As part of the CMHA Mental Health Week #GETLOUD campaign, I interviewed Isaac on managing mental health in the workplace. Isaac is an individual who I have been working with to obtain and retain employment.

Ashton: Tell me about your experience with managing mental health in the workplace, can you share your struggles and success?

Isaac: I used to be really shy about telling people that I had a disability. I would be afraid that I would get fired if I told anyone so initially, I would try to hide the disability.  If I didn’t know what I was doing, I would go to another co-worker and say, “ Look, I don’t understand that, could you please show me how to do it?” I looked into getting some help with work because when I wasn’t with CAES and doing things on my own, I found it difficult to manage my mental health.  I just wanted someone by my side to back me up! Support from you guys has made me feel like I can do it! Now that I have you guys, and you guys can use your magic words and say, ‘”Hey, this guy has a disability.”

Ashton: Are there any areas surrounding employment that you find it difficult to manage your mental health? (Job search, Interviews, orientation, on-boarding, etc.)

Isaac: I find job search and matching my personality and my abilities to the perfect job challenging.  I know the things that I am good at because I have been doing them since I was like 7.  But without support from CAES, I would be afraid to move forward in finding a job on my own.

Ashton: What kind of support or accommodations have you sought out to assist you with managing your mental health? Or how do you manage it on your own?

Isaac: I would ask co-workers or my mom for help. I wouldn’t ask for accommodations, I would first ask for extra help from a co-worker and if they can’t understand my disability, then I would lastly go to the boss.  The less you bug the boss, the better!  Then I got employment support from you guys.  I had a couple of incidents working at Boston Pizza and the Bay where I couldn’t figure out equipment for a month, but was afraid to ask for some help. I have gotten mad and said things like “…listen, it’s not my fault that I can’t learn things as quickly.” But with support from you guys I know that I can ask for help and don’t have to get frustrated.

Ashton: What is some advice that you could give to others who may be struggling with managing their mental health at work?

Isaac: I would suggest to someone that is struggling with their mental health or a disability that doesn’t feel like they have a voice, to ask their co-workers for support and figure out who you can count on at your workplace.  Listen, don’t be scared to ask questions and even though we aren’t Americans, we still have freedom of speech and can speak up and just ask for some help!  Are you working with an agency? If not, you should be!  Now that I have figured out how to approach people about my mental health and with the support of you guys, I don’t get nervous anymore when starting a new job, I get excited because I know that I’m a hard worker and I love work and to be honest, having support with my mental health from you guys has put me at ease and I wake up and I feel motivated!”

Ashton Bennett

Since receiving my BA Degree in Psychology from Mount Royal University, I have worked with a number of different mental health organizations throughout the city. For the past 5 years, I have had the privilege of being a part of the Calgary Alternative Supportive Services team, first as part of the Day Options Program and now with the Employment Program. As Calgary has been my home for over 15 years, I am passionate about the city’s artistic talent, cultural richness, its eclectic individuals, and giving back to the community in any way I can.
Ashton Bennett