I remember a time when I was terrified to tell my colleagues that I have generalized anxiety disorder. As a high-performing professional in competitive environments, I had internalized a great deal of shame and embarrassment. Back then, it would have been impossible to imagine that I’d eventually be writing about my mental health condition on the Internet.
Yet here I am—and inviting all of you to join me in this much-needed conversation in my role as editor-at-large of Mental Health At Work, a special section on Thrive Global.
Born from a desire to create the resources that would have helped me when I was struggling, I founded Mind Share Partners, a nonprofit with the mission of changing the culture around workplace mental health so that both employees and organizations can thrive. We increase awareness, offer corporate workshops, and host peer groups for working professionals.
At a dinner event in November 2017, I found myself seated next to Arianna Huffington. She viewed our mission as an extension of her own work to end stress and burnout, which can often trigger underlying mental health conditions. Arianna immediately understood its importance and is now one of Mind Share Partners’ advisors.
We want Mental Health At Work to serve as a forum where we can articulate the full scope of business, professional, and personal implications that employee mental health conditions entail. That means we’ll be covering important topics that we rarely get to hear about: the billions of dollars that companies lose in productivity and turnover, the challenges that managers face when they feel caught between caring about people and complying with HR practices, innovative solutions that go beyond the standard employee assistance programs and leaves of absences, as well as how to manage both a successful career and a mental health condition.
Before diving into this issue professionally, even I had no idea about the pervasiveness of mental health conditions, which is very telling about where we are as a society. In fact, 20 percent of Americans each year have a diagnosable condition like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, whether they know it or not. This means that every conference call, every meeting, and every team is affected. However, mental health conditions still carry a strong stigma and consequently, often go untreated. (Read more about the realities of workplace mental health here.)
Now is the time to change the culture around workplace mental health. Mental health awareness is at an inflection point. More and more, we’re seeing actors, singers, and athletes disclose their mental health conditions. To shift the cultural dynamic, the workplace needs to be a leader, too. Mental health is the next frontier of diversity and inclusion and the related stigma is a civil rights issue that needs much more attention. Companies that create a supportive mental health culture will do good by their employees and also by their bottom line.
Since Mind Share Partners is uniquely positioned to help bridge the gap between the needs of both companies and employees though our peer groups and corporate workshops, teaming up with Thrive Global to tackle these subjects made perfect sense as we begin to build a movement around workplace mental health.
We’re starting the conversation with a series of blogs that cover important topics such as how major companies are creating mentally healthy cultures, the critical role that peer support plays for high-performing professionals with conditions, striking the right balance of office and flexible work-from-home time, and why leaders must learn to embrace their own vulnerability.
These stories are just the beginning for Mental Health At Work. We need your voices to help us lift up the realities that millions of talented employees and organizations are facing everyday. Whether you’re a C-level executive who wants to set the tone, an HR staffer who wants to go beyond checking-the-compliance-box, an employee managing symptoms, or a service provider looking to make an impact, we want to showcase your perspective.
Overcoming my fear of professional repercussions and sharing my story has been both liberating and empowering. I wouldn’t unilaterally recommend disclosure given the risks unfortunately still involved. However, the more of us who do disclose, the more our culture will start to shift. With transparency, tools, and the right treatment, I have been able to thrive. Let’s get workplaces on board and make sure that everyone has that opportunity.