The benefits of being your real self at work

Bring your whole self to work; if you're struggling, get help.

John Rice, vice president of Global Services at Hyland, is the executive sponsor for Hyland’s mental health-focused employee resource group (ERG), Peace of Mind. He also serves as a board member of the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Greater Cleveland.

In honor of World Mental Health Day, celebrated October 10, John shares his personal experiences — and outlook on the power, strength and importance of bringing your authentic self to work and seeking out help when it’s needed.

Hi everyone, John Rice here. You may or may not recognize my name, and you may know I’m a Hyland VP. Maybe you even consider me a friend.

But how well do you actually know me?

Recently, Hyland CEO Bill Priemer made some remarks about how great it would be if we all felt comfortable bringing our true selves to work. He spoke about how much richer our experience would be if we all had the courage to do that.

I’m advocating that we take that step forward.

And that’s easy in some areas: We like to talk about our favorite sports teams, we talk about our hobbies, maybe our kids, definitely our pets. That’s awesome — those are all parts of us. But what about the rest of us?

Now, sometimes, there are things that we truly prefer to not discuss, and we’re healthier in not doing so. For example, we may not be ready to, we may need to work through things personally to some extent, or maybe we need to get some professional help before we’re ready to make that part of what we expose to the world.

In my experience, being open about the entirety of ourselves, to the extent we are able, is a very empowering and helpful enterprise. I’ve found people are far more understanding, compassionate and helpful than we might imagine.

Don’t wait to get help

Here’s a story: my story. I have mental health issues — there, I said it.

Primarily due to stigma, I didn’t seek help for many years; I waited far too long. I sacrificed quality of life and certainly imposed on my wife by failing to seek help sooner. Fast-forward, and I got help. I’m fortunate; I was able to get a grip on my situation, and it’s been in a manageable state for a long time.

But do I ever have regrets about not seeking help sooner.

I don’t have many regrets about life. My approach was to simply keep moving forward whatever may come and don’t look back — but that’s a regret.

The path forward

To some degree my path to help was a product of the times. Years ago, the Midwest wasn’t exactly receptive to those who had mental health concerns. While stigma remains among the most difficult obstacles to overcome for people to receive treatment, the world has changed.

We see those changes at Hyland in:

  • Our Peace of Mind Employee Resource Group (ERG), which serves as a community free of judgment for employees to learn, share and listen with the intention of eliminating stigma associated with the broad spectrum that is mental health (and for which I serve as an executive sponsor)
  • Employee-focused programming that supports mental wellbeing
  • Robust benefits through work that all employees can access if a mental health concern needs to be addressed
  • And, we can talk about our experiences

I’m at the point in my journey that I’ve realized I can actually be open about my situation, and I want to be for a reason: Because I believe talking about our personal mental health stories can destigmatize and empower others to act.

Being open can truly help people

Kevin Love, a basketball player on the Cleveland Cavaliers, became part of my story when he was open about his struggles. I was watching a Monday Night Football game this fall, and it was amazing — several players were featured in a promo spot for mental health.

Here’s the deal for me: I learned that being open about my situation was truly helpful to other people. It’s conceivable that at some point, some person will seek help sooner due to me being open — that’s the dream.

And here’s the other thing: It has been enormously helpful to me to be open about my mental health. In my professional work, I’m a big believer in the power of transparency. I should have put two and two together a while ago, but it turns out that transparency has power in my personal life as well.

So, why now?

World Mental Health Day is October 10. This is a day for all of us, not just those of us who have mental health concerns and their friends and loved ones — it’s for all of us.

I suggest taking some time to reflect.

Are you taking care of your mental health?

Is there a step forward you should consider?

Are there people you might support, often by just listening?

Are you bringing your true self to work — to your family — to your friends?

We’d love it if you did!

John Rice is the vice president of Hyland Global Services.
John Rice
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John Rice

John Rice is the vice president of Hyland Global Services.

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