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We all have mental health – let’s care for and look after it

It is encouraging to see so many personal stories of how a mental health condition has impacted their life. This not only highlights to people that they’re not alone but also encourages more people to talk about their own mental health. It’s okay not to be okay.

So why is it that when we see the words ‘PHYSICAL HEALTH’ we associate this with positive images of going to the gym, running or other physical exercise? Yet when we see the words ‘MENTAL HEALTH’ we associate this with negativity and conditions such as anxiety, depression and perhaps more severe mental illness such as bipolar or Schizophrenia. Why is that? When in both statements there is no mention of illness?

Mental health in my life

Mental illness has touched my life as well as my family’s and so I’ve seen the impact first hand. As underwriters we see the details which are disclosed by an applicant and what’s included in a GP’s report. However, these details are factual and perhaps too ‘black and white’; are we truly furnished with the full picture to make a judgement on the overall story?

I’ve seen my grandmother admitted into a mental health unit when she was in her early 80’s and escalate through therapy and eventually receive electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I have seen the impact suicide has had on my family and I can say openly that both affected me deeply. However, when I had my own personal experience of a mental health condition, I didn’t really recognise it or want to recognise it. 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with depression, which led to nearly four months off work; 16 sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy and being prescribed and taking anti-depressants for 2 years. When I reflect on my initial symptoms I just didn’t recognise them as being part of depression and just thought they were ‘normal’ for someone under family and working pressure and would simply filter away.

I was a dad of 2 young boys, feeling tired all the time, irritable, hibernating at weekends and not able to get out of bed. I was looking at Carl in the mirror and not liking what I saw and was wondering where I had gone. Yet I had to be ‘Carl’ at work and mask the emotions when entering the office. But when you are on a train to London, crying when listening to Rudimental you know that you need help and support. How many people asked if I was okay? No-one. And it doesn’t cost anything to be kind.

The Role of the Employer

The start of my recovery was the day that I broke down to my manager who then cancelled his meetings and travelled with me on the train home. The message was simple; your health comes first.

He wasn’t asked to do this, he did this as he cared; he put the person first. During my time off, my employer kept in regular contact with me, to see how I was; Not to apply pressure to me. They showed a great understanding and sincerity about my health. When I was well enough to return to work, an Occupational Health Therapist supported me with a graduated return to work programme. There was no pressure placed on me, it was all about being well again and sustainable.

As employees, we all deserve to be provided with high and consistent levels of support in respect of our mental health. Work is progressing and as industry we are listening; we do care.     

Last updated 13/05/2019