Natalie Cutler: Me, my mental health and my line manager

Natalie Cutler, Conciliator, Trainer/Adviser and Regional Publicity and Marketing Manager at Acas, discusses mental health at work.

Natalie Cutler

Natalie Cutler is a Conciliator, Trainer/Adviser and Regional Publicity and Marketing Manager for Acas West Midlands.

 

 

To echo what Abigail said this week in her blog, mental health has certainly been the landscape of my life. I would like to share what this has meant for me and how important your line manager can be in helping you navigate your way through your working life.    

I recall my first bout of depression when I was 5 years old. It wasn't diagnosed or treated because, let's be honest, what does a 5 year old have to be depressed about?! All I knew was that everyone else was so much better, prettier and more intelligent than me. This of course, was utter nonsense, but you try teasing those thoughts from a child and then convincing them otherwise. I just became known as a bit of a miserable kid.

I started working life in the midst of a full mental breakdown. The good news was that the experience helped me get the diagnosis I needed so that I could manage my condition. Work and colleagues were always there although only my line manager knew the extent of the issues I faced. She would listen, she would be available and she would never judge. She had the confidence and courage to have those uncomfortable conversations with me; and the sense to keep me accountable for my own health and performance and not to use my condition as a crutch or an excuse.

Today I proactively manage my mental health. It's not so different to going to the gym - I'm just toning up invisible muscles. I have worked hard to develop a positive mind-set. I enthusiastically embrace the good things in life no matter how trivial they may seem (such as a latte and a gossip with a good buddy or a cracking piece of work I have undertaken). That's the trick, give yourself permission to acknowledge the good things that you have done, look at all the friends and colleagues that like and respect you and rely on their judgement. You may not always "love yourself" (I hate that phrase but hear it so much) but if all those people like and respect you then just go with it!

For the line manager, you don't need magic words of wisdom or to take ownership of the problem. Sometimes you just need to listen (not as a counsellor but as a colleague), so that your staff can do their stuff and carry on at work. Sometimes it is just a matter of simple sign-posting: Do you need the GP? Are you working through it? What can I do to help? We don't need that uncomfortable pat on the back and any extra 'how are you?' questions. When it's really rocky, we just need a little more time.

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