‘I had to leave the job I loved’: dealing with mental health problems at work
‘I had to leave the job I loved’: dealing with mental health problems at work

‘I had to leave the job I loved’: dealing with mental health problems at work

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‘I was hundreds of miles from my family with no income’

The majority of my experiences have been positive. However, one stands out. When I started, I didn’t tell this employer about my conditions. As usual, my anxiety began to make me sick. I took more and more sick days as I tried to struggle through, and it was eventually noticed. I ended up telling them about my mental health conditions. They nodded along politely, but basically gave me an ultimatum. They would not do anything to help, I would have to effectively “man up” or be fired. I tried, but the anxiety and depression were far too strong. I ended up back in the meeting room with my manager, and was told that I had not passed the probation period. I was left living in London, hundreds of miles from my nearest family, with no income.

Ryan Ashton, 30, software developer 

‘Telling my manager went better than I thought it would’

I suffer from depression and anxiety, so it took me a while to get out there and start my career. When I did it was extremely hard. Many sick days were taken to avoid having to face people and the fear of needing to perform well. A little after a year into my job I decided to take the dreaded leap. I told my manager about my mental health, and it went better than I thought it would! Luckily where I work hours are flexible and working from home is permitted. I now work from home every Friday, which has made a massive difference.

Amy Shelley, 20, business and administration apprentice

‘I had to leave the profession I loved’

I write having had to leave the profession I loved because I became mentally ill. I had been a head teacher for more than 12 years but began to suffer serious anxiety and panic after a negative inspection report. I felt bullied by both the governing body and the local authority, and when I finally cracked and had to take time off I had no support from them. When I tried to return they refused to make any allowances. Eventually I found that I couldn’t work because I was too ill. Despite a successful career, popularity with parents and children, and demonstrably improving school results over many years, they never once tried to work with me to help me return to being the effective leader I once was.

Anonymous, head teacher

‘It’s hard to explain what it can be like to deal with on a daily basis’

I joined the Civil Service in 2013 and have had three or four major depressive episodes since then. Each line manager I have had, barring one, has been incredibly supportive. One in particular stands out as being exemplary in assisting me back to work, having gone through similar events themselves. It is difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced poor mental health what it can be like to deal with on a daily basis. Everyone has bad days, but to explain how it can feel almost impossible to get out of bed to someone who just doesn’t get it can leave you exposed and invalidated.

Anonymous, civil servant

‘As a teacher, the targets and relentless pressure take their toll’

I had a complete breakdown this time last year. I was suicidal, very low and my confidence was sapped away. I am now back at work and living life again. Things are different and my school has a good understanding of mental health and is trying to address the issues. Unfortunately the profession that I am in means that the targets and relentless pressure take their toll. We have had an external company help the school which is really encouraging.

Anonymous, teacher

‘The stigma remains’

I am currently suffering the after effects of a bereavement which brought about major issues, some of which I have shared with my line manager. Each instance is met with the briefest acknowledgement (at best) before it’s on with the agenda. Every day I struggle to keep going. I’m paying for my own counselling, none being available elsewhere, despite attending three separate NHS referrals. An issue in itself but this pales into insignificance when compared with the “lip service” paid to the issue within my own organisation. The stigma remains. And the (almost) silent suffering continues.

Anonymous, quality assurance

‘I’m a doctor and I worry for my future and that of my colleagues’

My job (and it is probably the same for every NHS worker in the country) is becoming more stressful with increases in workload and bureaucracy, increases in inspections and assessment and decreases in quality time spent with patients and colleagues. I feel my mental health is fine at the moment but I worry for my future and that of my colleagues. Workers in the NHS and elsewhere are being presented with support in the form of mindfulness courses and resources and talk of resilience. This is all well and good, but if the work is changing in a way that is negatively impacting on staff’s mental health, this is no better than paying lip service to the mental health of a workforce.

Anonymous, GP

Living wages, permanent contracts and flexible working are vital

I have a ten year employment history with health and wellbeing charities. In my experience employers and employees are incredibly receptive [to mental health awareness training], but it is meaningless if the basic conditions conducive to positive wellbeing in the workplace are not met. It is one thing being aware of the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety, but entirely useless if an employer is not in a position to offer living wages, permanent contracts or flexible working hours. This is a particular problem within the charity sector, where a move towards short-term, results-led project funding has seen HR departments vanish, training resources depleted, part-time, short-term contracts and pressure for project staff to get measurable results in absurdly short time frames.

Sam Whyte, 30, social media manager

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