Content note: this post discusses mental health issues.
People don’t talk about mental health enough especially conditions that can show in the workplace. When the stigma around mental health exacerbates an already challenging situation, and access to help is limited, you may feel you should simply ‘continue as you are’.
Our colleagues may be dealing with mental health issues on a daily basis that we're unaware of. By being open and supportive we can begin to recognise and remove the stigma around mental health.
Sharing a personal experience
At PDS we regularly host presentations by experts in digital transformation, technology and service design. Recently we were offered the chance to hear from someone talking about something totally different, mental health and imposter syndrome.
I had only really heard imposter syndrome discussed in BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities outside of work. A lot of people of colour face a disparity between what they can do in reality and what years of oppression have convinced them they can't. It’s not just confidence that’s affected, it can creep into other aspects of your life. It can develop into depression, body image disorders and anxiety. So I was interested to find out what Gavin Elliott from the Department of Work and Pensions had to say about his own experience. Here's what he shared with us.
Gavin experienced a similar pattern. From his childhood until very recently the imposter inside him controlled his life. Gavin spoke candidly about his depression and anxiety. How it started and then spiralled.
His father left his family at a young age, leaving him with an emptiness he wasn’t sure he could fill. When he got a job and then married, he found himself spending all of his waking hours proving his worth through work. He was followed by a voice telling him he didn’t belong where he was because he wasn’t good enough. It told him he was cheating his way through life.
Identifying the impostor
The best thing Gavin did was pick up the phone and talk to a professional about what was happening to him. He was able to confront the impostor by speaking with local mental health services. He could recognise when it was trying to sabotage him, challenge it and begin to rebuild his life.
Gavin told us that the important thing for anyone in this situation is to acknowledge your weaknesses. When you can identify and accept them, you can move on with your life.
Mental health in the workplace
Gavin's advice is to talk to your colleagues openly about how they are without being invasive. If you can recognise that they might be suffering from impostor syndrome or they raise the issue themselves then you can work with them to address the challenging moments in their work life. Remember that there are also lots of professional resources available.