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Speaking up for mental health – the power of sharing your story for mental health in publishing

Updated: Jan 25


Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but, importantly, you are not the rain.

Matt Haig


Mental health plays an essential part in your wellbeing. It's a fundamental aspect of everyday life that affects everything we do. Yet, mental health is still subject to incredible stigma, making people afraid to speak up when they're struggling – especially in the workplace. This is a major problem, as 1 in 8 people worldwide live with mental disorders.


Two years ago, I lost my father after he suffered from health troubles his entire life, shortly followed by one of my closest friends. I've struggled with mental health troubles including anxiety for most of my life, but their deaths elicited a pain unlike anything I'd ever experienced. That overwhelming grief was a catalyst for a further struggle with my mental health. The support I received during that time made a huge difference in how I got through it.


We're all human – we all go through things that affect us mentally and emotionally, but it's so easy to feel alone when you're in the throes of mental health struggles.

To reduce that stigma, it's so important to talk about mental health. There's also a lot of power in sharing your story and what you're going through, especially in the workplace.

How can you support your colleagues or employees with their mental health? The first step is to talk about it.


Join us in this post for Mental Health Day 2023 to discover more about statistics on mental health in the workplace and how sharing your story can play a significant role in helping combat mental health troubles.


Trigger warning: this post contains a discussion of mental health and references to death and suicide.


Mental health in publishing - key statistics

A concept of mental health with a cutout of a head and crumpled pieces of paper

So, what's the current state of mental health globally and in the workplace? Let's break it down.


  • In her keynote for the 2023 ALPSP conference, Elizabeth Gadd shared an alarming statistic: 40% of PhD students are at high risk of suicide due to the pressures put on researchers by unrealistic and constraining metrics.

  • Around 700,000 people lose their life to suicide.

  • The 2022 Australian Publishing Industry Workforce Survey on Diversity and Inclusion found that 35.4% of those working in the publishing industry experienced mental health conditions – this is in comparison to the 25% UK average.

  • Half of respondents to the 2022 Publishers Association UK survey reported that they have experienced mental health issues while in the industry.

  • In the same survey, only 31% of people said their colleagues knew about their mental health struggles. 41% of respondents' line managers knew about their mental health challenges.

  • Also in the UK, the number of university students who usually live in the UK that reported a mental health condition to the university has increased since 2010. It was over 5% of students in the 2020/21 academic year. These rates are even higher when answers are confidential – a 2022 survey from Student Minds found that 57% of students have a mental health issue, and 27% have undiagnosed mental health conditions.

  • 81% of Gen Z and Millennials left their jobs due to poor mental health in 2022.

  • 59% of people said that they felt their mental health condition damaged their chances of career development. 68% said that they felt disclosing their condition would harm their professional reputation.

These statistics are alarming, and they not only impact a person's wellbeing but also influence their work performance. Some side effects of mental ill health in the workplace include:


It's time to take action, and sometimes, the first step is to remove the stigma and talk about it.


The power of sharing your story


A group of people sitting in a circle at a group support session

Sharing your personal experiences can be daunting. The fear of judgement, of people's perspectives changing, and the vulnerability it brings can be a terrifying prospect. Sharing your experiences and giving people the space to talk about mental health is not a band-aid – it won't automatically fix any given person's mental health challenges.


However, it can reduce the stigma around mental health, and provide essential support that can make a tremendous difference.


Sharing our stories can also be an empowering way to connect with others and help us to feel less alone.


A study of eight participants attending a Telling My Story course found that:

The findings suggest that storytelling can be a highly meaningful experience and an important part of the individual's recovery journey. They also begin to identify elements of the storytelling process which might aid recovery, and point to pragmatic setting conditions for storytelling interventions to be helpful.

Kate Nurser, Imogen Rushworth, Tom Shakespeare and Deirdre Williams

2018


There's a reason why peer support groups can be an effective recovery method from many mental health challenges. In a blog post for Mind, Rajvi shares her experiences of a peer support group:

Things I was ashamed of and felt guilt for were common in the group. It was a profound and powerful experience.

Rajvi, Mind

2016


Of course, some people may feel more comfortable sharing their experiences in the 'outside world.' What about in the workplace?


Facilitating mental health storytelling in the workplace


Some people may feel apprehensive about sharing their mental health struggles in the workplace. Despite significant changes over the years, there's still a tremendous stigma around sharing that you struggle with mental health with your employer. Employees may fear that their work would be judged for it, negatively influence their career trajectory, or even experience disciplinary action.


Employees may feel more accepted and open to sharing their feelings in the workplace by opening a dialogue. This can begin at the leadership level. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Kelly Greenwood shares the tremendous impact of leaders sharing their mental health experiences with their teams:

When leaders of all levels share their personal stories, it reduces stigma and normalizes the ups and downs of being human — especially as a high-performing professional. This type of role-modeling positions vulnerability as a strength instead of a weakness and shows it's possible to succeed and thrive with a mental health challenge. In fact, in Mind Share Partners' 2021 Mental Health at Work Report in partnership with Qualtrics and ServiceNow, C-level and executive respondents to our survey were actually more likely than others to report at least one mental health symptom.

Kelly Greenwood

May 2023


Organizations are ensuring that mental health conversations are happening within scholarly publishing. This includes the formation of the SSP Presidential Taskforce. There is also the Publishers Association Inclusivity Plan that aims to encourage publishers to follow 10 commitments for better inclusion in the workplace.


What can we do to foster an inclusive environment for those with mental health challenges?


A group of people smiling and clapping in support for each other

Knowing where to start when facilitating a workplace where employees feel comfortable coming forward about their mental health challenges can seem challenging. Organizations must start by showing their staff that they care about their mental wellbeing and create a safe place for openness.

Organizations need to send a clear signal to staff that their mental health matters and being open about it will lead to support, not discrimination. A simple way to communicate this is to explain that mental health will be treated in the same way as physical health… If you take proactive steps to create a more open and supportive culture, over time staff should begin to feel more confident to talk to managers about their mental health.

Mind


The Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) outlines some things that organizations can do to support their employees:


  • Introduce workplace wellbeing programs, including private counselling or access to mental health apps like Headspace. At The International Bunch, we have a private counsellor who we can go to when we're having a hard time.

  • Encouraging good people management.

  • Notice the signs of mental ill health early: sending managers or a designated individual on mental health courses, such as Mental Health First Aid, can help people to identify the early signs of mental ill health in their coworkers and help them find support.

  • Promote a healthy work life balance.

  • Provide flexible working opportunities.

  • Giving employees the opportunities to have time for their mental health – it’s just as important as physical health!

  • Review workloads and other potential workplace stressors – 42% of people list excessive workloads as a cause for work-related mental health issues.


Let's start the conversation


If you live to 80, you'll spend a little more than 13 years of your life in total in the workplace. We spend so much time with the people we work with, which makes it even more important that we know how to support each other. If you see a coworker who's struggling, don't be afraid to open a dialogue, and the same in the reverse. It may be just what you need to feel less alone.


If you're struggling with your mental health, don't be afraid to seek help if you need it. Explore some organizations that can help you:



Want to learn more about other topics, including inclusivity in marketing, taking care of your wellbeing and more? Check out our resources:


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