At Interac, we celebrate diversity and believe bringing our authentic selves to work drives the best results and allows us to learn from one another. We are a diverse group of people and work to create an environment for diversity of thought and experience, where unique ideas, perspectives and voices are not only welcomed, but encouraged.
For Mental Health Week, we are joining the Canadian Mental Health Association in their campaign to #GetReal about how you feel. Interac is committed to supporting the wellbeing of our staff, especially during the pandemic. We believe honest conversation is good conversation and want to give our employees the platform to speak openly about their mental health challenges so they can encourage others to do the same.
This week, we feature an employee within the Interac family who shares her experiences with mental health. This is your opportunity to hear her story, reduce stigma, and learn how we can all be better allies.
What is your name and job?
Miri Makin, Internal Communications Manager
What is some of the work you do on a day-to-day basis?
There’s never a dull moment! Some of my longer-term projects include leading the design and roll-out of our new company intranet, managing our monthly internal newsletter, sitting on the Interac Pandemic cross-functional team, and working with HR to keep our employees and managers informed and set up for success. I also get to work closely with business units and leaders across the company, consulting on how best to communicate their wins, updates and changes.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love connecting the dots. I believe that a company thrives when all of its employees understand its strategy and the role they play in bringing it to fruition, which is what internal communications should enable. I love the challenge of enhancing a company’s internal communications storytelling mechanisms and processes to improve alignment and understanding of the company’s progress and direction.
What is an interesting fact about you?
My undergraduate degree is actually in theatre and I spent a year training in voice, including opera!
What comes to mind when you think about your journey at Interac?
Freedom to grow. Because Interac’s workforce has nearly doubled in size since 2018, it’s made for an (exciting!) challenge for internal communications. Over the past two years, we’ve recalibrated the way we communicate within the organization to account for how quickly we’re scaling, and our leaders have been nothing but supportive. Whether it’s launching a new newsletter, revamping our company intranet, launching company-wide people leader update calls, or proposing new employee engagement ideas, you really have the ability to make positive change at Interac.
What does Mental Health Week mean to you?
Mental health has played a formative role in my life. While completing my undergraduate degree – before the days of ‘let’s talk’ movements – I began having panic attacks without really understanding what was happening to me. It was a year of many 911 calls, hours-long midnight phone calls with loved ones, and moments where I thought I was truly losing my mind. I began to fear the panic attacks themselves, which in turn led to more panic attacks (often multiple times a day) that began to severely impact my daily functioning.
This ugly cycle, as I eventually learned, is called Panic Disorder. I received this diagnosis after checking in to the Center for Addiction & Mental Health’s emergency ward. I now recognize that I was one of a privileged few who received timely care, including medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which taught me coping mechanisms that completely transformed my life and built up my resilience. After 10 years and two failed attempts to wean off medication, I’m cognisant that I’ll likely always need pills to account for the chemical imbalance in my brain – but I’m also so grateful for the self-awareness and empathy those painful years instilled in me.
Since then, I’ve felt like it’s the least I can do to share my story and to advocate for improvements to our mental health system. My story has a happy ending, but far too many others don’t – I’ve lost friends and family to schizophrenia, addiction and suicide, who didn’t receive the care they needed or feared being stigmatized and didn’t reach out for help.
How has living with a mental illness contributed to your life as a professional working in FinTech?
I was lucky to have received such great care before I began my working life. The tools my psychiatrist taught me are second nature to me now, so when a rare panic attack hits I know exactly what to do to mitigate my body’s reaction.
More than anything, my experience has influenced the choices I make today. I choose to be vulnerable and open with my team at work because I know that living with mental illness doesn’t make me any less capable and I want to inspire others to do the same. I use my experience to colour my recommendations at work – whether it’s helping to plan Mental Health Week, recommending mental health training to our HR team, or advocating for additional mental health benefits. I’ve also volunteered my time at many mental health organizations including CAMH, Kids Help Phone and Progress Place, to make sure I’m giving back.
What advice do you have for someone who may be struggling with their mental health but doesn’t know where to start?
Talk about it. The second you start verbalizing what you’re feeling out loud you immediately feel a bit lighter. If you have someone in your life you trust, give them a call. If not, people under 30 can get 24/7 support from Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), and those 30+ can check out crisisservicescanada.ca/en/ for local resources.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to be better allies to those living with a mental illness?
It’s hard to reach out for help, so if you’re worried about someone you love I really recommend asking how they’re doing – it’s easier to say “I’m not okay” when prompted than it is to bring it up yourself. And then, listen; sometimes it’s more helpful to have someone hear you than to have them try and solve your problem.
At the same time, more needs to be done from a systemic perspective. The second you or someone you love begins experiencing a mental health crisis, you are lost in a tangled web of disjoined resources. If you’re an Ontario resident, EverythingIsNotOkay.ca is a great resource about mental health in the wake of COVID-19 created by leaders in the mental health field that I recommend checking out.
If you’re looking for additional resources or support, visit:
- Mental Health Week website (Canadian Mental Health Association)
- Mental Health & the COVID-19 Pandemic (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)
- Mental Health and Wellness in Canada (Government of Canada)
- Kids Help Phone (24/7 counselling available by calling 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868).