The HR Juggler

The 25% Club: Why The Silence

Posted on: February 8, 2013


This post is part of the 25% club series dealing with the topic of mental health, particularly as it relates to the workplace. Some of the posts, like today’s, will be anonymous, others will be accredited – all have a powerful impact and help to shine a light on a topic that we need to talk about so much more than we currently do. It is also true that these posts have been difficult for people to write and perhaps even more difficult to send in. Today’s post is an example of someone who has left much out, but still has an incredible amount to say.


I’ve cut a lot of my first draft. In replying, I mainly wanted to pipe up and explain why I have never spoken up about having panic attacks. I’ve been ok for a long time and can’t remember the last time I had one. Right now, I feel a fraud for writing this because I am fine – but at one stage my panic attacks were so bad I would avoid staying away at friends, or even at my parents’ home. Ironically, work is/has been like a safe-haven. Being at work helps because I am distracted and focused on something.

There are 3 reasons why I’ve not spoken up:

1. I have responsibilities. People rely on me – at work and in personal life – and I don’t want anyone to think they can’t rely on me or for them to ever think “I had better not ask X, just in case”. When someone lets you down there’s a fear they’ll do it again isn’t there? When my panic attacks were at their worst, I would think I couldn’t quit because I’d be unemployable, and I daren’t speak up because what if I ended up sidelined? Then what … I guess that’s common to a lot of people? 

2. I don’t want friends or family to worry for me or be upset. Ultimately, there isn’t much they can do, and then there’s the embarrassment amongst friends (for both me and them). I tend to be private. I know my panic attack will pass eventually. I will fail to convince myself that at the time, but it is a fact – it doesn’t last.

3. I have private health insurance (!) Nearly every day of each year I am fine, but not a day passes that I’m not reminded of a panic attack. I feel in control and this isn’t a problem. So it won’t be an issue for any insurer, but I’m afraid I would lose any argument if it came up and don’t want to have to explain any of this to anyone to justify my cover. For a while it was this last point more than anything else that made me pause and question should I really put something in writing for all to see?

The first two are probably the same for a lot of people. The third one… that’s just me.

I had written more, but I’ve struggled with what I want to say and how, in a large part because it has been a long while that I’ve suffered (touch wood) and trying to recall how I felt and what was important to me then (rather than retrospectively). Also I think my situation is very mild compared to others.

I shall hit send now. I don’t know who this helps or how. All my thinking and writing my draft has helped me stop and consider how/where I am. “Courage” and Lorna’s post are thought-provoking, important pieces and I hope these will help people consider their views to work, stress, wellbeing, people outside of work … Thank you


If you care about mental health and want to make a difference there are lots of things you can do

  • visit Mind’s website and check out their excellent corporate resources
  • take the ‘time to change’ pledge
  • share your story and read those of others as part of this blog series. If you would like to contribute, please get in touch with me on Twitter (@AlisonChisnell) or through the comments section of this blog
  • we are forming an #HRforMentalHealth team to fundraise for Mind by running the Royal Parks half marathon in October. Register here if you’d like to join us – we’re a friendly bunch with some first-time half-marathon runners joining us :)

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