues or organization, what reaction did you get? And did you get the support and help you needed? We’d love to hear your views. Let us know in the comments section, below.