I have mental ill health. I never thought I would.

by Aislinn McGurk

Today is World Mental Health Day 2018. It is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. 
Today I am sharing my personal story…

I thought mental health problems were “other” and a sign of weakness.Things were good, and for the most part, life came easy. I was strong… some people just couldn’t handle things.

Until I started worrying more than usual — replaying insignificant everyday events in my mind, over and over. Leaving for work then turning back halfway. Did I leave the iron on? Was there a tea towel on the hob? My straighteners? Front door unlocked? These anxious thoughts began as an exception, then it was once a week until it was almost daily.

I would replay moments and conversations over and over in my mind. I couldn’t concentrate and had trouble sleeping at night. I would ruin a trip to the cinema or even holidays; I was filled with dread and worry. Leaving my flat got harder and harder, being out at all felt stressful.

My logical mind was telling me to just STOP and get over it and get on with it. I tried; nothing in my life had changed, in fact, things were better than ever. But my anxious thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviour and rumination on inconsequential things had taken over.

Until one day I decided enough was enough and I contacted the support line through work to discuss the options of seeing a therapist.

Doing that made me anxious. I thought I was being hyperbolic and privileged and there was ‘f**k all’ wrong with me. After 15 minutes with the cognitive behavioural therapist, she told me, ‘what you have is very common and very treatable, and if it’s ok with you we can we can get started now?’

I left that session like a new person, a weight had been lifted and I instantly knew I was not going to have to continue on this path. I had 6 face-to-face sessions with my clinical psychologist and it has honestly changed the course of my life. And now I’m the annoying person who is pushing everyone I know to try therapy, even when they are feeling well.

Talking about our mental health openly and addressing the issues it creates, as we do with our physical ill health, is the only way we can tackle the stigma that exists in society. Mental ill health can happen to anyone. And it does:

  • 1 in 3 people of the UK workforce have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime
  • 6% of employees have been living with a formally diagnosed condition for more than 10 years
  • Mental health costs the UK £70bn per year
  • 15.2 million sick days a year are due to stress, anxiety or depression

Mental ill health is very personal and there isn’t a quick fix. What worked for me might not work for you, but don’t give up. The best course of action is to seek help as soon as possible before your symptoms become more difficult to manage.

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We have set up a Mental Health Employee Network at the Financial Times.
FT Mental Health Employee Network: aims to promote awareness of mental health issues, establish mental health support within all departments and provide clear information and resources to FT staff.

  • Email: MentalHealthCommittee@ft.com
  • Slack: #mental-health
  • Mental Health First Aid: MentalHealthFirstAid@FT.com

How to get support outside of the FT.

We have a Wellbeing hub, which is sometimes referred to as EAP (Employee Assistance Programme). The Wellbeing hub provides 24-hour confidential, professional advice and counselling services for you, colleagues, friends and family — just call 0800 389 0285.

After initial telephone counselling, employees can benefit from up to 6 face to face counselling sessions which include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Family therapy, Relationship counselling and Mindfulness-based therapies to name a few. The Wellbeing hub counsellors can provide support for a whole range of things from mental health to personal finance advice and physical wellbeing. For more information check out InsideFT.