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  • Writer's pictureDawn Helmrich

Compassion and Empathy in the Workplace

Updated: Apr 23

I've worked at United Way Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County for almost 19 years. There are lots of reasons I've stayed; decent pay, good benefits, career advancement opportunities, but one of the main reasons is the way they treated me when I told them about my journey through mental illness.

Several years after being raped, one of the perpetrators that had been released from prison began showing up across the street from my house. The police said I should inform my work just in case something happened. Up to this point no one I worked with knew what had happened to me.

I had hidden my anxiety, PTSD and depression fairly well. Taking sick days when I couldn't get out of bed or function. I was afraid that if my boss and others knew what I was going through they would think I wasn't capable of doing my job. I was afraid that they would realize my sick time wasn't sick time, but time I needed to care for my mental well-being. I was terrified that I would be seen as less capable and I would never advance in my career.


I will be discussing these issues and more on a new show that I launched with Dawn Helmrich, “Shining Light on Shadows: A Candid Conversation About Mental Health.” Bryan Miller will be our guest. He was the restaurant critic for The New York Times for 10 years. He was on top of the world. But the whole time he was suffering from debilitating depression and had to walk away from all of it. We’ll be live Thursday, March 28 at 7pm ET / 6pm CT on on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Neil’s website.

If you can’t watch the show live, you can always watch it later, at your convenience.


I got lucky. My United Way was interested in my experience and offered me a great deal of support. They actually tapped into my wealth of knowledge about sexual violence issues and encouraged me to get involved in advocacy work. They introduced me to the EAP (Employee Assistance Program), allowing me to access services and therapy.

Not all places of employment treat mental illness as mental wellness. That's what we should focus on. By taking care of ourselves when we need to, by giving ourselves a break, by allowing the process of time to get better, that is what creates mental wellness.

Not having to hide in the shadows of depression because we are afraid of what our employers might think is an important discussion to have and is so necessary for a lot of us.


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