So, I’ve danced around this topic for a long time, both privately, publicly and semi-publicly, and at the end of the day the thing that I realized the most, is that honesty above all other things will go the farthest when it comes to your needs and especially the need of your health.
What does this have to do with the business world, you ask? Everything. Too often in the business environment, we are trying to button up our health issues, and pass them off as something else. Exhaustion, a “Personal Day,” or even (though this is slightly better) “A Mental Health Day.” While I appreciate the sentiment of this final moniker, I don’t feel like it goes far enough.
And here’s why. As business and arts professionals, we are tasked with managing a lot of moving parts that are infinitely creative, very difficult to define, and often times beyond our control. Requiring everyone to “Shut up and deal with it” isn’t going to make things any better, and discriminating against people for this is not technically illegal. It’s actually unconstitutional. See the multitude of mental health rights acts that have been passed in recent years, or perhaps just read the Bill of Rights.
So why, why in holy hell, are individuals with mental health disorders remaining quiet when help is readily available, in the form of co-workers, management, and organized systems and clinics? We are better than this. #WeAreStrongerThanStigma. I have wrestled my whole life with Bipolar Type 1 disorder.
And I’m doing pretty darn well. Fine, better than fine actually. So, in my estimate, as graduation approaches. It would be a dereliction of my duty to remain silent about the fact that mental health conditions are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Being honest about it in a business environment lets everyone know where they stand, how they can help you, and when you will be at your most and least productive. Diversity is more than just what meets the eye, it’s also what’s behind them.
So this May, as you go to work, or stay home, or consider firing someone for spotty attendance, first consider if you’re being honest with yourself, your employer, or your employees. No one can do this thing called life alone, no one works in a vacuum (except astronauts), and even astronauts aren’t going to pull a Sandra Bullock and make it through space alone, a la the movie “Gravity.”
Mental health is a working issue yes, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to step up and take care of it, so that everyone can be successful regardless, or perhaps because of their neurodiversity. We are all people, Black, White, Gay, Straight, Upside Down or Right Side Up. We are all on this planet together, so let’s make it the best, safest, and most caring environment we can. We only have one shot at this, let’s make it good.