Earlier this year, I experienced a mental health crisis. I spent five nights at an in-patient program. This was followed by over six weeks at a partial hospitalization facility, which required me to attend from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It also required me to do hours of mindfulness and other exercises each day. I could not work. I was suicidal and suffered from major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
As a long-time advocate and supporter of mental health initiatives in the workplace, and mental health education through the International Foundation, I now found myself deep in my own mental health struggles. As much as I talked about the importance of eliminating stigma, it was different when I was the one going through it. I felt guilty for not working and embarrassed for being weak rather than resilient. I worried my colleagues would think I was trying to game the system and not work. These are some of the challenges that those with mental illness face.
I am fortunate to report that because of the excellent care I received at a specialty clinic and the amazing counselor I found through an online therapy program, as well as the right medications, I am now thriving, doing better than I was before this incident. I now have the appropriate tools to deal with the OCD that has been negatively impacting my life for over two decades.
I am also extremely fortunate because of the unbelievable support I received and continue to receive from my employer . At every step of the way, everyone has been extremely compassionate and accommodating. Every time I felt guilty and tried to put my work first, my supervisors told me I needed to instead put myself first, and they meant it. They wanted me to get better and helped me see that while work is important, it is not the most important part of my life. I cannot overstate the impact this had on my security, well-being and ability to cope. I knew they were sincere when they said they would give me all the time I needed to get my life in order.
Similarly, my co-workers showed me incredible support through this difficult journey. I never felt like I was judged but rather given sincere support. My co-workers picked up my workload and made it clear I needed to focus on myself. I also learned the importance of having a home rock and a work rock. My wife has been unbelievably supportive and has been my home rock for many years. I couldn’t have made it through this without her. Our CFO is a great friend and was always available when I needed someone to talk to. He is my work rock and, quite possibly, the most emotionally intelligent CFO on the planet. Our volunteers whom I work with often also reached out to provide support. I also have a wonderful family and group of friends who helped me get through this and persevere.
As mental health challenges continue to grow in a world that seems increasingly uncertain, it is critical that organizations provide the support structures that employees need to be more resilient and successful. I am proud to say I work for an organization that supports its employees at their lowest points. Find out how your organization can be as supportive as possible at the Mental Health in the Workplace Today Virtual Conference, September 14 and 15, 2022.
We have all endured a difficult couple of years. If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, see and share these tips from experts, and read about the effectiveness of exposure and response prevention (ERP) in this article. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is a new mental health hotline to text or call: 9-8-8. Learn more here. If you live in Canada, you will find a list of suicide hotlines here. Also, visit the new website Talk Suicide Canada, formerly the Canada Suicide Prevention Service.
Organizations and society at large must do more to support those suffering from mental illness. Our Virtual Conference in September will provide important tools to help. Ultimately, it takes a village to get someone through a mental health crisis. Your organization can be a leader in this space. Join us in September to find out how.
Bryan Zoran, CEBS
Director, Educational Programs—Canada, at the International Foundation
The Latest from the Word on Benefits: