Dr Kate Blackford Speaks: Mental Health Reflection in the Workplace
Dave worked for a large manufacturing company for fifteen years, having recently left to join ABP, he reflects on his time in manufacturing compared with his new role.
Dave, tell me about your time working in manufacturing
It was kind of like going back to school – you had set break times that were timed on a buzzer and if you wanted to use the bathroom outside of those break times you would have to ask your line manager if you could go. There was huge focus on following the process, doing as you were told and creativity was discouraged. We all wore colour coded t-shirts which indicated our rank in the company.
What impact did that have on you Dave?
Well, it had a pretty bad impact on my health. I was working excessive hours and I stopped taking holiday because I just didn’t have the energy to organise it. If I wasn’t working I was sleeping. I felt constantly exhausted. My health started to suffer too as the shift patterns began to take a toll. I was feeling worse and worse and developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I stopped going out with friends, or communicating with my wider family and that caused them to worry. My life became very small as I became more and more depressed as I didn’t want to bring others down with my problems.
What happened as time went on Dave?
Eventually I went off sick because I just couldn’t cope any more. I had asked for help, but had been made to feel like I was at fault and so I stopped asking for help. When I did meet with my manager I was given a series of actions to ‘fix’ myself and still felt unsupported. I was not able to access the mental health support offered by the company Employee Assistance Programme because of my shift patterns and how low I had got.
And where are you now?
Well, I started with ABP a couple of months ago and I am in a much better place. I have come to realise that the environment I was in just didn’t work for me and that is not a reflection on me or my ability to do the role I was in but on the fact that my personality and values were not a fit with my previous employer. I had to take control of my own situation and I came to the conclusion that the way to do that was by removing myself from the situation.
Tips from Dave on staying healthy at work:
Speak to someone, anyone in or out of work as asking for help is positive not negative.
Do NOT accept the “status quo” attitude of your line manager that you are the problem.
To admit mental health management is a disadvantage which will prevent you progressing – “The problem lies with those who do not understand or want to learn.”
You affect everyone with your behaviour.
Take the time when you feel life is slipping to distance yourself from the negative triggers and give your body time to repair mentally and physically.