Well here I sit in one of my favourite hotels, the rather splendid Oakley Court which is situated on the Thames at Windsor. I would love to tell you that I am sharing a large pot of tea with members of the Royal Family discussing how we can create parity between physical and mental health but sadly that is not the case. I just love this hotel and thought it would be a great venue for a spot of lunch and to get my creative juices flowing.
With regard to Prince William, Prince Harry and the rather lovely Kate Middleton, I must say that they are genuinely passionate about reducing the stigma of mental health. I know people who have spent time in their company recently and when they speak on this subject they speak with great authenticity and really are helping to make a difference. Theresa May also made an excellent speech on the subject last week but the cynic in me really wants to see action from the government and not just words. We will only really start to see mental health de-stigmatised when many more leaders and managers in the workplace become educated on how to support people suffering with depression and anxiety.
Sadly almost a day does not go by without me hearing of an employee being discriminated against in the work place. A very good former colleague of mine was advised recently not to share with anyone in the office that she had depression because it would damage her brand. She was in tears as she told me and said that her boss meant well but had made her feel ten times worse. One of my clients who has severe depression was asked why she is still so upset about the loss of her Father. Her manager said “I lost my Dad in the last couple of years and you just have to get on with it”. She told her to stop being a drama queen and to cheer up. My client is resigning next week as her manager is completely ignorant on what it is like to suffer from depression.
Only yesterday, one of my friends rang me to share his experience this week with his manager. He had explained to him the day before during a meeting that his depression was not good at the moment and that he may require stronger medication and a little more support at work. At the end of the conversation he politely asked how he was at the moment. His reply was “in a worse place than you”. He felt awful as he was not aware that he was also a fellow sufferer and apologised for lacking empathy and just thinking about himself. The following day, keen to make amends he asked again after his wellbeing. This time he said that he was absolutely fine and had just been having a bad day. This confirmed to my friend that he just thinks that depression is feeling a bit down and that he will be fine. Oh dear, in a week he was looking for more support he now feels more misunderstood.
Is it any wonder that mental health charities slammed Blue Monday branding the day as a yearly PR event. It simply contributes to damaging misconceptions about depression and trivialises an illness that can be life threatening. There is no evidence whatsoever that one day in the year can increase the risk of becoming depressed. It was far too gimmicky and Pizza Hut even produced a ‘mood boosting pizza’. If they really think that their pizza will help get rid of depression we really do have a very long way to go in educating people about mental health.
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