Strong women cry too
Over the past 38 years, since I started working full time I have endured discrimination, bullying, and sexual harassment in the workplace and thought that I had put those horrible things behind me, but I didn't, I did a great job of covering up my sadness. My depression started after losing my job while on maternity leave and I subsequently lodged a claim with the Industrial Relations Commission for unfair dismissal. I was the first woman to test the laws for unfair dismissal when it came to women being either pregnant or on maternity leave. My case went to court and the proceedings endured for two days, it took another two months before the decision was made by the judge. In total it took over a year and a half from lodging my claim and then finally receiving the judgment. The judges' findings were damning towards the company I worked for and I subsequently won my case but the toll it took on me was immense.
During my time with this company I was the only woman working in a department of almost 20 men that in itself was difficult to navigate.
Many of the companies I worked in over the years I endured not only bullying but also sexual harassment. I copped it on the chin and just put up with it, I never made a formal complaint as the majority of the harassment was from management. It saddens me greatly that this is something that is still a huge problem in a lot of companies today including our highest office, Parliament house in Canberra.
When it comes to the workplace many people are treated badly and the pressure to work longer hours and have no regard for people's lives and family commitments outside of work is something companies need to have much more flexibility for. If your staff are happy then your profits will rise. Working people harder is not smarter and ultimately not productive.
Life is full of so many challenges and obstacles and we try hard to deal with them and 'Get on with life'. Sometimes it all becomes too much and it's hard to 'Move on'. I use these cliches as I have had them said to me on many occasions. The only ones who don't say them are people who know what it is like to deal with mental health issues. Everyone has obstacles in day-to-day life and we all deal with them is different ways but when it comes to our workplace, somewhere we spend so much of our life, we tend to hide how we feel as we want to keep our job. So many people don't take time off when they are sick, even with just a simple cold, as they are so concerned about losing their job.
God forbid if we had a mental health issue. Most would simply continue working and not speak about it with anyone. Sad, but very true.
The last eight years of my life have been the hardest but the most rewarding at the same time. Trying to 'find myself' again was a constant challenge, admitting to myself I needed help and accepting I had mental health issues was the best thing I could have ever done, not just for myself but also for my Son, whom I adore. I am happier now than I have ever been but I know you have to keep a check on yourself and not fall back into a dark place.
I am considered to be a strong woman but I can assure you that I don't always feel that I am. Even though I have managed to change my life in so many ways and had the strength to do it. If I had asked for help earlier my depression would not have been so bad. Dealing with your mental health is an ongoing commitment, like keeping good health, eating well, and exercise, it's all about maintenance.
In a world filled with so many pressures like work, family, mortgages, and bills we may feel like we are just on a merry-go-round and can't get off, but you can, you just have to admit that you are not in a good place and get the help you need.
Unfortunately many companies, in fact, most, do not know how to deal with mental health issues and they are most likely to be the cause of them. They may have policies and procedures in place but they are usually just words on a piece of paper and rarely followed.
Workplaces need to deal with mental health issues so much better as ultimately it impacts on the business. The recent Government Productivity Report stated that the cost to the Australian economy of mental ill-health and suicide is, conservatively, in the order of $43 to $51 BILLION per year.
With the current major changes we are all experiencing now in the world with Covid-19 our mental health has never been more important.
Businesses all around the world need to be a major part of dealing with this ever-increasing issue. Talking about it and not hiding it under the carpet is urgently needed to help businesses flourish and to improve the world we all live in.