As I’m preparing for interviews and writing cover letters, I often wonder if I’m ready to enter the job market. The former me would probably not even bother trying from the fear of it not working out. What if I can’t handle it, or it’s awful, or it’s too much and I have to quit? But now, after months of therapy, I can truly see what I need from a job right now. I can separate the anxious/depressive voice and focus on more objective thoughts.
As much as I feel the pressure to become employed as soon as possible, I know it’s in my best interests to take it slow and do it the right way. Rushing to become “normal” would only cause other problems and send me into a more depressive state. I want to hold onto all of the healing I’ve made so far.
While my mental health is my responsibility, there are some things that workplaces can do to improve the mental health of all their employees.
For those who don’t know, flextime means being in the office or on-call between a set time and then using flexible hours around those to supplement a whole workday. For example, everyone has to be working from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. but can start working as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 7 p.m. The concept is simple and easy to do, but it’s not standard amongst most workplaces. I can’t express how valuable this is for many people. There are nights when I just can’t sleep, so dragging myself up won’t be beneficial to anyone. I’m useless on no sleep so it makes sense to rest and come in when I’m able to work properly.
Much like flextime, flexplace focuses on a flexible arrangement where work occurs. I have no problem with working in an office, but some days I really can’t leave my house. If eating feels like too much of a chore, getting dressed and leaving the house is out of the question. But how can you work, you ask? Well, that’s just it. Being able to stay at home means I will have the mental fortitude to do my job. Often times it’s not the doing that drains me, but the mental gymnastics I endure in order to function. When the trivial necessities such as dressing and taking the subway are eliminated, I’m much happier and able to do the tasks that are required of my workplace.
Promote mental health and self-care
There’s anecdotal evidence that sick days are rarely taken at work, let alone personal days. Explaining why I can’t come in isn’t so simple when it comes to mental health. I have also seen many friends experience burnout for no good reason. This not only affects our mental health, but also our physical health. Employers benefit greatly from healthy employees and encouraging mental health days or self-care should be a priority. Something as simple as a half day off once a month can relieve stress and anxiety. Or even better: don’t require a reason for not coming in. Trust that your employees need the time off.
Educate the whole company
I wrote previously about a former boss who just didn’t get it. I know that employers might be apprehensive about hiring a person with “difficulties.” But I think a part of that is fear and stigma from the unknown. People know of mental illnesses but not what it’s like to live with one. A basic first step is something like learning mental health first aid. It helps workers recognize the signs of mental health problems and reduces stigma by opening a dialogue about it. It’s not only for the mentally ill, but a great resource for all employees. I want me and my co-workers to stay healthy and educated and so should my employer. A happy worker is a productive worker.
About Whitney Reyes
Whitney has always loved writing. Before she was first diagnosed with depression and GAD at 17, she started sharing her thoughts with the world on her blog. After completing journalism school, her mental illness came back with a vengeance. She's now writing about her experience on Healthy Minds Canada and social media. You can follow her on Twitter and read her other work on her personal website.