Advocacy Report by Sarah Rollason-MacAulay, CCYP Fellowship Program. Click to download.
How can Manitoba’s youth who experience anxiety disorders be better supported at their workplaces? A resource for both youth suffering anxiety disorder while employed and erstwhile employers.
When a psychiatrist finally diagnosed me with anxiety at age 10 it was a relief. Until that moment I had no idea what was happening to me.
I went from being a happy kid to constantly feeling scared when it came to school and feeling as if I had the flu most mornings. I began consistently missing school in grade 4. It was not until after multiple visits to the doctor and multiple tests that found nothing wrong with me physically, that the idea that it might be anxiety was brought up.
Once I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I started down the very long path of different doctors and years of therapy to arrive at where I am now. When I received the diagnosis, I felt lost, hopeless and frustrated, and these feelings persisted for many years.
I was embarrassed that my brain was working against me.
I felt like I couldn’t function the way “normal” people could, and I was embarrassed that my brain was working against me. I was lucky enough to have a support team of my parents, medical professionals, and school staff. Many people do not have a good support system and can fall through the cracks.
It was not until after graduation that I started I was still dealing with panic attacks, which were affecting me and causing me to miss work. I was unfortunately not in a position where I felt I could tell my managers or coworkers that I had anxiety because I felt that if they knew, I would never advance in my job, which in turn caused more anxiety.
The first workplace where I felt cared about my mental health was Kate Spade New York. Management genuinely cared and showed it in their actions. I watched a supervisor have a panic attack and she was given the space and time she needed, she was not punished for it and it was treated as if it was no big deal.
When I had a panic attack and had to go to the back room, I was told to take a few more minutes and make sure I was okay, as against being rushed back to work. It was eye-opening how management decisions could make a difference for an entire workplace.
When I managed a virtual summer camp in July and August of 2021, I realized how many of the youth counselors were dealing with anxiety and mental health problems. I wanted to create a healthy workplace that encouraged discussion about mental health and was adaptable to my employee’s needs.
I will never be ashamed of my struggles as they have helped make me the person I am today. I decided to
pursue this topic because I wanted to find out what could help others who are or will be in the position I once was, and I hope this research informs other parties who are in this boat.
ABOUT CCYP's FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM
Through CCYP's Fellowship Program, Fellows are exposed to policy, research, leadership, academic writing, evaluation, systems thinking, public speaking, and more. It also provides youth with access to the workforce development industry, while at the same time serving as a means of adding more youth perspectives to the advocacy work at the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity.