Kirsten Antoncich is our new Agony Aunt at The Press

MENTAL and emotional health challenges are on the rise: so often we hear about the pressure on support services and so often we can find it hard to seek support for ourselves or for those we love. 

The great news is that there are so many ways you can look after your mental health, the focus of this column each week will be to share practical information and strategies you can use to support your mental health.

If you have a mental health related worry or concern, you can write to me in complete confidence, no identifying information will be used.

Dear Kirsten, 

I have worked for a large, corporate firm for the last 6 months, I like my job and think that I am quite good at it. A few weeks ago as I was coming back from lunch I overheard a group of my colleagues talking about me in a really nasty way. The conversation was being led by a colleague who is a supervisor above me, she was  mimicking my accent and way of speaking. 

No-one knows that I heard them talking and laughing about me but it’s changed how I feel about work, I feel that everyone is talking about me whenever I leave the room and it’s making me feel anxious going in each morning. It’s got so bad I almost want to find another job.

York Press:

What a truly awful experience for you, I’m really sorry you have had to go through that.

At the moment what has happened to you has gone unchallenged, I can really understand the temptation to not confront your supervisor,  however, keeping quiet keeps you in a less powerful position and will be feeding your anxiety. If you can, I would really like you to take some action to change how empowered you feel.

When someone holds a group’s attention through making fun or bullying  someone else, it speaks volumes about their own insecurities.  People use this tactic when they feel they  don’t have much  to offer conversationally, they are insecure about their own worth. By making someone the target it can effectively bring a group together and point them towards a common conversation point ( the victim). Some people will use this type of bullying if they need to deflect from their own insecurities, it’s harder to notice things in others if they are pointing the finger and making the others in the group look at someone else. Whatever the motive, this type of bullying can be really damaging to our self esteem and I would  imagine you are not the first victim to fall foul of it in your workplace.

Knowing that the conversation you overheard is more about the supervisor and her insecurities  than it is about any flaw in you is a good starting point for your thinking. 

I wondered if you would feel comfortable speaking to her when she was alone? 

She is in a position of responsibility and has behaved unprofessionally, having a conversation that lets her know you overheard her comments and found them upsetting would bring you some power over the situation, it’s unlikely she would expect to be called out on her behaviour and this might be enough to stop her from targeting you again.

 If speaking to her directly feels too threatening, you could speak to someone in your HR department or someone above her, asking them to  mention that she has been overheard making personal remarks about colleagues without specifically mentioning your name. ACAS  can offer impartial advice via its helpline on (0300 123 1100) if you need additional support.

Taking  back some power and control over the situation is likely to help your anxiety, as is spending some time on developing  healthy thinking habits that focus on your strengths and self worth.  

More often when we feel totally confident in our own worth, bullying has less impact and we find it easier to direct our thoughts away from the behaviour of others. Take stock of your self esteem levels, how do you feel about yourself? Is there work that could be done to help you feel more confident ? Pay attention to the self talk you give yourself- try  over the course of day noticing if you lean to thinking more negatively or critically of yourself , try and track how many times you praise yourself, how often do you think of yourself with understanding or self compassion? We are often taught that being proud of ourselves is wrong (“don’t get too big for your boots” etc) I would argue that having a healthy self appreciation is essential in order to have good mental health.

Try to plan your morning to kick start  a sense of groundedness and confidence.  Setting up a morning routine that has some grounding exercises like mindfulness, and some confidence boosting self talk that is full of self compassion can really help. ( has some excellent resources to help with this). There are some great podcasts that can support you in developing confidence in yourself and courage when dealing with adversity- you cant go far wrong with Brenee Brown, you can catch her on Netflix.  Finally, if you need it, pull in support from friends, from family and from professionals, it’s important, if things are getting on top of you to not be on your own with it.


Kirsten Antoncich is a UKCP accredited Psychotherapist, neurofeedback practitioner and a fellow of the Royal Society. She works with children, young people and adults from her base in York.

To ask her a question in complete confidence, please contact her via