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• May 17, 2024

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and TD is focused on building greater understanding so that colleagues feel encouraged to share their mental health journeys and be met with respect and support. Below, two TD colleagues share their stories in the hope that they may inspire change and help others to be more open about this important topic.

Growing up, Tracy Hepburn struggled in school.

At the time, she never understood why it seemed she had more difficulty than the other kids when it came to paying attention. She was bullied by her classmates for being different. She remembers being labelled as "disruptive" by her teachers and would often be sent out of the classroom into the hallway because she was distracting her classmates. It wasn't until she was in the eighth grade that one of her teachers discovered that Hepburn couldn't read, and she was diagnosed with dyslexia.

What Hepburn didn't know at the time, and wouldn't learn until she was in her 30s, was that she was struggling with undiagnosed mental health challenges which contributed to her lack of focus and behaviour issues in school. In fact, it wasn't until she was an adult working at TD that Hepburn was officially diagnosed with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

"At the time, I thought I was a bad student and didn't understand why I couldn't keep up with my peers. I did not realize I just needed help," Hepburn reflects.

Today, Hepburn is a Business Operations Officer at TD in Port Stanley, Ont., a small community West of Toronto on the shores of Lake Erie. She has been with TD for 19 years and has worked in several departments, mostly focusing on loss prevention and credit cards. Before coming to TD, Hepburn primarily worked in customer service jobs.

Throughout her career, Hepburn said she felt like she was often "faking it until she made it," but that she never felt comfortable reaching out for help with her mental health challenges. After working with TD for many years, she took the first step to seek the support she needed by reaching out to an assistance program for employees and found extensive resources and tools that helped.

"There was never a specific incident that inspired me to take that step," Hepburn said. "It was just this growing sense that something felt off with my mental state, and that I was at a point in my life where I was ready to take action and get some help."

Hepburn chose to prioritize her mental health. While she felt some reluctance to step away from work, she was fortunate to have support of her team and her people manager. She sought out treatment, tools and medications that worked for her and helped make all the difference over the next three years.

"I knew I wanted to get back to work, and eventually I did make it back, because I had the tools — I did cognitive behavior therapy among other things. When I did get back, it was open arms and understanding, so I knew I needed to share what I went through. I needed to be an advocate for myself and then hopefully be an advocate for other people.”

Fostering a culture of acceptance and support

At TD, colleagues are encouraged to share as much as they want about their mental health journeys to help build greater understanding among their colleagues within a respectful and supportive environment, according to Erin Forbes, Senior HR Manager, People with Disabilities at TD.

"In a world quick to label, we want our colleagues to foster a culture of acceptance and support where everyone can thrive in their uniqueness," she said.

"It is crucial that we, as a society, strive to increase our understanding of mental health and work towards building a more inclusive world where everyone's unique needs can be supported."

Hepburn said that she still gets emotional when she thinks back to her struggles growing up, but she is grateful that TD has provided her with the means to get support when she needs it, and to give back by helping other colleagues with their own mental health journeys. Hepburn has become a trusted resource to many of her colleagues, helping them find mental health resources, encouraging people managers to conduct regular mental health checks with their staff, and working with peers to help them prioritize their mental and emotional well-being.

Finding a sense of belonging

When Beth Josephson started her career a decade ago as a bank teller at TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank® (AMCB), she worked for retail and commercial teams before taking on her current role as a Project Analyst.

Josephson's colleagues have heard all about her time travelling with her husband and daughter, about the thriller novels she enjoys sharing with her book club, and her adventures with her black lab, Cora.

With everything she shared, the one thing she kept hidden from her colleagues was that she lived with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Diagnosed at 16, Josephson recalls that she barely graduated high school due to the difficulties she encountered with managing her conditions.

It wasn't until Josephson found out that she was pregnant, with the result she was no longer able to take her medication, that she decided to disclose to her people manager and colleagues.

“Because of the experiences I’d had in the past with coworkers and certain people, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing where I was in my journey or that I had this diagnosis…because I did have that judgment and stigma, that I won’t be able to do anything, won’t be successful,” she explained.

Josephson disclosed her condition to her people manager after an event where she had struggled not to cry and not to have a panic attack during a customer interaction at work.

“My manager pulled me aside and asked ‘How can I help? What’s going on?’" Josephson said.

"That was the first time I fully disclosed — I have bipolar disorder. My manager was so supportive and worked with me to find accommodations that enabled me to get the help I needed. They were also able to help me find some added flexibility while I was experiencing those extreme episodes. This allowed me to use my coping skills and make my mental well-being a priority."

Josephson said the resources available to her through TD helped her find belonging and connection, and to overcome her fear of disclosing her condition. Today, she is now more inclined to share her experience given the support she received from her managers and colleagues, and now she sees sharing her story as an opportunity to inspire others to seek out help.

"Today, I still face my share of challenges, but having the freedom to be authentic at work and knowing I have the backing of my leaders and peers give me the strength to push through those tough moments."

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