IMPACT@Work: Power Dynamics and Corporate Conduct (Anonymous)

What happens when your workplace touts itself as being mental-health friendly, and emphasizes the importance of empowerment, open communication, support and diversity, but misses the mark in reality? What happens when you’re the only one to realize this, and you’re forced to address power dynamics and unfair practices while dealing with your own mental health concerns?

This post is written anonymously, because we unfortunately still live in a world where there are consequences to speaking out against organizational injustices, and the repercussions of speaking publicly are too costly. That does not make this story any less important or valid; in fact, the opposite is true. 



IMPACT@Work: Managers and Mental Health

When thinking about the changes that need to happen to make mental health a more acceptable topic at work, we often consider the high level changes that need to happen in company policies to make our workplaces more accepting. The idea is that the macrocosm of driving better corporate policies and laws will in turn have a trickle down effect and impact our day-to-day work lives. We are a long way from that happening, and there are great initiatives by larger mental health organizations spearheading this change. What I want to focus on today, is the reverse of this idea.


IMPACT@Work: Sidney S. Billings – Certified Protection Officer

Sidney and I connected through LinkedIn a few months ago over one commonality: we are both passionate about being a Mental Health Advocate, and will have the tough conversations needed to drive change. When I approached him about IMPACT@Work, he was eager and open to share, and genuinely wants to make a change in the world. His story is one that many people share, and it is a story that we need to collectively work to change so that no one else is forced to feel like they have to hide. 

My first experience with negative remarks towards my mental health issues was in 1988 while I was working in Ottawa.
While in hospital to discover exactly the diagnosis of what I had, it was determined at that time I suffered from ADHD. This devastated me. I was scared to tell my employer and when I finally did, the response was less then acceptable.
The management labeled me crazy. Some of my co-workers called me dumb, stupid, and I felt like an outcast. 


IMPACT@Work: Toxic Culture

Over the past decade, the concept of “Corporate Culture” has become an increasingly relevant factor in why people choose to work where they work. I imagine a person would be hard pressed to find an interviewer or interviewee that doesn’t bring up the topic in an interview, and there are more and more stories of people turning down hefty salaries or leaving jobs because there wasn’t a good culture fit.


IMPACT@Work: Brad McKay – First Responder

Brad McKay is a retired veteran with 33 years of service with York Regional Police. Brad co-created the York Region Critical Incident Stress Management Team in 1996 where he holds a position as advisor to the executive and alumni team lead. Brad started the Operational Stress Injury Prevention and Response Unit for the York Regional Police and lead the creation the Peer Support Team there in 2014. As a Certified Trauma Services Specialist, Brad has responded to and coordinated over a thousand interventions for front line responders and their families. He leads Trauma Recovery Groups, provides peer support in a weekly first responder yoga program, provides clinically supervised peer support. Brad is a Team Lead, for the Peer and Trauma Support Systems with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. He recently co-authored “Walk the Talk” a peer support systems guide with Syd Gravel. 

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IMPACT@Work: Workplace Safety Hazards

During the first week of any job, by law, you are usually asked to review and acknowledge the common workplace safety hazards to ensure your safety at the workplace. For office jobs, this can be reviewing ergonomic sitting positions, or best practices to get up and move about to avoid neck/back strain. For jobs in warehouses or manufacturing facilities, it’s much more in depth about creating a safe workplace. What all of this training has in common is the fact that they pertain only to physical health. There are generally no considerations about potential risks to your mental health, or what can be done to manage and mitigate those risks.


IMPACT@Work: Kaylee Houde – Career Coach

Kaylee Houde was one of the first people I approached to be a part of IMPACT@Work. Having followed her professional journey after briefly meeting each other in university, I knew she had a great story to tell, and from the moment I brought the project up, she was enthusiastic and willing to contribute thoughtfully and honestly. 

Follow Kaylee here: WebsiteBlog | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram

Kaylee HoudeCareer Coach & HR Professional (1)

Site Life & Mental Health at Work

I know a lot of people who claim their work-life and home-life are completely separate. Others say that they are a completely different person at work than they are at home. This cognitive dissonance is not sustainable for me, and I believe the world of psychology would argue that it is not typically comfortable for anyone.

Photo by María Victoria Heredia Reyes on Unsplash

Today I am going to share a story about mental health in the workplace, and the difference between forcing myself through days that were not aligned with my values and purpose versus the alternative.

The Red Flag

I should have seen it coming. It was about a month after the corporation announced that I would be part of a divestment that the first red flag showed up. I felt pretty uncertain about my future. All I knew was that in a few months time the corporation that I was relatively fond of would no longer be where I showed up for work. I would report to a new boss, at a new company, with a new culture and performance structure, and I had limited choice in the matter. I could either accept the acquiring company’s offering, or go somewhere else. There was no in-between.

