“Improving Your Allyship as a Leader: The Importance of Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences”

Over a decade ago, the author had to take a leave of absence from work due to generalized anxiety disorder and depression. They believed that their career was over, but drawing from examples of other leaders who had successfully navigated through similar challenges, they found hope. This experience motivated them to found Mind Share Partners, a nonprofit devoted to changing workplace culture around mental health. As they shared their story, they realized that everyone had a mental health story, not just celebrities and athletes who had been vocal about their struggles. The workplace also played a critical role in facilitating social change and promoting mental health challenges and support.

Mind Share Partners works with organizations to help leaders share their own mental health stories and promote more open conversations about mental health in the workplace. The organization believes that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools to promote change and normalize mental health challenges. The “Leaders Go First” campaign encourages executives to share their own stories and includes videos and companion playbooks based on years of client work. Personalizing mental health initiatives such as training and awareness campaigns can improve retention and foster a culture of openness.

When leaders at all levels share their personal stories, it reduces stigma and normalizes mental health challenges, demonstrating that it is possible to succeed and thrive while navigating through these challenges. Mental health issues can impact anyone, regardless of seniority level or position. It is important to create a safe space in which employees can feel comfortable discussing their mental health and seeking support and treatment.

If leaders decide to share their mental health story, they should consider the audience and the context. They can choose to share live, in person or virtually, in writing, or through recording. Leaders should focus on their own story rather than someone else’s, be reflective, and offer constructive lessons. Mental health experiences are intrinsically tied to identity markers such as gender, race, ethnicity, etc., and it is important to name them. A hopeful tone encourages workers who may be currently struggling and legitimizes their challenges.

In conclusion, the workplace plays a key role in promoting social change around mental health. Leaders at all levels should share their mental health experiences, creating a culture of openness and fostering a safe environment that encourages employees to seek support and treatment. Personal stories and identity markers should be included to encourage reflection and promote constructive change. It is important to create a safe space in which conversations around mental health can occur and to maintain a hopeful tone that encourages workers to seek treatment and support.

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