Is your organisation sharing mental health stories?

The more people share stories about their own mental health challenges, the more it becomes normalised in the workplace.

That’s the position Dan Mcardle took, Head of Water Services Contracts at Severn Trent Services, when he shared his mental health journey on an internal podcast this year.

Since the podcast, people have reached out and thanked him. Some have even gone on to share their own stories, which has helped to break down barriers and remove stigma.

By sharing his story externally, Dan hopes other organisations will do the same.

Dan’s story of mental health

When Dan was 15, his dad got a new job. So, his parents moved Dan and his two younger sisters from their home in north-east England to a new home in Scotland – three hour’s drive away.

This was a big move for Dan. He left behind family members and friends. And what’s more, the schools in Scotland were one academic year ahead, so he was forever playing catch-up.

Dan explains: “I really struggled to fit in. I couldn’t establish the same type of friendships I’d had back home. I felt isolated with very few friends, so I came back to the north-east as often as I could.”

Almost a year after the move, things got too much for Dan and he had a breakdown. This resulted in him moving in with his grandparents and shortly afterwards was prescribed anti-depressants.

Dan adds: “My Mam and Dad were distraught that I’d left Scotland. And even though I was back in the north-east – where I wanted to be – the rest of my family weren’t with me.

“I had this internal tug of war going on inside my head. I constantly questioned whether I’d done the right thing. I convinced myself that I’d let everybody down. I felt guilty for leaving my parents and sisters behind. It was all too much.”

Dan developed anxiety which has never gone away. Although now he’s a dad himself, he’s full of admiration for his parents, who selflessly allowed him to live where he wanted to be.

“Even today, the anxiety has never really gone away. I can be having a fantastic day, and then something will suddenly change. I start to feel sick and worried, and I really don’t know why.

“It’s a feeling that temporarily stops me from being happy or excited about things. But at that moment, I never quite understand where it comes from or why.”

Find a listener in your organisation

When you’re experiencing mental health challenges, while trying to juggle your job and homelife – what can you do?

Dan says he’s found people he can trust in Severn Trent Services who he can talk to about how he’s feeling and why: “I don’t always speak to family members. But there are several people at work who are fantastic listeners. I often use them as sounding boards and it really helps.”

Another thing Dan recommends is asking your colleagues how they really are: “Often, people will tell you they’re fine. But if you ask them again, they might just open up.”

Share your story

Dan hopes that other organisations are also encouraging their employees to talk about their own mental health challenges to help boost wellbeing in the workplace.

He sums up: “After reading this article, I’d like to think that leaders in other businesses might feel inspired to tell their people about their own struggles.”