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Mental Health

(100 Posts)
Doodledog Tue 11-Aug-20 21:50:14

I've always thought I was fairly understanding about mental health issues, and have never been of the 'pull yourself together' school of thought.

Lately, however, I don't know if I am getting less sympathetic as I get older, or whether attitudes have overtaken me and I am out of touch and unreasonable.

It seems as though 'it affects my mental health' is an excuse for not doing anything that pushes (some) people outside of their comfort zone, and I'm not convinced that this is a good thing.

We've heard a lot about how lockdown will have had a massive impact on the MH of a generation, because they have had to stay indoors, for instance. I understand that solitary confinement is very bad for MH, but I'm talking about people living at home with families or in couples, and who could still go out for an hour or more each day. Restrictive, yes. Inconvenient, yes. But unless people are at risk of domestic violence, or are claustrophobic, how were they risking their MH? It seems to me to belittle the impact of actual MH issues to say that they were.

When I was at work (in a University), a lot of students (several every year on 'my' course alone) would expect to be excused from assessments that would cause them stress, because of the impact on their MH. This was despite the fact that others would also be stressed, but as the course required that they be examined in a particular way to satisfy the requirements of the accrediting body, they got on with it and did the assignments as written. If a student had a GP letter saying that their MH might suffer, however, then we had to find them an alternative assessment method, and could not penalise them for not meeting the requirements. These would be things like oral presentations, vivas and the like - not anything cruel and unusual! It always struck me as unfair on those who did them in spite of feeling nervous, but had to watch others opt out and take an alternative option.

I have known a lot of people - friends, neighbours, colleagues - go off sick for weeks or months because of MH issues, leaving their colleagues to pick up the slack, which will obviously have a detrimental effect on their own MH, as they have to do their own job on top of that of the one off sick. In some cases, I have felt that if the role they have is too stressful, they should not take the salary, but should leave and find less stressful employment, with the caveat that if there is evidence of bullying, or if the demands of the role are impacting others too, then the company should be required to take steps to alleviate this.

I would be very reluctant to say any of this 'in real life', or if I were not anonymous on here, as it is (IMO) becoming something that just can't be said.

What do you think? As I say, I have every sympathy with those diagnosed with MH issues - as much as I do with those who are physically ill - but I don't think that they should be used as a way of getting out of doing things that people find uncomfortable, or to allow people to take extended periods of sick leave whilst taking the salary associated with a stressful job.


EllanVannin Wed 12-Aug-20 14:48:56

I understand you too Chewbacca. That can and does become a burden on those who do " pick up the slack ".
I would say that when things reach such a point it's time to have a word in the ear of the manager as they're hopefully trained in putting things over in a manner which won't upset or discriminate that person.

Once told, it's then out of your hands. Always allow someone else to " carry the can " rather than keep quiet while doing twice as much as you should.
Go even further up if you need to do.

It's not fair that anyone has to carry someone because they have " problems ". It makes for a bad atmosphere when someone doesn't pull their weight. It's best nipped in the bud.

rosecarmel Wed 12-Aug-20 15:07:15

Workplace = stressful environment- An environment that could breed mental illness//s, create situations where coping is next to impossible, but people press on anyway for a paycheck-

At the time of hiring a person might be happy as a clam but be reduced to an emotional puddle after a year of exposure to toxic personalities, superiority, inequities and so forth-

In many work places toxic is the norm- Corporate cut-throat the norm- Task overload the norm- So when people take breaks from the situation because their brains can't take any more, I don't blame them- Their only other option to survive the environment is to be as toxic as the next guy-

Madgran77 Wed 12-Aug-20 15:21:51

EllenVannin yes, exactly. It is very much the responsibility of the person in charge and there are ways to do it, depending on circumstances , individuals and various other variables as each case is different.

Doodledog Wed 12-Aug-20 17:31:46

In my experience at work, there are those who 'power through' until they break, and there are managers and HR departments who are happy to let them do this. This is obviously wrong, and I think that there should be checks and balances to ensure that the well-being of all staff is not compromised - whether by one another or by the corporate ethos.

There are also, however, those who simply 'opt out' as soon as they don't get their own way, and these are the ones who are a problem. The manager is aware that they know the rules and policies to the last comma, and is often scared to push things in case they are accused of bullying or discrimination.

