Putting Mental Health in its Proper Workplace…

Lochnagar in a dark mood

Last Wednesday was World Mental Health Day 2018.  The day aims to raise awareness of mental health and the issues around it, particularly those that arise from mental ILL-health.

I even put out a post on LinkedIn to publicise it, asking followers of my posts “are you going to do anything to mark it?”.

At that stage, I was planning to write a blog post covering one of the ‘hot’ topics around mental health.  I envisaged something that covered:

  • mental health being wider than mental illness
  • the need for employers to take work-related stress (and other mental health issues) as seriously as they take physical health & safety
  • the equal need for workers to also take work-related stress (and other mental health issues) as seriously as they take physical health & safety
  • the growing, and increasingly expensive, trend towards presenteeism
  • etc.

It felt like it would be an article that would almost write itself, with a wealth of research and worthy opinions to which I could refer.

But I didn’t write that article

OK, the immediate question is WHY didn’t I write the article, but to answer that, I need to give some context.

Back when I was in my 20s, I went through a period of around 6 years during which I struggled seriously with depression.  I started having strange emotional reactions to events and situations, sometimes feeling almost numb to things that should be upsetting, then finding a quiet corner to cry in over irrelevant small events.  I eventually recognised this wasn’t right, and went to see my doctor, not sure what was wrong.  He was excellent and openly explored both the problem and my treatment options.

That’s not to say I felt down all the time

I found I could hide from the symptoms with adrenaline, so I flung myself into work projects and put in loads of unpaid overtime, because although I felt stressed, it felt normal to be stressed under that pressure.  Indeed, I might have gone on like that for considerably longer had the project work not eased off.

Around this time, I remember a poster campaign by the Samaritans that really struck a note.  There were 2 posters, one said “Can’t face going to work?”, the other “Can’t face going home?”.  At the moment I noticed them, I recognised I was stuck in the limbo in between.

After resisting drug treatment for several months, I eventually agreed to take antidepressants.  It took 3 attempts to find one that worked well enough and that didn’t give me significant side-effects, but I realised I’d found the right one when, after 3 weeks or so I woke up feeling ‘normal’.  It wasn’t uniform, but the world wasn’t the uniformly dark place it had become and I started to re-emerge.  Luckily, I was able to re-engage with the talking therapies I’d already tried, though this time I was able to understand and work through the underlying reasons I felt the way I did.

It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t until I was well into my recovery that I felt able to share with friends and colleagues what I was going through.  The fear of stigma has a basis in reality, but the obstacles to being open seem insurmountable when you’re in a ditch.

So, why didn’t I write that article?

It’s simple.  Although I’ve recovered from my depression, and haven’t been there for more than 2 decades, there is a slippery slope towards mental ill-health that I have learnt to recognise and avoid.  The several days running up to World Mental Health Day were crazy, with too much travelling, a heavy workload and not enough down time to recover.  I recognised that, to write it, I would have to risk compromising my own mental health. 

In the end, I made a pragmatic decision: I marked World Mental Health Day by NOT writing that article.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this subject, so please leave a comment, but if you’d like to discuss this topic more directly please contact me at malcolm@strathesk.co.uk or give me a call on 07736068787.

A record year for strikes

The Office of National Statistics has recently published its latest figures around industrial disputes, one of the highlights being the record low number of days lost to strikes, with a similar low for other forms of industrial action.  So, does this trumpet the success of the Trade Union Act 2016?  In short, no. To those […]

Continue reading...

Business lessons from the ridge

This time last week I had just completed a traverse of the Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye.  Having returned to ‘normality’ and processed some of the reactions I had during the 32 hours we were on the mountains, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how this relates to my work. This […]

Continue reading...

Are you dying to go home?

  28 April each year is International Workers’ Memorial Day (#IWMD18 #IWMD2018) so, for 2018, it falls on Saturday. It’s hard to believe that the world of work is still so dangerous.  Many of us underestimate the risk of the things we do each day. How many people in the UK treat driving along the road as the […]

Continue reading...

International Women’s Day – is it needed?

Today is International Women’s Day, so I thought it was timely to reflect on perceptions of women’s place in UK society.   A recent survey published by Sky News has suggested that a majority of Britons think that feminism has gone far enough.  But has it?  There are clear contradictions within the findings: 70% of […]

Continue reading...

Shared Parental Leave, Another Push?

The Government is running a campaign to encourage new parents to share their parental leave. Shared Parental Leave is an option that’s been available for a couple of years now, but has never really taken off. A recent article in Personnel Today refers to Government figures indicating that only 2% of families have taken up the […]

Continue reading...

Training in Copenhagen

At the end of November I delivered a training course on Advanced Negotiation Skills. OK, that’s something I’ve done quite frequently over the years, but this course had a slight difference.  This was the first course I’ve delivered as an Associate with CEDR. It was wonderful working with my co-trainers: Andy Grossman has been delivering […]

Continue reading...

SME Sickness Absence – Prevention or Cure, THAT is the Problem…

Most of my blogs have been about topics in the news that I find interesting, or on which I’d like to provoke a little debate, but this time round I thought I’d take a slightly different approach and reach out to people who, like me, run or work for small/micro businesses for whom sickness absence […]

Continue reading...

Good Riddance to Employment Tribunal Fees

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but the Cameron Government’s decision to charge fees for people to raise claims in the Employment Tribunal has finally been shown to be illegal. In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has ruled that charging people up to £1200 so they can challenge the legality of their employer’s […]

Continue reading...

Taylor Report on Employment – where now?

 We (OK, a few of us) were on tenterhooks waiting for the publication of the Taylor Report into employment practices in the UK, but will it make things clearer or further muddy the waters? Uber, Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers have all been answering legal questions about the legitimacy of a business model that sees them, […]

Continue reading...