We tend to think that once we come across someone who has mental health issues, it would be manageable. We would be one of the few who knows how to go about it because we have read about it online and asked for expert advice. We would be empathetic and non-judgemental. We would be supportive of that person. This is mostly true but here’s a secret. That is only possible if the person in question is properly diagnosed by the doctors. Otherwise, trust me, it is quite a challenge.
I have had the opportunity to witness two professional colleagues suffering from the same medical diagnosis. Each of them of course, presented with different symptoms. One sought medical help and is under treatment whereas the other, well, we’re still in the dark of whether there was a diagnosis in the first place or if treatment is ongoing or defaulted. Each of them managed their mental health issues differently and it is the latter colleague that got me questioning things about life.
Putting it simply, mental health issues stem from a problem within the brain. It could result from a structural defect, a transmission glitch or a hormonal imbalance. It disrupts the function of the brain thus its manifestations externally. Since the brain is the command centre of our body, it would be very difficult to control it if it goes haywire. why am I saying this? Because the contrast in behaviour is so drastic whenever the sick part of the person takes over. With reference to a person with bipolar here.
On good days, this colleague is a team player. A friendly and great employee. However, on really bad days – this colleague ignores everything. Work, courtesy phone calls, even when the big bosses call. Interestingly, this colleague seems to have ‘no insight’ that when you go M.I.A, it puts the burden of tasks and responsibility to another person on an ad-hoc basis. I couldn’t find a better word to ‘no insight’ but what I am trying to say is that when these people reach their weakest point – they are stuck in that hole and no amount of high office power could summon them out from the darkness. Unless they are on therapy and have learned ways to cope with the early signs of the condition. Otherwise, one would have to just wait for the phase to dissolve.
It would be easier for other people around this person to work around the problems, if they had known about the mental health issue. It’s like we could together anticipate when the next phase will be and that contingency plans can be implemented if the colleague goes M.I.a again. Otherwise, it would be perceived as just another worker being lackadaisical and irresponsible.
It did however made me realize one thing – that we are replaceable at work. No matter how important we are at work. If one day you end up in an accident and land in ICU, there will always be someone who is able to cover up for you.