“Don’t share your problems; keep them to yourself.”
That’s what I thought my entire life. I never knew that my voice mattered.
Little did I know how much mental health would impact my life—and that I wasn’t the only one struggling.
I’ve always shied away from the spotlight, even as a child. When I had to stand in front of the class to read a paper or explain my views on historical events, I could feel my mind and body turn against me. I would start shaking, sweating and reading out loud too fast, all while my mind was sending me messages like, “Everyone is looking at you;” and, “Hurry up; you’re taking too long.”
It wasn’t until much later that I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder (GAD). Maybe if I’d learned more about mental health earlier, I would’ve sought treatment, and I could have saved myself years of struggling in silence.
I don’t want this to happen to anyone else, because I can’t be the only one who struggles with a mental health condition. Right?
Turns out, I wasn’t the only one in my family that was suffering.
My daughter Kelly
My daughter Kelly was 17 when she attempted suicide. What I thought was teenage drama turned out to be something unknown to me. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I knew how important it was to get her treatment. I didn’t want her to struggle, so we went through the ups and downs that come with being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and she participated in multiple rehabilitation programs. With the proper medication and the positive coping skills she has learned, she now leads a wonderful life and has blessed me with a handsome grandson.
While Kelly has made great strides in managing her condition, I still struggle with the events of that day. But the more I talk about mental health, the more I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only one facing these challenges. I am helping to create an environment at work where it’s OK to talk about mental health, and where we all have a voice.
Our voices matter
My disorder, along with my daughter’s bipolar diagnosis and my husband’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his time in the military, is why I am so passionate about mental health education and reducing the stigma that prevents so many people from seeking help. It’s also the reason I started delivering mental health education webinars in the Columbus, Ohio, Accenture office where I work and created the Mental Health Awareness Circle. Today, I co-lead the U.S. Mental Health Ally program with Alison Cupito, Corporate Marketing Manager, Inclusion and Diversity, and I am the Mental Health and Awareness Lead and advocate for Accenture’s Suicide Awareness and Prevention program.
When I host mental health webinars, I discuss the warning signs of anxiety, depression, PTSD and other mental health conditions. I explain how stigma impacts our coworkers who are struggling, how to start and have a meaningful conversation and the resources available at Accenture. I share my story. I also share my family’s story because again, I know I can’t be the only one impacted by mental health conditions.
Becoming a mental health advocate and sharing my experiences has not been an easy or comfortable journey, especially with the fear of stigmas surrounding mental illness. But together, we can defy workplace traditions—and became stronger for it.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. From the top down, Accenture is committed to helping its people be successful, both professionally and personally. Through continued education, ERGs and initiatives such as the Mental Health Allies program, the people of Accenture are focused on removing the stigma surrounding mental health and creating a supportive workplace environment for everyone.
Here, Chief Human Resources Officer Ellyn Shook and Tony Horan, Human Capital and Diversity Lead for the U.K. and Ireland, share their personal stories and their thoughts on the importance of opening up about mental health at work.
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