Not all disabilities are obvious to the naked eye, which is why education is critical to enhancing awareness. After struggling with major depression and anxiety since her teenage years, Melissa** found support and community in the Abled & Disabled Employees Partnering Together (ADEPT) employee resource group (ERG), which is working to make Caterpillar a disability-friendly workplace by creating an inclusive environment for everyone by driving a culture where resources and tools are readily available to empower people, regardless of ability, to be successful. ADEPT Chair, Fernando M.D., says, “You can feel the relief from an individual when we are able to provide resources that they previously didn’t feel comfortable asking for. That relief is only possible with education and communication about disabilities.”
Melissa’s involvement with the group made it clear that dispelling myths about disabilities is part of her calling. She says, “Someone who injures their arm isn’t afraid to go to physical therapy to get it fixed. Why shouldn’t it be the same for someone who has abnormalities in their brain? Maybe they’re just feeling down or mentally not as stable as they’d like to be. I want people to be comfortable seeking help. I don’t want people to have to hurt in silence as I did.”
Melissa believes that her experience with depression and anxiety has made her a stronger person and a better employee. She says, “People with disabilities are strong and resourceful because they’ve had to be. I’ve faced some of the biggest challenges and overcome them. These are real-life skills that I’ve developed, and I use them to help my career today.”
Removing the social stigma from disabilities – especially mental ones – isn’t easy, and it won’t happen overnight. “The more people talk about mental disabilities, and the more people share stories that others can relate to – it will help normalize it. There are so many people like me, who go to work every day. They suffer. They have good days and bad days. We just need to talk about it. That’s how ADEPT can help.” Learn more about Caterpillar’s commitment to inclusion to empower more employees to find success through leveraging their own unique abilities.
**Individual’s name changed for privacy.