Michelle Dickinson is a Wellbeing Strategist and passionate mental health advocate. She is also a TEDx speaker and a published author of a memoir entitled Breaking Into My Life . Michelle goes first and sees herself as the bridge that helps people get comfortable with their mental health so that they reach out and get the support they need before they hit a crisis. She makes it ok to not be ok and thrives on making a real difference in the lives of others – especially around their wellbeing.
After years of playing the role of child caregiver to her bipolar mother, Michelle embarked on her own healing journey of self-discovery. She went on to spend years working to eradicate the mental health stigma within her own workplace by elevating empathy and compassion, causing more open conversations, and leading real change in how mental illness is understood. She was instrumental in building the largest and fastest growing employee mental health employee resource group while at her fortune 50 company.
She also knows first-hand what it feels like to struggle with a mental illness after experiencing my own depression due to her divorce. This has provided her with a rich perspective.
Michelle is out to do her part to eliminate the stigma by normalizing the mental wellbeing conversation within the workplace and beyond. She partners with innovative leaders to bring them her Psychological Resilience programs and mental health strategies to recenter employees and cultivate cultures of compassion. Her signature Resilience webinar has made a positive impact on thousands of employees during COVID-19.
Who is Michelle Dickinson?
Michelle grew up with a mom with bipolar disorder and this experience shaped her life deeply. This comes full circle after a career in the pharmaceutical industry Michelle was invited to give a Ted talk about loving her mother, and that Ted talk opened Michelle’s eyes to the power of storytelling and later led to her memoir.
As an adult, Michelle also suffered from depression and that gave her another perspective on mental health. After her corporate job was restructured, Michelle decided to start her own company to help organizations recenter their employees and their mental health.
The Stigma of Mental Health
The biggest silver lining of the pandemic has been the increased awareness of mental health. Unfortunately, the CDC says that 1 in 3 people now suffer from depression or anxiety now because of the pandemic.
From a company level, people can stop offering a 1-800 number and hoping the person calls and instead lead by example. When the leader talks about their own struggles with mental illness it sets the tone for the whole company. Organizations should also help people get comfortable with brain health so the stigma is not a barrier to getting care.
Leaders have a responsibility to go first. If the CEO can be open about their mental health, it opens the door for other leaders in the organization to do the same. For junior leaders, it’s a matter of listening to people in your team and establishing a trusting relationship where they can share their experience.
We should have environments where we are bringing our full selves to work and feel comfortable and safe doing that.
If you want people to show up to the best of their ability and feel appreciated for their contributions, an environment of collaboration and trust is what you should be cultivating. There is a correlation between bottom line results and trust and openness.
88% of Americans leave work feeling like their employer doesn’t care about them. Whenever Michelle delivers her program, the results of the session are that the people felt cared for by their company, and those people remember that. There will probably be a shift in talent away from companies that dropped the ball during the pandemic and the ones that showed they really cared.
As an individual, what should you be doing in the workplace?
Mental health is a continuum of wellness and we need to stop relating to it as a binary state. People should be checking in daily with their mental wellbeing and if necessary, reach out to a friend before your mental state declines. If you’re in a work culture that supports you, reach out to your leader.
Leaders come to the table with a number of biases based on their own experiences with mental health issues. Leaders need to take the burden off of themselves of feeling like they have to fix another person’s problems. You can simply listen, empathize, and show compassion.
Oftentimes, people don’t want to admit to themselves that they are suffering. It’s vital that you have the courage to slow down and reflect on how you are doing. We generally focus on taking care of our physical health, we should include our mental health in that as well.
If we can shift cultures in the workplace, we can shift culture at large. Any major change needs to come where people spend the majority of their time.
As a leader you need to go first. You have the power to show people on your team what is possible on the other side of darkness, which is hope. By being human yourself, you give permission to other people to be human as well.
You have the ability to control your mind. Above all, be comfortable with being not okay. Monitor yourself and audit how you feel, implement routines into your life that make you feel good, and when you are suffering have the courage to reach out to someone.
The worst thing you can do is ruminate on your pain. The moment you speak to someone and get out of your own head, you diminish the power of your pain.
If you notice a behavior change in your colleague, be the person they need. have the courage to check in on them and don’t assume that someone else is checking in on them. You don’t have to fix them to listen.