Charisse's story

I have been supported with my own and my family members mental and physical health over the 10 years I have worked for Penumbra.

I started working with Penumbra on 01/09/08 as the administrator for Edinburgh & The East. I was based at Norton Park and my boss was Area Manager, Roy Heath. Six months into my job, I became very ill. I ended up in the hospital for five weeks and off work for five months. During this time, Roy visited me in the hospital, not to talk about work, but as a friend and to make sure I knew, my job was safe. When I did eventually get back to work, the staff in Edinburgh and our Head Office allowed me to ease myself back into my job and made sure I was well.

The project moved from Head Office to Cambridge Street with a change of manager. During this time, our four year old daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy. Her seizures were not controlled. I had a few phone calls from nursery, then school and once from one of her friends parents, letting me know she had been rushed to hospital. Each time, my colleagues rallied round. When I became upset/weepy/sad/worried, they sat me down and let me talk. They listened to me. Every time.

Fast forward to 2012. Our daughter by this time is eight, was going to have brain surgery, I would need to be off work for some time. In April 2012, I moved from Edinburgh admin, to finance admin in Head Office. June was the date for her surgery. All my colleagues in Head Office and from the Edinburgh office wished her well. My manager at the time, Euan McLean, was one of the first people I called to let him know our daughter was out of surgery as I knew everyone was on tenterhooks waiting for news, just like my family and friends.

When she came off all her meds and was seizure free, my colleagues celebrated with us. Fast forward to 2014 to now. The last five years have been difficult for me and my family. Our daughter has struggled with her mental health, 18 months on the CAHMS waiting list so far. My partner’s dad died, his mum had a stroke, for the first time in his life, his mental health started to suffer. I was so very worried about him, I couldn’t hide my tears or the worry.

I am the ship keeping my family safe from the storm, my colleagues are the coastguard, there if I need them.

My colleagues, now under a new manager Rachael, became worried for me; they knew it was serious. I was given time to talk it through, I asked for advice and was given advice. Each day whilst he was going through his crisis, my colleagues checked up on me, be it a wee chat at the kettle, the offer of going for a walk, helpful advice, just generally make sure I knew they were there if I needed them. In 2017 my own mental health took a wee bit of a turn for the worse. I was signposted to the employment support programme (I can’t remember its real name) I was told to take as much time as I needed to recover. I took the advice. When I got back to work, my colleagues discreetly checked on me regularly. So far so good!

Throughout the 10 years I have worked for Penumbra I have always felt supported. Not only by my immediate colleagues, but also by staff from all the other projects across Penumbra. If I am a bit stressed, I can tell my manager, my office buddies, my other colleagues. I can wholeheartedly say that without the support of my colleagues in Penumbra my life and the life of my family would be very different today. Yes, there are still struggles for us all, but I can deal with what is happening at home because I know Penumbra has my back. I am the ship keeping my family safe from the storm, my colleagues are the coastguard, there if I need them.

Thank you for sharing your story, Charisse. 

Here are Charisse’s 5 Top Tips for supporting your colleagues’ wellbeing at work:

  • Be discreet when asking if someone is okay
  • Listen even if your colleague is letting off steam.
  • Be patient.
  • Ask if you can do anything to make life easier.
  • Try and have a laugh with your colleague.

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