The Face Of Mental Illness At Work

The Face of Mental Illness at Work

Date: 10 Oct 2017

The theme for 2017 is ‘mental health in the workplace’. With 1 in 4 people experiencing mental health problems every year, it can happen to any of us – you, someone in your family, a friend, your workmate, your team mate.

Our website administrator, Julie-Anne, talks about her experience of living with depression.

I was diagnosed with depression around four and a half years ago and it definitely joined a few dots for me. My suspicions are that I’d gone undiagnosed since I was a teenager – a lot of things I felt as a teenager can definitely be put down to teenage angst, but that angst seemed to follow me into my twenties and working life.

I’ve lost jobs because I’d stay in bed all day because I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the house. My relationships with other people, including my own family, suffered greatly. I would often become self-destructive in the guise of having a good time.

It was a very testing time for myself and my partner during the first few months after my diagnosis. As the treatments for mental illness are unfortunately not a “one size fits all”, it took some time to find the right treatment for me. This included some really low points, in which I didn’t want to carry on living any more. The thing with anti-depressant medication is that sometimes, certain types make you feel worse.

A few months after my diagnosis, I started working for Bright Horizons. I didn’t immediately disclose my mental illness because I felt like I was in control of it (I wasn’t).

When I did realise that I still needed help, I had a conversation with my manager to explain my circumstance. I was very nervous about approaching the subject because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. However, he was very understanding and accommodating, pointing me in the direction of a number of options, including our Employee Assistance Programme which is part of Bright Horizons Benefits package.

Working with my doctor, I was able to find the right treatment for me. I feel quite lucky, because it was the third attempt to find something that works, however for some people it can take far longer. And results are never overnight. It can take months to start to feel normal again. But it will be worth it!

Since finding the right medication, I have flourished at work. I’ve gone from being a Business Administrator Apprentice in our contact centre to now being the Website Administrator in our marketing department. I truly believe this has been helped by the people around me, at home and at work. I always try to be open about what I’m going through because I want to get rid of the stigma, and if I help one other person seek the help they need, then I’ll be happy.

And this isn’t to say that I never have bad days, I absolutely do. But with my awesome support network around me, I can get through it. If I feel myself really dropping, I will book a holiday day off work to just chill out and relax doing what I love – playing Xbox.

I’ve often found a great analogy for people who find it difficult to understand that I can’t just “think positive thoughts” is to compare it to diabetes. A diabetic person can’t just think it away, they have to manage their illness with insulin, just as I have to manage my illness with medication. 

If you are having suicidal thoughts, or experiencing other symptoms of depression, please call the Samaritans on 116 123 or talk to your GP.