Deloitte UK senior manager, Neil, talks about the power of asking for help as part of our series aiming to reduce societal stigma around mental health.
Would you share a recommendation for a therapist with a colleague in the same way as you would a good book?
We might not be there yet, but I’d like to share my experience of mental health in the hope it will help us all talk as freely and openly about mental health as we would physical health.
My journey began as I transitioned out of a military career. I found it very hard to adjust to my first civilian role – the slowdown in pace left me feeling bored and unstimulated. When I later joined Deloitte UK, it felt like a huge step in the right direction but the expectations I created for myself piled on the pressure and I experienced the classic feelings of imposter syndrome. I found myself becoming hypersensitive and catastrophizing even the smallest criticism, I wasn’t sleeping properly, feeling anxious all the time and borderline depressed. This went on for about a year, and the remarkable thing was that, even though I thought I was falling apart, outwardly, it looked to my family and colleagues as though everything was fine. And that was because I buried my feelings.
This not only had a huge impact on my own mental health but also affected my family. I realized the situation was unsustainable. And so I decided to speak up. It felt like stepping off a cliff into the dark, but I knew I couldn’t fix this alone. I contacted a good friend and colleague who is also a mental health champion at Deloitte UK and talking to them gave me some perspective and helped me rationalize my situation. This was the first step, which followed with me seeking professional help and, with a combination of therapy and medication, I was able to get back on track.
My experience has taught me that it’s vital to be able to talk about mental health because experiencing mental ill health can be incredibly isolating and going it alone can increase your stress. In fact, it made me question why I hadn’t asked for help years ago!
It also inspired me to become a mental health champion. As a mental health champion, I’m a point of contact within Deloitte UK who people can reach out to in confidence to talk to about their mental health. I’m not there to give answers or clinical advice, but for many people, it’s helpful to have someone there to listen to them; and I can signpost the various resources we have available to support mental health.
I think some people may still be worried that speaking up about mental health will affect their careers but, in my experience, this was definitely not the case. Everyone has mental health and vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness. You only have to look at the elite sportspeople at the pinnacle of their careers who are talking about mental health to realize that it can affect anyone.
I believe that employers can lead the way on normalizing mental health conversations and contribute toward reducing societal stigma. And individually, we can all be mindful of the pressures people are under and ask the simple question, ‘are you OK?’
While we might not yet be ready to swap therapist recommendations, I do believe that UK society and workplace culture is changing. Know that you’re not alone. If you’re experiencing mental ill health, there’s help out there and people who are ready to listen.
Deloitte’s mental health story series aims to break down barriers to talking about mental health. It is not intended to – and does not – offer advice nor substitute professional mental health support. If you are experiencing mental ill health or are concerned about someone else’s mental health, please contact your national or local helpline or healthcare provider for support.