The red flag occurred as I was frantically building my network, out of this place of fear and uncertainty, desperately grasping at any connection I had and could find as a safety net. I had set up a meeting with a consulting company, an information interview, on a Friday afternoon. What happened, however, was totally out of my character. I did not even show up. For some reason I felt that I had not formally confirmed the date and time, and simply deleted the meeting from my calendar.


Photo by nick hidalgo on Unsplash

I was clearly in a bad place, because I live and breathe by my calendar. I never miss a meeting, and I am rarely late. This time, I totally blew it. The lady texted me to let me know she was on her way, and I called her back blundering about my mistake and clearly sounding like a tool. She proceeded to send me a condescending e-mail about waiting until I was ready and knowing what I wanted in life. It cut deep.

I felt this sinking and sickening feeling in my stomach, and I accepted my fate. I was going to go work for this company that I knew nothing about, and at least give it a shot, because I clearly was not ready to act as an adult about my emotions in the real world.

A Handful of Months Later

When I started with the new company, I realized the one thing I could control were my thoughts, actions, and responses. However, this too seemed to be gruelling at times. I was in a new environment, with new clients, and my team was in various states of disarray fixing employee data and just getting base-business up to par. I told myself I would give the position 6 months, and if I still was not happy, I would do something about it. Thus, I put a smile on my face (however, fake) and kept plugging along.

I was in around the 3.5 month mark when I was told I would be based at a remote location going forward. I had a month to set myself up for a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) schedule whereby I would work 4 days up at camp, and have 3 days off, indefinitely. I was not thrilled, but I decided to give it a go.

It was NOT good.

Less than 2 weeks into this rotational work and I was fatigued, anxious, and starting to show signs of depression. It did not help that my team was often not available, with closed door meetings or being spread all over the site. It did not help that the work I was doing seemed tedious and meaningless to me. It did not help that my clients were stressed out about the initiatives and policies that I had been tasked to roll-out. But, what was the kicker, was how all of these things combined with my FIFO lifestyle really impacted my wellbeing.

I would dread Monday mornings, my internal dialogue saying things like, “What is the point? Does life mean anything? Who am I? What am I to do? I am stuck. I am not worthy. I am not respected.” I felt scared and alone. 

It was all a bit more manageable before, when I could go home to my boyfriend and rant about my day over a cup of tea and some couch cuddles. It was manageable when I could snuggle up in my bed at night and get a decent sleep. It was manageable when I had energy to balance my work with the things I really liked to do evenings and weekends.


Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

With site life, and a FIFO work-schedule, it was a different experience:

  • I would get up at 3:30am (how ungodly?) every Monday morning to make it to the airport on time for my flight to site.
  • I would spend 6am-4pm as my formal working hours, 4 days per week, but as we all shared dinner in a big hall I was usually engaging with the same clients and/or colleagues well into the evening without reprieve.
  • I would get gawked at for being a decent looking female at the site, I could barely go for dinner without turning heads even in a baggy hoodie and my hair in a bun. I won’t even get into the gender inequality, that is a story unto itself!
  • I would be too tired from this schedule to do much of anything Friday-Sunday at home, as I would spend Friday running all the weekly errands and doing laundry and would sleep most of my weekends away in despair.

And so you have it, my job was officially bleeding into my wellbeing in a way I never thought possible. I was becoming unrecognizable, not interested in doing anything anymore, and was truly unhappy.

The Breaking Point

It was a Thursday evening, at 7pm my flight landed, and I was starving from my 10 hour day. I staggered to my partner’s truck where he picked me up and asked me what I wanted for dinner. We went to my favourite pho restaurant, and he tried to engage me in our usual conversations about the week. I was short tempered and barely responded coherently.

In the truck after our meal, he asked me what was wrong and pointed out that I was being, “Kinda a b*tch.” He was right, too. I was being awful to this man that I love and call my life partner.

I said, “I honestly don’t know, I don’t think I can do this anymore… the money just is not worth it.”


Photo by Xavier Sotomayor on Unsplash

Those were the words, “The money is not worth it anymore,” that stuck with me.

When Sunday night finally rolled around I had impending anxiety about my upcoming week at camp. I could barely breathe, and was shaking with despair. I was attempting to cry myself to sleep when my partner asked me what I was going to do. I said, “I am taking a mental health week to reflect and decide what is next for me.”

And so, that is exactly what I did. My doctor gave me a note excusing me from a week of work, I spent the week searching the job market and applying on 30+ jobs, I went to the gym and concluded that I would put in my notice. It was the only way forward that made any sense, and that I had full control of.

Never Looking Back

Oh, and since then, the anxiety has lifted and all those signs of depression seem like a distant memory. I still cannot believe how unhappy I was only a few months ago, and how different my life is now.

Everything has completely changed.

The part that worries me, however, is that a lot of my colleagues are still there – pushing through an environment they are not happy with, but to what end? Do they do it to get a year end bonus and some stock options that won’t make them any happier? I fear a lot of people put up with the fear and anxiety without knowing their options or what is out there. They put up with workplace abuse, because they do not know their own worth in the market. Or, when they go to that second round interview they do not ask the tough questions about culture and values.

