Start the conversation; openly address mental illness at work

About 1 in 5 people experienced mental illness last year, but less than half of them received treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
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OPINION AND COMMENTARY

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About 1 in 5 people experienced mental illness last year, but less than half of them received treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

About 1 in 5 people experienced mental illness last year, but less than half of them received treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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Welcome to NC Voices, where leaders, readers and experts from across North Carolina can speak on issues affecting our communities. Send submissions of 350 words or fewer to [email protected]

Mental health in the workplace

The writer founded and runs a mental health consulting business.

The extreme stress that comes with working in corporate finance can take a toll on anyone. Add in a serious mental health condition and professional challenges can seem insurmountable.

Given the stigma attached to mental illness, I kept my struggles to myself. When symptoms flared up I bottled up emotions long enough to get through the day, then crashed when I got home. If the depression or suicidal thoughts got too bad, I took sick days. I excelled in my career, but at the expense of my family, friends and overall health.

My professional life changed dramatically in 2017 when I came out at work as someone living with a mental illness. I told my story in an article and video interview with the CEO of my division. It was published globally to a potential audience of over 300,000 employees.

My message was simple: I have bipolar disorder, it doesn’t define me or my ability to perform on the job, and it’s time we all start talking about mental health.

Mental illness isn’t some rare disease afflicting a few unlucky souls. One in five U.S. adults experience a mental health condition each year. That means over one million N.C. workers are dealing with a mental illness.

Eight in 10 workers say stigma prevents them from seeking treatment. But untreated mental health conditions can have devastating effects on employees in lost wages and costly medical expenses. For employers, there is job turnover, reduced productivity, absences and greater utilization of costly health benefits.

Simply stated: We are facing a mental health crisis of epidemic proportions. There is no easy fix, but there is one action we can all take to begin healing: Start the conversation.

If you’re an employee, check on co-workers, share your mental health needs with your manager, ask for support. If you’re an employer, create a culture where mental health can be talked about openly, invest in mental health benefits, and tell employees what resources are available. If you’re a public official, consider the role policy can play in improving worker mental health by supporting legislation and funding that helps businesses and their employees.

Sharing my story at work changed my life. If we all do our part in normalizing the conversation, then stories like mine won’t be rare.

Mark Simon, Carrboro

Equal access to reproductive rights

The members of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina celebrated Mother’s Day with heavy hearts. But we are resolved to ensure that all people have equal access to reproductive rights.

We are experiencing an attack on the right of anyone with a uterus to make their own reproductive decisions. It intensified last week with news concerning a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion indicating a court majority is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

Let’s be clear: Abolishing the constitutional right to make choices about reproductive rights does not do away with abortions. It just eliminates safe and legal procedures. And the effects will not be felt equally.

According to an Associated Press analysis, minority women, who already have less access to healthcare, will be negatively impacted most. It said: “If you are Black or Hispanic in a conservative state that already limits access to abortions, you are far more likely than a white woman to have one. And if the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to further restrict or even ban abortions, minority women…will bear the brunt of it…”

Without the legal equality guaranteed by the 28th Amendment — the Equal Rights Amendment — hostile legislators will continue to overturn reproductive rights, and also gut other laws that have brought us the equality we have. Publication and enforcement of the Equal Rights Amendment is literally a matter of life and death for millions. This is no time for silence.

North Carolina voters must understand candidates’ stances before they vote. They must write to elected officials. Tell them that reproductive rights are human rights. Everyone deserves bodily autonomy. No exceptions.

Board of Directors, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina

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