We recently wrote about the importance of policy and procedure for organisations who are serious about employee mental health. Following on from that discussion is an interview we conducted with Shelley Jeffrey, author of the blog Depression and Me – The Journey from Black. Shelley is a manager from Auckland, New Zealand and she shares her experience of dealing with depression in the workplace.
By 2010 I had nearly reached the pinnacle of my career in management. I took on challenges, saw a lot of change and led my teams with as much care as I humanly could. That same year, I was approached to lead and manage a new team. I accepted this new challenge and the secondment of 5 months, living in a motel and possibly returning home occasionally when time allowed.
I took up residence in this remote town just after the earthquakes and before the Pike River Mine tragedy. My team and the whole town went into deep mourning and huge grief after the mine tragedy and I struggled to meet the needs of the town and the team with all I had until one day when I broke. I was unable to think, process, see. Just functioning required thought processes I found so hard and I closed down.
When I returned after the secondment I had a meeting with HR and my direct manager and fully disclosed where I was at and asked for support. Instead of support they offered me another demanding contract which would demand even more of me. I felt I had no choice but to resign.
After a period of unemployment, I was able to secure another position with a different company and gradually stabilised with the assistance of therapy and medication. And then I chose to challenge a point of law through the court. I wanted to have my experience acknowledged as a workplace injury therefore supporting me during my journey back to ‘employability’.
My own experience with depression has changed my understanding of mental illness in the workplace hugely. My focus over time leant towards ‘wellness at work’ and prevention is so much better than cure such as noticing when an employee isn’t travelling well and making changes to support them. I have written a blog about my journey and have a Facebook community page where I place self-help tips and encouragement for those not travelling well or those who support others.
When I think back when it was all so bleak, I made the choice to get up in the morning…I still had the power over me and what I did one day at a time, one step at a time…. get yea behind me ya black dog.
Do you want mental health strategies to implement for employees and managers?
The Workplace Mental Health for Leaders Seminar will develop leaders skills and give frameworks to follow to develop your organisation’s positive mental health culture.
- Common mental illnesses of anxiety, depression and of psychosis.
- Symptoms and functional impacts in the workplace of each of these illnesses.
- Roles and responsibilities when responding to mental health issues in the workplace.
- Strategies to approach employees.
- Design reasonable workplace adjustments for mental illness.
- How to talk to employees about mental illness.
- Develop a Workplace Mental Health Strategy.