‘Depression doesn’t define me’: HR professionals share their mental health stories


We asked for your personal experiences of mental illness in the workplace, and your responses show HR isn’t afraid to end the stigma.

People Management is on a mission to ‘end the stigma’ around discussing mental ill-health at work – and since the launch of our tumblr at the beginning of August we have seen some frank, honest and compelling accounts from HR professionals sharing their experiences of mental illness.

You can read extracts from a selection of submissions below, and share your own experiences on our site, to help continue this honest discussion about the impact of mental health conditions on working lives.

Sue, retired public sector L&D professional and chair of CIPD North Yorkshire branch, in her 60s

“In the beginning, and for many years, when I had to be off work I asked my doctor not to put the word ‘depression’ on my medical certificate, and I told people at work that I was stressed out because of a heavy workload – it seemed more acceptable that way. I was embarrassed that this was happening to me. Eventually I had to admit that I was suffering with depression because one employer, who shall remain nameless, started to harass me because of all the time I was taking off work. I was a senior L&D manager at the time and my work record was excellent, but that didn’t save me from ultimately being dismissed on capability grounds.”

Dan, HR adviser in the education sector, in his 30s

“I’m not sure what’s ‘wrong’ with me – although something probably is. I’ve not been formally diagnosed, but I experience anxieties around cleanliness and contamination, and bits and bobs of rituals and magical thinking. So probably somewhere on the anxiety/obsessive compulsive disorder spectrum. I’ve had these feelings for about 12 years, although the severity of them comes and goes in waves.”

Alexa, HR business partner, financial services, in her 40s

“It has taken me 20 years, two periods of postnatal depression and one six-week period of ‘work-related stress’ absence to be able to accept that I have long-term mental health challenges that I need to manage to ensure it doesn’t manage me. Through self-referred EAP-provided counselling I have learned about my triggers and stressors – which are linked to my quest for perfection and also the emotional investment I make wanting to ‘do a great job’ – but I also realised that the person I work for is critical, so when I am looking at a new role I am definitely interviewing them to ensure no ‘critical parent’ attributes are present!”

Ell, HR adviser, education sector, in her 30s

“The hardest thing I find now is that a lot of my friends just think it was a phase, and now I’m fine again. Depression doesn’t define me, but it is and always will be a part of me and I’m not ashamed of that. I want to share my story to try and help overcome the stigma that still prevents people from openly talking about mental health, especially for colleagues who work in the HR sector.”

B, Head of HR, heritage sector, in her 40s

“I’m so glad you have created this site, and included your recent article in People Management. I have worked in HR for over 20 years, and have dealt with and supported many employees and their families through some quite serious mental health issues. What has always struck me is what happens to HR professionals when we need help? Who do we turn to get support and understanding? People knock HR as a profession, but my experience is that we are an incredibly resilient, pragmatic and empathetic tribe, and I think it is wonderful that we can share experiences and, I hope, offer each other support when we are in need. Thanks again for allowing the HR mask to slip… it’s about time!”

Story via – http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/08/03/quot-depression-doesn-t-define-me-quot-hr-professionals-share-their-mental-health-stories.aspx

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