I once worked with someone who would check off on a calendar when she would be able to take sick leave without triggering the 'system', which allowed X days off in a rolling time period. I actually saw her do this. It was also 'interesting' that in the decades I worked in a system that paid full salary for 6 months when staff were off sick, and reduced to half pay for 6 months after that, I can't think of a single person who did not come back from stress-related sick leave just as the first 6 months were up. There was nothing that managers could do, even when other staff complained that they were likely to need sick leave themselves if forced to do extra work.

The final category are those who don't go off sick, but bring their MH into daily activities. They can't work extra hours at busy times. They can't use public transport to get to work when they are off sick with an injury that has left them unable to drive (true story - and this was the colleague with the sickness calendar), and so on. They 'can't do' all sorts of things that are basically part of the job but are not necessarily spelt out in the job description, and they don't feel that they should have to, as they see them as jeopardising their 'MH'. If they don't do them, someone else has to, so the burden is not shared equally.

I feel that the seeds of the final category of behaviour are sown with the 'right' to insist that assignments are altered, or contact hours changed, or whatever it might be that puts the comfort of one individual over that of the rest. If this is normalised, and people grow up believing that they are entitled to ask for as many adjustments as they like, then in the end there will be fewer, if any, adjustments made at all, which is obviously counter-productive.

I am pleased that there is a move towards inclusivity for people with mental and physical conditions of all types, but worry that being 'too understanding'** of those who are basically looking for an easy life will undo all the good work that has been done.

** I can't think of a better phrase that doesn't sound even less sympathetic.

EllanVannin Wed 12-Aug-20 17:51:08

A necessary evil, rosecarmel, but so wrong isn't it ?

Madgran77 Wed 12-Aug-20 17:55:51

If "toxic is the norm" in a workplace then that is a different to issue. an interesting and troubling issue but different

welbeck Wed 12-Aug-20 18:01:18

but to be off work sick for any length of time, one needs a doctor's note, so it can't all be lead-swinging.
also i have known staff who were told by their docs to remain off sick for up to a year in public service, so only half pay after six months.
isn't this a bit like saying everyone on benefits is up to something while living the life of riley.
a few may be. but many more do not get the support they need.
some people are basically untrustworthy. in any job or situation they are likely to be selfish, dishonest. one wouln't want them for an employee, colleague or S/DIL.

Chewbacca Wed 12-Aug-20 18:30:08

There are also, however, those who simply 'opt out' as soon as they don't get their own way, and these are the ones who are a problem. The manager is aware that they know the rules and policies to the last comma, and is often scared to push things in case they are accused of bullying or discrimination.

Doodledog are you in my office? This is exactly the situation we're having. Whilst my colleagues mental health was known at the time the job was offered to her she was keen to stress that it didn't impact on her ability to do her job. I don't think anyone expected it to be used as a excuse to opt out of tasks that she just doesn't want to do. Month end pay roll? Too stressful and she can't cope with it, even though it's a part of her job description. Management accounts report? Can't cope with that, it's too overwhelming and affects her stress levels. If pressed, she claims that "her health considerations are not being met". But it's her job and one that she applied for knowing what the job entailed before she accepted it. So we now have a department that is trying to function without its key role worker who picks and chooses which jobs suit her mental health state. And the stress on the rest of the department is resulting in bad feeling, stress and resentment.

Doodledog Wed 12-Aug-20 18:34:28

I think that if someone is told to stay off for up to a year, but go back when the full pay runs out it is ‘interesting’, particularly when the same person does this more than once on separate occasions.

I take your more general point about making assumptions though, which is why I started by questioning whether I was/am being unreasonable. I don’t want to see a return to the days when people were told to pull themselves together and show a stiff upper lip, but I also don’t like to see people being exploited by others using MH as an excuse.

The problem is that we can’t see mental illness, of course, and if we could it probably wouldn’t help, as we all have different coping thresholds.

Doodledog Wed 12-Aug-20 18:36:38

Cross posted again!

