Rachael’s Story

Written by Gretchen Parisi

If Rachael Taylor, MPAS, PA-C, a physician assistant in Family Medicine, had one piece of advice for those struggling with mental health issues, it would be to take that crucial first step of reaching out to someone in their support system – a spouse, someone in their faith-based community, one of their friends, a colleague or a supervisor – about their mental health concerns.

“It doesn’t have to be this big, huge, formal sit-down, have a meeting, talk about X, Y and Z, right off the bat,” Taylor said. “Just taking that first step, even if it’s a teeny, tiny baby step, is critical. Send a text message saying, ‘Hey, can we talk later?’ or pull that close contact aside and say, ‘I think I need to talk to someone.’”

It’s a step that Taylor has taken several times. “My story is one of life-long anxiety and depression. I had been hospitalized during college for my symptoms and was prescribed multiple medications. I had seen many different therapists and hadn’t found the right fit for me.” Her symptoms worsened years later while at Mayo Clinic and it was affecting her ability to show up for work each day.

Taylor initially was anxious about sharing her issues. “I had so much apprehension going into the situation, worrying if I was going to lose my job, if I would be able to take the time I needed, and if I would feel embarrassed or ashamed about what was happening.” When she reached out to her supervisor, with whom she already had a very positive work relationship, “her open-door policy made me feel able to come to her with any concerns,” Taylor noted.

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“She absolutely put my needs front and center and treated me like a whole person, not like a cog in the wheel,” according to Taylor. Her supervisor told Taylor that her health was important, not only for her work life, but for her life outside of work. “I remember coming away from the interaction feeling very well-held,” Taylor said.

“Thankfully, at Mayo, I had some amazing support from my supervisor and department, but needed help,” she explained. “I heard about the Transitions outpatient partial hospitalization program in Eau Claire and It. Saved. My. Life. It was exactly what I needed and helped me to see my world from a new point of view. I learned things about myself that no previous therapy cued me into. I learned skills to deal with my symptoms in a safe and productive manner.” [Note: Click here for another article on the Transitions program.] After that program, Taylor found a therapist who has been a great fit for her.

During discussions about her transition back to work, Taylor suggested a plan that included working a few half days and then jumping right back into full days; her supervisor suggested that a longer ramp-up time of roughly two half-time weeks before resuming a full schedule would probably be a better idea. “Throughout my journey, she heard me, she gave me space, and she made it clear that what I was experiencing was real and valid, and that getting help was the right thing to do,” she stated.

Taylor is sharing her story because she believes that one way to remove the stigma around mental health struggles is “talking about it, talking about it and talking about it,” she said.

“I have shared parts of my experience with my coworkers – and even patients – to let people know that it is normal to struggle with mental health.” She added that she is open about her experience and her ongoing care, telling her team and those who work on her floor if she is out for mental health reasons. “No oversharing, but normalizing it, like what you would say if you were out with the flu or you stayed home with a sick child.”

Because of that openness, other people have come to Taylor to discuss their mental health concerns. “It’s important to make the environment where we work every day safe for people to talk about these issues,” she said. “We hear about the national shortage of mental health providers and Mayo is not immune to this problem. But I am proof that we still have resources right here in Northwest Wisconsin that can change lives.”

She also knows first-hand that health care professionals are often the last to recognize signs that they need to tend to their mental health.  “As medical providers, and I think I fit this to a tee – we are perfectionists and fixers,” she said. “In my practice, I take care of a lot of mental health patients. It’s a clinical interest of mine, but it’s also a huge emotional load that I take on.”

She noted that medical providers may ignore their symptoms until “it’s gotten really bad,” because they think they have things under control. “It’s so hard as providers, as medical practitioners, to recognize those signs, because we think that we know better. All day long we take care of other people and we think we are fine and can get through it and don’t need any extra help,” she said. “Sometimes I think it’s to our detriment.”

However, she added, “once you take that first step and you have someone there in your corner supporting you, you’re not walking that road alone and the next steps become easier.”

Share Your Story
Throughout the coming months, we will be sharing a series of employee and learner stories to break down the stigma around mental illness within our organization. Colleagues who are interested in sharing their stories can do so here. You can share your story however you feel most comfortable, anonymously or not.


Lend an EAR.  A five-minute trainingmoduleto learn how to better support each other in the workplace.

Crisis Resources:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline -  988

The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line – 988 (Press 1)

Crisis Text Line – Text HELLO to 741741

Additional Resources:

Mental Health and Well-Being Website:  https://mentalhealthandwellbeing.mayo.edu/

Mayo Clinic Learner Resources:  http://intranet.mayo.edu/charlie/student-services/well-being/emotional/ 

Employee Assistance Program

RST: 507-266-3330 or http://intranet.mayo.edu/charlie/employee-assistance-rst/ 

AZ, FLA, MCHS, remote:  Vital Work Life: 1-800-383-1908 or www.VITALWorkLife.com

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In order to bring your best self to work or school each day, it is pertinent that you nurture your mental health. Let’s foster a culture at Mayo Clinic that encourages transparency and accountability with each other. We cannot consistently put the needs of the patient first if we do not address our own needs in these ways and support our colleagues to do the same. It’s ok to not be ok.