Mental Health at Work

It is with this experience that I have realized work can play a significant role on one’s mental health. In fact, it could be for the better or worse, depending on where you work and their care for people.

The fact of the matter is, that after a certain income level incremental income is less and less associated with happiness. That is right, research shows that money does not buy happiness, especially after a certain base-level. And yet, we stay.


Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

I have a seriously demanding job today, run my coaching business part-time, and am also taking online classes. Yet, I am the happiest I have ever been. For me, it is because these items are aligned with my values as well as my purpose and personal growth aspirations. I am the busiest I have ever been, but I am learning things I care about and making an impact every day. I am on a journey that fits with who I am and what I care about, and it is so inspiring to wake up every day excited to do something!

My good friend Ameera Ladak says, “Your workplace health and happiness depends on three things…

(1) Your workplace culture and policies
(2) Your manager and how they implement them
(3) The nature of your work”

I agree, these three pieces of the puzzle have a huge impact on your workplace happiness, and when all three are out of whack or misaligned with your values, well, happiness is fleeting at best.


Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

I encourage you to do a values check the next time you’re having a bad time at work, and if you do not know yet what your values are, let’s define them together. That is why I now devote my life to career coaching: to help others wake up with purpose and happiness and to reach their full potential every day. I do this to ensure workplace happiness is a priority, so that action can be taken. I do this to ensure your Sunday evenings and Monday mornings are just as mentally healthy as every other day in your life.

Let’s work together.

“Be the change” – Mahatma Gandhi

Keep on sippin’

Kaylee Houde
Millennial Tea

Dear Past Me #BellLetsTalk

Last week, I published a piece about anxiety that I wrote when I was 17 called “I had anxiety before I knew I had anxiety”. It was written two years before I began to understand the way my mind works. If you haven’t read it already, you can read it here. For #BellLetsTalk, I wrote an open letter to myself, and today I’m sharing it with you. 

Dear Past Me,

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the tools I have now, and I’m sorry that shame made you suffer in silence for too long. I blocked you out for as long as I could, until your words somehow found me. Even though you were a shell of a human, built on lies that society forced you to make a reality, you persevered. I want you to know that you grew and became stronger, and shed the skins you never wanted. I want you to know you’re still shedding them. But more importantly, you’re doing what you can to be unapologetic for who you are.



I am SO excited to announce a new project I’ve been working on, called IMPACT@Work. A branch of off last year’s initiative, The IMPACT Project, IMPACT@Work addresses how our professional lives and mental health are undeniably intertwined.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen mental health become a more approachable conversation with friends, family, and other people I interact with. What has progressed at a snail’s pace is the presence of these conversations in a professional context.

According to CAMH, 39% of people in Ontario would not tell their managers if they had a mental health concern, and 64% would be concerned about how work would be affected if a coworker had a mental illness. These facts are not okay. IMPACT@Work is here to change these statistics.

Employee mental health is not the sole responsibility of the employee – it falls to the employer too. Even if we speak crassly in pure dollars, the cost of mental illness to companies is estimated to be upwards of $6 billion every year (CMHA).

IMPACT@Work will explore mental health at work in a number of different ways, including:

  • The impact of our careers on our mental health
  • The impact of our mental health on our careers and professional development
  • What workplaces are getting right when it comes to supporting people, and what they are getting wrong. The “workplace” involves three separate realms, that all need to work together to support employees
    • The company as a whole, through policies and culture
    • The employees’ direct managers and their attitude and support
    • The nature of the work itself, and the mental health issues that can be brought on by it

There are SO many stories out there, and I can’t wait to share them with you over the coming weeks. From HR professionals, to first responders, every contributor has a unique story, and each one will inspire action to make our workplaces a more inclusive space.

If you’re interested in being involved, either publicly or anonymously, please reach out to me at, or contribute anonymously here.

Our stories deserve to be told, and it’s time to hold employers accountable for making workplaces accessible to everyone.

Keep Surviving by Living.

I had anxiety before I knew I had anxiety

I am often asked when I first started dealing with my mental illnesses, and I generally go on a tangent of how it started when I dealt with conversion disorder and subsequently depression at the age of 19. Anxiety, however, is generally an after thought that I mostly considered an unsurprising side effect of my high-functioning personality, crippling depression and other mental health issues. Until now. A few weeks ago, I was transferring files from an old computer of mine to a new one. I stumbled upon my old high school papers and decided to read a few of them, just for fun. Nestled in the literary analysis and Shakespeare essays was a file simply labelled “anxiety.docx”. It was penned at 11:37pm in early 2012 – almost a year before I was officially diagnosed with a mental illness. I don’t have any memory of writing this, nor do I remember dealing with anxiety in high school. My mind had blocked it out. So here it is, my 17-year-old self’s take on anxiety, and also the first time I ever wrote about anything mental health related…six years ago.