What image comes in to your mind when you think of mental health? And, does that change when you think of it in the workplace? There is still a substantial taboo on the subject and many  people are uncomfortable speaking about it largely due to a lack of informed knowledge.

Recently, several high profile celebrities have come out as suffering from mental health issues – including Stephen Fry, Mel Gibson, and David Walliams. In fact, data shows that in the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. Often people are in denial and do not seek help or treatment. Think about that… are you one of these people? If not, look at your colleagues around you now – it could include one or more of them.

Also, 1 in 6 employees are likely to experience mental health problems such as anxiety, stress and depression at any one time. If those employees had better support systems and networks in the workplace – imagine the long term results. Higher productivity, higher sales, and a more healthy profit and loss balance.

Aside from my day job, I co-lead CDAN in EMEAR – Connected Disability Awareness Network. This includes a sub-team working on mental health in Cisco.   The work of this team is largely the result of a colleague’s personal experience with mental health issues.  This colleague has experienced  problems since their teenage years and has recently been diagnosed with anxiety depressive disorder – which includes symptoms of low self-worth, loss of interest and enjoyment, depressed mood, anxiety, and poor concentration. When they joined Cisco, it became their  ‘dirty little secret’ and it was rather a large elephant in the room for a long time. They became adept at hiding it, fearing they would lose their job if it came out in the open.

How you would respond if you discovered a co-worker or team member had similar issues? Would you know where to go to get support and how to help the individual? Who would you go to with your questions and/or concerns?

This individual eventually took the brave decision to disclose their condition to their manager and told their  manager what their condition was and how it affected them. They say that this risky decision turned out to be one of the best they ever made. None of the imagined fears materialised and they had nothing but support from their manager and from HR.

There is a training session during MoreTogether week on 21 Mar on ‘Healthy Mind’ by the Business Disability Forum which I encourage you to attend. An hour out of your day will provide you with an expert learning opportunity to answer the questions you’ve probably never had the opportunity to ask. Whether you’re a manager or individual contributor, let’s remove that elephant from the room and become more informed as a company.   Join the MoreTogether Week community to register for the session.

Please share any comments here.

Cath Puddick


Laura Earle

No Longer at Cisco