How has mental health affected you?
Mental Health has completely changed my life with devastating effect and if I am honest until something happened to me I didn’t give mental health a second thought (now that was back in 2009 when even just a few short years ago mental health was not talked about)
In brief and looking back several stressful events happened in early 2009 that meant the start of my gradual decline in to a continuous low mood, this continued until 2010 when my then wife urged me to go to the Dr’s and by this point my low mood had taken hold and therefore I was diagnosed with Severe Depression and Anxiety, I was prescribed some anti depressants and referred for counselling with the caveat that there was a waiting list of around 12mths . . . . which actually never happened.
As there wasn’t the resources, information and I suppose understanding back then my nearest and dearest didn’t understand me or what I was going through – I suppose looking back they didn’t recognise I was Ill and they just thought I was becoming a stranger and there was similar experiences at work and therefore between 2010 – 2014 a domino affect started with me losing my career in senior sales management, my marriage ended and I actually became homeless and found myself with no possessions apart from a suitcase of clothes knocking on the door of a homeless shelter on the 1st Aug 2014.
The 1st August 2014 and the following few weeks was my lowest point where I considered several exit strategies, but actually found that the support workers at the hostel understood what I was going through and were able to offer meaningful support and actually gave me hope that I could recover. So we jointly put a plan in place I would go out for long walks every day, I started to volunteer at another hostel in the same town, I received the counselling I so needed and things gradually got better. In November 2014 I moved out of the homeless hostel and into supported housing where I continued my recovery and then in February 2015 I privately rented.
My volunteering at the other hostel actually turned in to a job as I was told I was good at what I was doing and that was my light bulb moment as I didn’t just want to recover and get on with my life, I wanted to re train in Mental Health and give back, making sure that people did not go through what I and my then family went through.
I worked hard as a dual addiction worker whist also gaining my Health and Social Care qualification with a Mental Health bias, which then led to me changing jobs and working in Children’s Services and eventually all my pre lived experience, lived experience and post lived experience has ended up at Rethink Mental Illness where amongst other things I can speak to audiences about my story to give hope and inspiration to all those affected ny mental health or caring for a family member or friend.
So the first half of my experience regarding mental health was quite negative, but since 1st August 2014 it’s all positive and will continue to be so as when you have been through something like that you become very self aware and therefore I am confident that if anything happens in the future I will recognise this and put things in place to keep me mentally healthy!
Why do you think you found it so hard to face your mental wellbeing?
It wasn’t that I found it hard to face, I think many people like me find when they look back discover that poor mental health almost creeps up on you and you gradually get worse. Plus men are notorious for not recognising the signs (although I hope that that is better now given all the attention mental health is receiving now) It is very easy for me in 2018 to face my metal wellbeing and I do this with equal importance to my physical wellbeing as they are linked – If you play sport for a team you wouldn’t play two hard games back to back as that would be too much for your body and you rightly recognise that you need a rest in between. Well think of your mind as a muscle in that it likes to be worked and challenged but doing too much without any downtime will have an effect.
Why do you think it is so important to be supported in the workplace with your mental health?
We all need to be supported without prejudice in the workplace with regards our wellbeing (physical and mental on an equal footing) as healthy people are happy people and will perform better. Also if you are an organisation that really cares for it’s employees, you will be more attractive to potential employees and you will attract the best people in the industry – I see the latest generation of young people leaving college and universities will be just as interested in being supported in the workplace for their wellbeing as their salary and annual leave.
Why should companies want to invest in this area?
At the end of the day the early adopters out there that have embraced mental health in a positive way are already seeing great returns on their investment, they are also seeing reduced absenteeism, reduced presenteeism and increased productivity.
Plus if you support an employee they are more likely to be more loyal and they will actually be a stronger employee.