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• May 17, 2024

In decades past, the subject of mental health was often avoided because of fears related to a lack of understanding and misinformation about the topic. Today, more people recognize that mental health impacts all of us and that it is just as important as physical health for our well-being.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and TD Bank is focused on building greater understanding so that individuals feel encouraged to share their mental health journeys. There has been a deepening focus in recent years at the bank about how raising awareness helps break down systemic barriers to create space for individuals to be their authentic selves.

Below are the stories of two TD colleagues who shared their experiences with the hope that it will inspire change and help others be more open about this important topic.

Overcoming fears and finding a sense of belonging

Beth Josephson loves to travel with her husband and daughter. She enjoys cherished moments, like reading the latest thriller with her book club and cuddles on the couch with her black lab at her Philadelphia home. There is nothing better for her well-being than spending time with her friends and family.

When Beth 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.

One thing Beth did not want to share at work for many years was that she lived with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Diagnosed at 16, she says she barely graduated high school as a result of the difficulties of managing her conditions. She credits her family and her school, with helping to support her to graduate, and move on to community college before transferring to a four-year university.

She hid her conditions until she was pregnant with her daughter, now 8 years old, and was no longer able to take her medication that kept her from having manic highs and depressive lows.

“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.

However, without medication, her condition started to impact her at work in a way that pushed her to disclose. For example, in a depressive episode, she’d struggle not to cry during a customer interaction, or to have a panic attack at work.

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

Beth also navigates the challenges of fibromyalgia, which she was diagnosed with three years ago. She credits TD Bank with helping her find belonging and connection, overcoming her fear of disclosing her condition.

Today, Beth is now inclined to share her experience given the support she received from her managers and colleagues. The most helpful aspect of disclosing has been other people listening to her and wanting to learn. For Beth, sharing her own story was an opportunity to inspire others to consider sharing their own stories.

The journey to belonging and being an advocate for others

Tracy Hepburn enjoys walking on the beach early each morning to catch beautiful sunrises. This is part of her daily meditation and mental health routine. She also enjoys spending a lot of time with family, friends and her two cats.

The Port Stanley, Ontario-based Business Operations Officer TD Bank Group, is a successful businesswoman and inspiration to colleagues. She has been with TD for 19 years and worked in several departments, mostly focusing on credit cards and loss prevention. Before coming to TD, Tracy primarily worked in customer service jobs.

In each of her career paths, she has prided herself on being a “longtime” and dedicated employee. But, at various points throughout her life, she felt like she was often “faking it until she made it.”

These experiences started in childhood. As a fifth grader, Tracy was having trouble focusing. She was labeled “disruptive” and sent to the hallway, something that sadly is common for young people who experience symptoms that are often misunderstood and interpreted as behavioral issues.

Tracy spent the next few years hiding multiple mental health conditions and learning disabilities. She was bullied for being different, a memory that she’s worked to overcome for decades now. Tracy's experience is far from isolated — research shows that people with mental health conditions report higher rates of bullying than others.

"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," Erin Forbes, Senior HR Manager People with Disabilities at TD Bank Group, shares. "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."

“In 8th grade, they figured out I couldn’t read. I was diagnosed with dyslexia.” A teacher had recognized Tracy was having difficulties. While Tracy didn't know it at the time, she would continue to experience symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. Her official diagnosis didn’t come until her 30s.

In the meantime, she continued to pursue a successful career in the banking industry. 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 not a specific incident that caused her to take that step, but rather a growing sense that she was now at a point in life where she was ready to do so.

Tracy 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 the right treatment, tools and medications that made all the difference over the next three years.

“I had to do the work,” she says, referring to working through her mental health conditions, and finding the right medications that would help her best.

“I felt like I was letting the bank down, but 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.” she says. “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.”

It’s still exceptionally emotional to remember some of her hardest moments dealing with side effects in those years. Now, Tracy has been able to help others find resources, requested that managers conduct health checks, and encourage her peers to prioritize their mental and emotional well-being.

Want to learn more about Mental Health Awareness Month?
Growing Through Mental Health Challenges: One Woman Finds Solace and Strength in Her Garden Sanctuary
Reaching New Heights: How One Man's Hike Reflects His Dedication to Making the World Better
Making a Difference: Family, Community and Customer Service Drive TD's Newest Small Business Takeover Recipient

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