I sympathise, Chewbacca. Sadly, I have no suggestions to help, though.

janeainsworth Wed 12-Aug-20 21:13:47

Chewbacca obviously I don’t know the size of the organisation you work for, but it strikes me that there’s a performance management issue there.
Someone should be appraising your colleague, perhaps referring them to occupational health & dealing with the fact that they are incapable of doing the job for which they are being paid.
As I understand it, employers have to take reasonable steps to accommodate employees’ physical and mental health conditions. But the other side of the coin is that employers can have reasonable expectations of their employees. Doing the job which they were employed to do is a reasonable expectation.
But the bottom line is that the effective functioning and/or viability of the organisation takes precedence over an employee’s rights, & if an employee’s behaviour jeopardises that, an accusation of unfair dismissal would be successfully rebutted.
Doodledog Thank you for starting this thread - what an interesting discussion.

Iam64 Wed 12-Aug-20 21:42:39

Doodledog, thanks for starting this discussion. I agree with your OP and so much of what others say.
I was trounced on another thread recently when I made a comparison between the sadness that follows difficult life events and clinical depression.

I agree with others who say what can feel like the glib over use of the term mental health problems, diminishes those who live with schizophrenia, psychosis or clinical depression. EllanVannin makes the point that the some of the patients on the wards she worked on were so mentally ill, they were beyond using the term.

Anniebach Wed 12-Aug-20 21:53:04

With respect Iam you spoke of grief as sadness

sodapop Wed 12-Aug-20 22:11:24

I know how you feel about picking up the slack Doodledog I came across people like this during my working life. In the end I accepted that I would always be a conscientious worker and go the extra mile, if others chose to work the system that was for them to have on their conscience ( if any ) it was no good me fretting over it.
Seems to be a common problem in the public sector.

Furret Thu 13-Aug-20 13:15:39

I think Iam there are three levels here possibly. Those who are struck with schizophrenia, psychosis or similar. Those who have suffered a devastating blow, such as the loss of a child. And those who are winging it?

A question not a statement.

Kate1949 Thu 13-Aug-20 14:18:50

In my case, none of the above. I believe that my problems (severe anxiety) are caused by an horrendous childhood and subsequent traumatic events for me and in my family. I used to feel such a whingeing wimp. On reflection, I don't think anyone who has been through the things I have been through would come through unscathed.

Kate1949 Thu 13-Aug-20 14:20:33

I worked for over 40 years and never took a single day off sick, with my anxiety, despite feeling horrendous some days.

Bellanonna Thu 13-Aug-20 15:21:24

I recall what you have said about your childhood, Kate, and well done to you for coming through it to become the responsible and caring adult that you so clearly are from your posts. ?

Kate1949 Thu 13-Aug-20 16:01:05

Oh thank you Bella . That's really not how I feel about myself. You always have something kind to say when I am whingeing on. Lots of brave people on here.

Madgran77 Thu 13-Aug-20 16:41:14

Kate949 you never come over as "whinging" to me! flowers

Kate1949 Thu 13-Aug-20 16:54:38

Oh thank you Madgran

Puzzled Sat 12-Sep-20 16:20:31

We may not realise it, but the present conditions in UK re Covid 19 is affecting all of us.
Me? I will need a course in anger management!
Those who have been scared into not leaving their houses need, and will need support.
It is not just the economy and people's physical health that is being affected.
All sorts of people that we would call "normal" are showing signs of anxiety ranging from slight to extreme.
We need to help and reassure them wherever and whenever possible, even if it just a phone call, E mail or a short visit..

BrandyGran Sun 13-Sep-20 09:46:16

Yes it's normal to feel sad low down worried frightened happy joyful- all normal emotions. Real depression is a condition that is in a DIFFERENTleague to any normal feeling - that is when you know something is badly wrong and you must seek help.
It's certainly not something that you can turn on and off when you feel like it!
From roughly 1990 s we entered the Age of the Excuse ! Before that you had to get your work in on time at school or the work place! That has now crept into the excuse of having MH problems.

EllanVannin Sun 13-Sep-20 10:05:18

I so agree BrandyGran. Having worked in and seen MH at its worst in a secure mental hospital ( asylum in the 50's ) there is one heck of a difference in a few " MH issues " and really sick people and all this codology over some who profess to have such issues makes me really cross.