Mental Health at Work: Susan's Story

At See Me we support a growing group of volunteers with lived experience of mental health problems, who share their stories to help raise awareness.

To highlight the importance of looking after employee mental health volunteer Susan talks about how work impacted on her mental health, and what needs to change.

On the whole it is better now, it has improved in the last year there has been more people that I can speak to. But it is still not great, it is improving.

When I was really ill, they just made it worse, because all they were thinking was about getting a bum in the seat and a job to be done. I don’t think they realised how hard it was being that bum on the seat. They saw it as me letting people down. It is hard because sometimes you do have to have that break away.

I don’t think that everyone gets that. But it is improving slowly.

I think the higher it goes in organisations the less understanding there is. I think that is an issue in setting the culture of a workplace. I think it is like that in a lot of workplaces, and that is why people are frightened to speak out, because there is an attitude that you’re letting people down, or you’re a failure.

You see it all the time, people giving up jobs because they are made to feels stupid. I have felt like that in the past, although I’m a lot better now.

Three years ago I had a really big break down and I felt terrible. I was made to feel I was letting the team down by being off.

I got lots of emails asking when I was coming back, but people who had physical illnesses weren’t getting that type of email.

I had to go to the union to get help with that. When I did come back, I think it was my own strong will that made it happen, I didn’t want to be treated like that.

At work now we have mental health on the healthy working lives agenda that gets discussed at each meeting. People at work have really embraced Time to Talk day, I’ve been able to do things in the office. We have a quiet room if people need a time out.

I think all managers should have some sort of mental health training. I don’t think that there should be meetings during lunch time, staff should be encouraged to take their lunch away from their desk and there should be more awareness of what is there to help people.

If management and leadership hear that discrimination is happening then they should be pulling people up for it, especially with language use, using terms like ‘nutters’.

I think that communication is important, but it has to be done right.

People get so many emails through at work, so a big bulk email will get ignored. You have to bring this into monthly meetings, make it regular, so people can talk about it.

I think that would have helped when I was struggling.

It has to be led from the top down, with the message that stigma will not be put up with. You have to feel safe and able to talk.

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