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Be honest and open about mental health in the workplace

Before joining Milk & Honey PR as client director, I was unsure whether to mention in my interview that I had, and sometimes still do, experience extreme anxiety. Persuaded by my friends, I’d set up a dedicated blog to offer motivation, support and advice to others who may be experiencing anxiety, mental health issues, low moods and a lack of confidence. I worried about whether any prospective employer would stumble upon it and decide not to take the chance on someone who could be seen, by some in the industry, as a liability. I thought long and hard about those affected by mental health issues and decided not to shy away from my own, and therefore, in my interview I was upfront and honest about my anxiety and the support I wanted to give to others. I got the job, and rather than look at my mental health as a stigma, it has been embraced as we strive to be a workplace that talks openly about how they are feeling and what can be done to ease any issues. You wouldn’t brush off a colleague with a broken leg, so why ignore someone experiencing ill mental health?

PR can be a demanding, stressful and pressured environment, especially with poor management. Mental wellbeing can be ignored to hit client or internal targets. It was after a particularly stressful time in my career, when I couldn’t eat and felt sick with anxiety, that I decided to seek help before it all got too much. Therapy helped me in more ways than I could imagine, giving me tools to use in everyday life when the anxiety pangs start to creep in. I plan to use what I’ve learnt to educate my team and, as we grow, ensure we have mental wellbeing ambassadors, who are on hand to give support and advice. I’m also planning to take a MentalHealth First Aid course in the near future – you have traditional first aiders in the office, why not mental health first aiders to help spot signs and symptoms of mental ill health?

We are a people focused organisation and will continue to be so. We advocate a good work life balance and ensure the team focus on the positive outcomes they have achieved each week, giving a sense of self-worth and purpose in their work.

Kirsty Reid

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