My experiences with my mental health have been with me since probably my early 20s and have come in and out of my work a number of times. The first instance, I actually became unwell and disclosed the fact that I was experiencing depression. The feedback from the organisation was just simple, "Take the time you need to get well." Came back to work, there was no adjustment in work load, no recognition of where I'd been or what had happened, and there was no support. It was just like, "Okay, you're back. Off you go." There were no policies around mental health in the organisation at all. It wasn't talked about. It was hidden.
Coming into this role, I decided right upfront to be very open around my situation and explain it to the organisation at my interview. That enabled me to feel more confident in some of the things I was doing. I took the step this time of having gone through my own journey and looking at understanding myself, understanding the signs and symptoms better, of taking the positive step and approaching my manager and saying, "I'm not well. I'm not coping very well. I need to have some time out and this is why."
They were quite understanding in terms of, yes, totally understood what was happening in that context and recognised that if I needed a break, that was fine, and to take the time out. They checked I was getting support. So, yes, I was seeing my psychiatrist at that time. I still see my psychiatrist regularly. So, they knew I had support. They knew that staying home, I wouldn't be alone and unsupported, which are the key risk factors.
So, they were checking out around those sorts of things around myself. And then, left me in a sense to start going on that journey of recovery at that time. I kept in touch with work and at a point when discussing with my psychiatrist, we agreed, yes, it would be good for me to start getting back to doing some work. I contacted my manager and said, "Yes, I'm ready to start doing some work", and we discussed how much, what sort of work. They were able to send some work home for me to do, and we managed a graduated return to work which is what the organisation has as a policy.
One of the things that managers need to be aware of is the key role they play in actually providing a culture and support for someone who may be experiencing a mental health condition. So, some of the things my, in the first role, my manager could have done was check in with me that I did have support and that things would be in place for myself.
Some of the key factors in my keeping well at the moment are around classic good health, exercise, walking the dog every morning for 45 minutes or so, trying to keep a balanced diet, and understanding that that's important for you. Making sure that I know when I have a holiday, I consciously set it aside as a holiday that relaxing away from work, away from the normal pressures of life. It's actually time out. They're important for me. On the other side, I have a regular touch base with my psychiatrist. It's finally understanding that medications are probably part of my life and sticking with them.
Disclosing to your workplace, to your manager, your colleagues that you either are a experiencing mental condition or you have in the past is a very personal decision, and it's up to each individual to make the call based on themselves and the situation they find themselves in. It's a judgement call built around your perception of the workplace and its understanding of mental health.