An old friend of mine, a former colleague from my teaching days in Lancashire, got in touch with me this week.
Her son, Jack, now 12, was experiencing anxiety and panic attacks about school.
Because Julie is a teacher, where absence for personal mental health struggles is often frowned upon by school leaders, and her husband Gary is in sales, she wasn’t sure what to do about Jack, her son.
It is a real dilemma isn’t it?
I know that I’d put my children first constantly, just as Gary and Julie want to, but if there’s bills and mortgages to be paid, and you have a less than sympathetic boss, you know it’s going to be problematic.
Obviously one answer is to alleviate Jack’s anxieties and panic attacks, but having suffered personally from both, I know there’s no magic wand that can be waved to cure such problems.
Time and talking obviously help – but how would you feel, and I’m assuming you’re parents, about leaving a 12 year old at a place – Jack’s high school – that is causing this young man so much heartache?
I personally think any decent employer would show some flexibility – I know if one of my colleagues was having mental health issues themselves or with their family, I’d empathise and take some of the load and suggest solutions.
Obviously, these bosses of Julie’s and Gary’s aren’t as enlightened and they can feel the Sword of Damocles is breathing on their employment necks.
If Jack had broken his leg, fractured his arm and required parental care, I reckon that leave would be granted, don’t you?
But a broken mind, that can’t be repaired with a plaster cast, elicits zero workplace empathy or sympathy, it seems.
What would you advise Julie and Gary to do?
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