This site is not about the Zeitgeist, the bandwagon, yet it’s captured, we admit, a new mood emerging in this country – a willingness to talk openly about mental health.
There’s still a long way to go to get people truly opening up about it and those managers of workplace accepting and supporting staff with stress, anxiety and depression – but it’s coming. Definitely. A change is in the air.
Talking, you see, is good.
Because the temptation for anyone who’s suffering from mental health issues is to retreat into a shell, a duvet, a pillow and refuse to talk about how you feel.
When I was first chronically depressed in 2013, the trade union arranged CBT and EMDR therapy for me and crying openly in front of trained counsellors and discussing how I felt and what I wanted to do felt cathartic. Don’t get me wrong – it didn’t make me recover, but it was part of the broken jigsaw of my mind that slotted back into place.
Each made me see the “bigger picture” and when I look back, although I struggled at the time, they were right.
The job of teaching had made me ill and a particular set of circumstances had exacerbated my problems and tipped me over the edge – almost.
Depression is a slow descent into inertia and an even slower recovery.
Admitting to having depression, up to 3 years ago, was a surefire way of making your job tenure a short one, but some societal attitudes have changed.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe for one minute that an opening gambit of an application form or covering letter or interview should be: “I was ill with anxiety and depression and off work for a year.”
But I do think admitting mental health issues is the right thing to do – because if you get an adverse reaction, or ignored for appointment, you’ve had a lucky escape.
On the other hand:
I’m not saying either that a panel should high five and fist bump you for admitting mental health problems and tell the other candidates to leave – but they should see the bigger picture.
I remember vividly contacting a school where I’d seen a job advertised previously and the head (one of the few with integrity) knew about my problems, watched me teach, congratulated me for how I’d coped in the lesson after a long absence and actually made me an offer of appointment – despite my sick notes stretching for 4 months along a mental health timeline. I knew and he knew that in the right workplace, I’d mend.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing though and I declined the offer as I felt I would let that team down. I was still recovering, it felt right to turn it down but that headteacher is what we’d call up north “a good un” and there’s not many of them left in education now.
Now though, if I were to return to a workplace, say teaching (not that I would, mind), I’d state openly what happened and how it affected me. If it was met with frowns and a travel expense form, I’d think “oh well” but if enough sufferers of anxiety, depression and stress do it, employers would not dismiss it as trivial or bothersome for them.
I was lucky I met an enlightened leader in 2014, and, sometimes, when I look back, I wish I’d said yes and allowed the school, his staff, but mostly himself, to be part of my recovery – because working somewhere you enjoy and appreciated is a real benefit to anyone suffering from man stress.