Dear managers: Acknowledge what is happening

Robyn Morris

An unsupportive work environment can leave someone with undiagnosed mental health issues feeling trapped and alone. It’s time managers step up and use their position of power to start a workplace dialogue on mental health. 

“Have courage and be kind.”


One Sunday morning, I realized just how much a work environment could affect your mental health. On this particular morning, while everyone else did artistry training, I was forced by my manager to sweep and mop the floors…three times. On the third time, I was told my efforts were not good enough. I was ordered to get on my hands and knees and scrub the floor.

Where I work is not tiny.

I was shaking, holding back tears, the contents of my stomach about to come up. This was a personal attack on me. I felt lost and hopeless because there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t just quit.

Like most people, those with mental illness need to work to pay their bills, rent, student loans etc. I was no different, working full-time to support myself.  I began to feel trapped, with no escape because I needed the money.

Imagine being in a workplace like this, a place that doesn’t support your mental well-being.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada says “on average, over 500,000 people will not go into work, per week, because of mental illness.” Yet, in many retail and entry-level jobs, mental health is not considered an excusable reason to stay home.

Statistics Canada found those who consider their workday “quite a bit” to “extremely” stressful are three times more likely to have a depressive episode compared to those with general to low stress.

Here are three things I do to promote a healthy work life balance:

  • Jump in a hot bath. Better yet, add some Epsom salts. According to stress expert Andrea Rosanoff, stress depletes our magnesium levels. Low magnesium creates stress in our bodies with numerous health effects. Epsom salts are a relaxing way to bring those levels back up, allowing both our body and mind to relax.
  • Hit the gym. An article by Calm Clinic says, exercise releases endorphins which regulate mood and help relax the mind. That means working out may have a similar effect to certain anxiety medications.
  • Cuddle my cats. Mental Health America says in general, animals are known to lower blood pressure and the stress hormone, cortisol. But did you know they also boost oxytocin? Oxytocin is a hormone that helps stimulate the feeling happiness. J

The lack of acknowledgement towards how a work environment can effect someone’s mental health needs to be talked about. Managers need to focus on creating a culture of respect in their workplaces. Employees should feel confident that their mental health is not a sign of weakness, or a threat to their job security.

Managers need to step up, educate themselves and support their staff when they need it. Don’t stand by and allow a negative working environment.

Photo credit: Robyn Morris