How 3Mers are breaking through mental health stigmas and getting the support they need
Nov 2, 2020

It goes without saying — 2020 has been an especially tough year. From managing work-life balance to parenting while working from home, each person has their own unique set of struggles that can make day-to-day routines and activities feel even harder to navigate. For some people, anxiety, depression and other mental health struggles are worsening. Others might be tackling them for the first time. These mental roadblocks can make you feel alone, but you’re not: one U.S. survey found that 31% of surveyed adults were struggling with symptoms of anxiety and depression due to pandemic stressors.

Working professionals from other parts of the world are dealing with these issues, too — some long before the pandemic began. Because these individuals have had to work through mental health disabilities before, they’re equipped with skills and knowledge that help them cope when things get tough. By speaking openly about their struggles, 3Mers are breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health disabilities, and helping others understand what they can do to take care of themselves.

Don’t be afraid to: talk about it

In some cultures, family units or workspaces, mental health can be a taboo subject, but many people, including Peter Garin, U.S. national inside sales manager located in Saint Paul, Minn., have found being honest with yourself and opening up to others can help. If you find yourself judging your own feelings, it’s important to find ways to steer yourself into a different mindset. “It’s not a character flaw, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain,” says Peter. Peter has dealt with his mental health for most of his life and remembering that his struggles aren’t anything to be ashamed of has helped him become more self-assured.

If you’ve never shared your mental health struggles with friends, family or coworkers before, it can feel daunting to start. However, there are lots of ways to go about it if you’re feeling nervous. Appeals Specialist Amara Martinez, who writes testimonies for Medicare hearing and appeals, is located in Dillon, Mont., battles anxiety and depression and recommends speaking to a primary care physician first. “While a lot of people can manage [mental health] on their own, when it’s something you’ve never dealt with before, it can be confusing,” she said. “A lot of times, primary care providers can help you find counseling or try medication. You can ask them questions about how to talk to friends and family, or how to seek support from friends and colleagues. After that, you’ll be better equipped to talk to friends and family about mental health openly.”

When you’re having an especially rough day, being kind to yourself can make a world of difference. “You have to remember to be gentle with yourself and others,” Amara said. “People [struggling with their mental health] often think there’s something wrong with them, but there’s nothing wrong with you. Be kind to yourself. Meet yourself where you’re at.”

Don’t be afraid to: ask for support

People who’ve struggled with anxiety or depression for many years are often able to gauge when they can manage their feelings on their own and when they need extra help. When the pandemic began, Gladys Laarni Buniel, a customer operations manager based in the Philippines Global Service Center, sought out support from friends and coworkers. “It was very difficult,” Gladys said. “We had very little mobility. We couldn’t exercise, go out or have visitors.” Before the pandemic, Gladys, who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, would go to the gym and practice yoga to take care of her mental health. When she couldn’t do her normal self-care routine, her symptoms worsened. “I was having panic attacks at least once a week, and I couldn’t sleep. It was really a challenge.”

Despite limitations, Gladys found ways to connect with her friends and coworkers — even when she couldn’t see them in person. “I’m lucky to have a strong support system at 3M with my boss, my co-leads and my managers. We have virtual engagement sessions every Friday, where we play games with teams from other departments, host health and wellness programs or host e-socials after work,” she said. “Another 3Mer is one of the closest friends I have, and she checks on me every now and then. Those little things matter to me, and it keeps me going. It’s easier to manage these problems if you’re open with the people you work with.”

Just like it’s important to have an understanding ear at work, having someone in your personal life who can help you get through tough days can make dealing with mental health problems easier. Amber Nielsen, a human resources representative based in Columbia, Mo., leans on her husband to help take care of things at home when she needs space to take care of herself. “When the pandemic started, I became more rigorous with my self-care schedule,” Amber said. “I needed to prioritize the things that make me feel better.” Amber shared that she is better able to manage her depression when she’s open and honest about what she needs to do to take care of herself. “My husband knows how to support me — sometimes that just means making dinner and taking care of the kids when I’m having a bad day,” she said. “My manager is also super supportive. I can let her know when my schedule is overloaded, and she completely understands.”

Don’t be afraid to: try new coping strategies

Getting out of your comfort zone can be just that — uncomfortable. However, you might just find a new skill or habit that helps. Gladys turns to yoga when she starts to feel anxious. “Mindfulness and grounding activities are really helpful,” she said. “Be present and engage your senses. Appreciate the smells, sights and sounds around you. It is incredibly calming.”

As soon as the pandemic began, Amara knew she would have to adjust her mental self-care routine. “I sat down and made a list of things I like to do that didn’t require a lot of interaction,” she said. She’s been able to adapt many of the things she enjoys, like painting and hiking, to pandemic restrictions. Amara has also found meditative practices helpful with controlling her mood. “The first thing I do when I wake up in the mornings is wake up, keep my eyes closed, and monitor what feelings I’m waking up with. Am I waking up with anxiety? Am I waking up with depression? If I find I'm more anxious or more depressed, I immediately meditate for 15 minutes,” she said. “That self-care is extremely important.”

Don’t be afraid to: take advantage of your resources

Each of these 3Mers have one mental self-care tactic in common: Utilizing the resources made available to them through 3M. Peter and Gladys have both used 3M’s Employee Assistance Program, which offers confidential counseling and professional guidance for individuals considering their mental health care options. Amara uses FlexAbility, a program designed to help 3Mers make a work schedule that fits their lifestyle, to work in the morning and help her kids with distance learning in the afternoon. Using the resources your company offers can make getting help quicker and easier.

Whether you’ve been struggling with mental health for several weeks, months or years, managing anxiety and depression can always be a challenge. These days, it’s especially important to keep the conversation going. Breaking the stigmas associated with mental health starts by talking about it with friends, family, coworkers and supervisors. Opening up to trusted individuals can not only help you cope but can help others feel emboldened to share their struggles and get the help they need. “Talk to somebody — the worst thing you can do is hold it all inside,” said Peter. “You don’t have to do it alone.


If you are interested in working for a company that offers resources to support your well-being, visit our Careers site

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