A Whickham woman who suffers from depression and faced discrimination at work has spoken about her battle with mental health.
Alison Rathmann worked as a strategic human resources manager at a manufacturing company but after telling them about her condition life was made very difficult for her.
The 41-year-old was forced to resign from her job.
But, she has now taken on a new role at Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) and is supporting staff suffering from depression, anxiety and stress.
Alison said: “I’ve had few episodes and my mother-and-law took her own life about five years ago so I have really struggled with that and the depression and anxiety.
“I was working as at a very serious level and suffered depression there.
“It was very serious and had the crisis team involved. The organisation handled that very, very badly so I had quite a sever breakdown. I ended up being on long term sick.
“I took them to an employment tribunal claiming disability and successfully claimed against that.”
Alison is now working as an employability support assistant with YHN.
The company has been part of a new programme started by the newly launched Be Centre for Wellbeing at Mea House, Newcastle.
YHN saw a 73% increase in men taking sick days due to anxiety, depression and stress in 2016/17 up to 1,731 compared to 996 the previous year.
She said: “They have been absolutely fantastic in the way they have supported me. They have flexi-time so if I need to take some time out if I’m feeling unwell I can use it for that and make up the hours at a different time.
“My salary has halved but my wellbeing has doubled. I feel supported by the organisation. I feel it is okay to say I’m coming in late tomorrow because I have a counselling appointment.”
And, she has become part of the company’s mental health first aider programme. If staff want to talk to someone there is a list of trained people they can contact.
She said: “So you can contact a mental health first aider the same way as someone has physically hurt themselves.
“We are not there to offering counselling but what we do do if some is experiencing distress is just to listen to them.
“We can tell them about the service the GP offers, the crisis team, the Samaritans, and depending on the severity supporting to get them the right help they need.”
Alison said stigma in the workplace is beginning to change.
“The more we talk about it, the more normal it becomes,” she said. “People are becoming more accepting of it, though mental health awareness is still lagging behind other ‘protect characteristics’.”
Beverley Elder, YHN strategic HR manager, said: “We wanted to focus more on mental health at work. Our sickness absence has been rising in terms of stress, anxiety and depression and it is a problem.
“We thought people might be masking their symptoms and people maybe calling in with something else, but the work of the group and the initiatives we have introduced has resulted in staff ringing and saying the actual reason which is a positive step forward.”
Source : Chroniclelive