I started facilitating corporate mental health workshops in 2018, two years before the Covid pandemic.  What motivated and qualified me to do this? 

Well, having worked as a consulting Occupational Therapist in the insurance industry for over 20 years assisting Disability Claims Assessors in determining the extent of their claimants’ functional incapacity, I became increasingly aware of the lack of understanding of mental illness in our workplaces. While claimants with spinal injuries, strokes and other physical illnesses were often being granted significant leeway thus favouring their claims for benefits and special job accommodations at work, those with depression, PTSD and other mental illnesses were often being doubted, prejudiced and unsupported in their workplaces.  I would hear statements by Managers such as, “Why don’t they just get on with things like everyone else…we all feel depressed sometimes.” and, “I just don’t get it…it’s not like they have cancer or something.” (true stories!) Needless to say, when an employee had suffered incapacitating physical impairment as a result of a spinal injury or a stroke, such insensitive and ignorant statements were never uttered.

So I decided to embark on an effort to educate working people, especially those in Human Resources departments and those in positions of leadership, about what it really means when someone has a mental illness.  Let me clarify…not just a “sad day”…clinical depression. Not just deadline related nerves…generalized anxiety disorder. To clarify further by means of an analogy…not just a “cough”…lung cancer.  After all, why should an employee that’s been afflicted by a mental illness through absolutely no fault of their own not be afforded the same amount of understanding and support as their colleagues with a physical illness?

Reducing the stigma about mental illness has always been a central theme in my corporate workshops.  Most leaders that I engage with do not believe there is any stigma about mental illness in their workplace – after all, stigmas are not good things.  However, when I speak with the employees on the floor, the story is often quite different with the majority believing that if they were diagnosed with a mental illness, they would probably keep it to themselves for fear of prejudice to the extent of threatening their career progression and even their job security.  A real question I have been asked by a leader…”How can we consider them for promotion when they might just fall apart?” I wonder if Bill Gates has ever “fallen apart” at work?  

Back in 2018, mental health at work was not talked about nearly as much as it is today.  There is a saying that behind every cloud there is a silver lining – in other words, even when bad things happen, something good can be identified.  I often say that the silver lining behind the Covid pandemic is the amount of airtime that has been given to mental health in the workplace.  People started talking about it everywhere.  Employers started saying they were prioritising it.  Would this motivate companies to start implementing campaigns to address and improve mental health of employees and to educate their leaders about the realities of mental illness?  Would all of this in turn help to reduce the stigma? 

Now we are in 2024 with the Covid pandemic thankfully behind us, and yes, everyone is still talking about how mental health matters in the workplace. But where’s the action?  Where are the campaigns to reduce the stigma?  How many employers are providing training to their leaders as per the World Health Organisation’s recommendation*? How many leaders can honestly say they know what it means when one of their team members has been diagnosed with major depressive or generalized anxiety disorder, therefore, they know what special job accommodations are indicated?

*From the WHO website:Protecting and promoting mental health at work is about strengthening capacities to recognize and act on mental health conditions at work, particularly for persons responsible for the supervision of others, such as managers. To protect mental health of employees, the WHO recommends:

Manager Training for Mental Health, which helps managers recognize and respond to employees experiencing emotional distress; builds interpersonal skills like open communication and active listening; and fosters better understanding of how job stressors affect mental health and can be managed.


When it comes to training such as the above, I have meetings on a weekly basis with potential clients.  Sadly, budget and time constraints are presented to me as obstacles that prevent implementation – never does a client openly acknowledge that it is not a priority. For example, “We really want to do Manager training for mental health, but we just don’t have the money or the time…we have so much on the go at the moment.  I’ll call you when things settle down.”  It’s like anything else in life – things you don’t have money or time for are simply not your priorities.

I would like to applaud those companies that are actually prioritising mental health in their workplace, and I am proud to have some of these companies as my clients for which I say a big thank you…you WILL reap the rewards from your investment.  However, I fear that for many, their words are merely fashion statements, the truth being that mental health is not their priority. For some, an EAP or EWP is put in place and this is considered to be “job done”…employees can take it or leave it.  My experience…many opt for the latter.

In ending, when I meet with potential clients and they ask me why they should be investing in mental health training for their leaders and employees, I see a red flag.  Some even ask me for a letter of motivation! So please, if you contact a provider of mental health training for your organisation, be sure you know why you are doing it to ensure it is worthy or your and their time.


Take care everyone.

Your Partner in Mental Health Matters @ Work



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