It can be debilitatingly lonely to live with a mental health disorder. I began my mental health journey in 2013, when I was diagnosed with depression in my final year of college. Soon after, I began publicly writing about my experience. I found that sharing about my mental health helped me and others in so many ways, especially in places where there is still a lot of stigma. People would message me and say, “Thank you, I thought I was the only one going through this.” I’ve been a mental health advocate ever since. Building a sense of shared experience and normalizing these conversations is so important.
I was reminded of the value of open communication when I first joined Google in Singapore in early 2019. I am currently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD). Because of my PTSD, situations like one-on-one meetings in enclosed spaces could be panic-inducing. Thankfully, I trusted my manager enough to share this, and she was incredibly supportive. She suggested meeting at our open cafes or taking calls from home, and she shared about mental health resources available at Google. Her compassion, understanding and guidance meant a lot and helped me find my way.
Through her recommendation, I also became an active member of Blue Dot at Google, our global peer support network that aims to destigmatize mental health conversations. In Singapore, we organize programs like mental health conferences and Blue Dot booths to raise awareness of these issues. I also spoke on an internal panel called “You Can’t Ask That,” aimed at addressing potentially sensitive questions around stigma and mental health. These programs create spaces for community, learning and compassionate listening.
I’ve learned people just want to have a safe space where they can put down their armor and be vulnerable—yes, even in the workplace. Organizations of all sizes need to place a stronger emphasis on employees’ mental wellbeing, especially during tough times, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
After working at Google for almost two years, seeing how the company approaches mental health has been reaffirming—from employee resource groups and assistance programs that offer confidential counselling to company-wide days off to make sure people aren’t burnt out. I am heartened that we also often see leaders speaking openly about their mental health, encouraging an open, supportive and inclusive work culture.
Being able to share my experience, and listen to how others are going through their journey has helped me feel less alone and find meaning. Whether in the workplace or outside, I want to tell those who may be struggling in silence: You’re never alone. Help is available, don’t be afraid to ask for it. You’ve got this!
By Atikah Amalina Zaini, Channels Diversity Program Manager