Our founder, Sherlyn, sent this photo to our Twenty3 group chat yesterday. Along with it, she said, “Just in case anyone need psychiatrist.”
Mental health isn’t always talked about openly, especially in a work setting. Those who experience ill health fear being judged, being misunderstood or being uncared for. Today is World Mental Health Day, and this year, the World Health Organisation has chosen the theme, Mental Health In The Workplace.
This is especially close to us Twenty3 Unicorns, working with a boss who has depression. She was at the hospital for her psychiatric follow-up and has openly shared that with not only us, but also her community on Instagram. If you have been following her on @sherlyn_fitness, you would know that she lives with depression and has been for many years. She talks about the struggles and the triumphs that comes with it, with hopes of helping others understand how she feels and how important mental health is.
As adults, the workplace is where we spend most of our time. If you are not yet working, your workplace is your school, college or university. Our experience in these spaces can have an extremely big influence on our overall health and wellbeing. Sherlyn doesn’t show us her darkness but she has certainly taught us a lot about it. We are thankful to have a workplace that is so supportive, where our workmates are our friends and where mental health matters just as much as our productivity.
Here, we’d like to share some things we can do to make our workplace safer and more mental health-friendly, for ourselves and others. These are just our suggestions so feel free to give us your thoughts if you agree or don’t agree with them:
- Ask, “How Are You?”
Everyone needs to feel like they are close to, and valued by, others. We will enjoy work so much more if we walk into the office knowing the people there care about us. A simple “How are you?” can really make a difference.
Just yesterday, we had a (belated) office lantern party for Mid-Autumn Festival. We were grouped, intentionally, with others from different departments. This is so that we can connect with the Unicorns we rarely see and talk to. Together, we shared things about ourselves that not many people know of. We also talked about our happiest memories and recent struggles. We learned many things about our workmates. For example, our Customer Relationships Unicorn doesn’t eat egg yolk and our Business Development Unicorn has been having a lot of problems with her car. The point, however, was not just to get to know each other, but also to care more about each other. We all have our struggles, big or small, and sometimes all we need is someone to listen. We can be that someone!
- Ask For Help When Needed
If your workload is spiralling out of control, ask if your workmate is able to help. If you are having problems, whether work or non-work-related, try and take the step to reach out. If you feel like you need to, even if you aren’t sure, seek professional help. That was Sherlyn’s message. Don’t be afraid to seek help, even if you aren’t sure if you really have a mental health illness. You won’t know until the doctor sees you.
- Look Beyond The Surface
There is no face of mental health. A person who has depression or is suicidal might not show it. Sherlyn’s had friends who have attempted suicide and they mostly look really happy and outgoing. What goes on behind the surface? We don’t know. The happiest and smiliest person in the office could be struggling with issues of her/his own. When someone opens up to you to share their feelings, please do not say “It's impossible. You don't look sad at all.” Just listen, and be there for them. Even if you do not have the right answers.
- Go Out & Have Fun
Even better if it’s something active! Sherlyn actually made all of us do 5 leg raises yesterday before the lantern party began. Whether it’s trying a new restaurant for lunch, organising a company picnic or even a trip to the theme park, do things as a team, beyond just work. You will learn to enjoy each other’s company much more and make communication easier.
Mental ill health is more common than we think and it is time we stop being afraid to talk about it. Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, and more than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Many of these people live with both.
Sherlyn’s stories have helped us understand mental health much better and we seek to be a more supportive team within our workplace. We hope you’ll consider doing the same in yours. Even if a little, change is change. Perhaps you can start by asking your workmate, “How are you?”
If you have any more information or stories you’d like to share with us, please feel free to comment below or email our Unicorn, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The information in this article is based on our own learning and experiences. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of mental ill health, we strongly encourage you seek professional advice.