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My boss told me to 'talk to him, not my therapist': here's why half of people with mental health trouble in work don't speak up

The i logo The i 12/09/2018 Ruchira Sharma

a group of people sitting at a table using a laptop computer © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd Half of all employees are impacted by poor mental health.

And of these people, only half spoke to their employer about their stress, anxiety or low mood, according to a survey of 44,000 carried out by the mental health charity Mind.

Some of the reasons for this included shame and job insecurity.

According to their findings a large part of sharing mental health struggles came from manager confidence - staff who felt their manager supported their mental health or could spot the signs that someone was going through a hard time were far more likely to say they would share their situation.

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Negative reactions at work

For some, the bold decision to speak out about their mental health at work is met with unsatisfactory, even damaging, responses.

Georgia*, 26 told i that in her last full-time job she decided to disclose her anxiety disorder in a performance review.

She said: "It's the first time I had ever told an employer about my struggles and it felt like a big deal - I despise discussing my mental health issues and keep my personal and private life incredibly separate.

(Representative image) A large part of sharing mental health struggles came from manager confidence © Provided by Shutterstock (Representative image) A large part of sharing mental health struggles came from manager confidence "After a series of awkward nods, it was out in the open. One of my bosses paid me some real lip service, and said if I ever needed to take therapy in office hours, that was an option for me. But after that, it felt all too coincidental that my workload had increased massively, I was getting very little feedback on my work, and if it was, it was all discouraging and negative."

After this, she took time off for stress - which was partly triggered after an incident in a meeting with all of her colleagues.

"He told me to 'talk to him, not my therapist,'" she said.

"When I came back, I was told to fill out one stress form and it was never mentioned again. My time off was only spoken about in terms of costing the company time and money."

In the end she left the job and felt "significantly happier since".

Related: Celebrities who have spoken out about mental health (Photos Services)

Needing to quit

She is not the only one who felt leaving was the best course of action either.

Kate*, 26 mirrored these sentiments and said one of the reasons she left her full-time job was because of her mental health struggles.

She told i: "I'm a survivor of sexual violence and often find conversations I hear about rape at work difficult as I work in a news environment they are necessary conversations to have, but it often catches me off-guard."

She took a handful of sick days as a result of her mental health but never felt able to tell her boss the reason behind them - if anything she felt they could be used against her.

"I felt I would be seen as weak and incapable of my job" she said.

"Last Christmas I confided in the person who hired me that I suffered with a mental illness and I didn't find the response to be particularly empathetic and felt the situation was handled unprofessionally. I also feel they have never seen me in the same way [since]."

Half of all employees are impacted by poor mental health. (Representative image) © Provided by Shutterstock Half of all employees are impacted by poor mental health. (Representative image)

Supportive workplaces

On the other hand, not all conversations around mental health in the workplace have to be as negative as these. Adam Becket, 23, felt his management had shown a great deal of support and initiative in noticing his mental health deterioration.

He told i he was initially "scared to talk to people at work" about his mental health for fear he would be "judged or dismissed". He had been struggling with deteriorating mental health for months before he opened up.

He said: "When it became clear that I couldn't just miss a morning every week with a vague excuse, or pretending that everything was fine, I felt I had to tell someone. It actually came from someone asking me about what was going on that I opened up."

After that it became "pretty straightforward" and his boss made it clear that any time he needed a break or if his mental health was impacting his work, he should discuss it with him.

He added: "My colleagues have all been really supportive, especially since I've been open about my depression and when it has been obvious that I'm going through a bad patch."

Related: 13 things you shouldn't say to someone who is struggling with their mental health (INSIDER)

Above and beyond

Becket's experiences are similar to those of Bekki Ramsay who has been extremely vocal about her workplace's successful approach to her own mental health problems.

She told i "after years of battling bad mental health, my manager at my new job at the time helped me make the first step of dealing with it, by ringing the GP".

Since tackling it, "they’ve also been super supportive since which has made me more accepting of my MH".

Watch: 6 things to avoid when you’re anxious (Cosmopolitan UK)

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