July 15, 2014

In March 2014, I applied for Cabin Crew with Emirates Airline. I was shortlisted from thousands of people, and battled my way to the final interview. It was the most exhausting week I had experienced in a very long time. After waiting 4 weeks, I received my ‘golden call’ and the recruiter told me that I’d been successful and would be starting with them on July 6. Instantly, I cried with happiness, shaking with excitement and called every number in my phone book, screaming my news! I finally managed to bag my dream job. I remember thinking to myself ‘it’s my time for happiness now, the years of hard work, tears and struggle were actually worth it after all.’

I was isolated and alone, and didn't talk to anyone about my depression

One week after receiving my ‘golden call’, I received extensive medical forms and I was shocked to learn that Emirates does not accept employees with previous depression; unless isolated. I was slightly concerned because I had experienced isolated bouts of depression in 2009 and 2012 due to personal circumstances and traumatic things happening in my life. It was the darkest time of my life. The depression led to anxiety issues and I closed myself off from the world. I was isolated and alone, and didn't talk to anyone about my depression – presumably due to the stigma surrounding it. I went to college/work every day and was always known as the ‘class clown’. I’ve always been very good at making people laugh; little did they know that I was suffering so badly inside. After medical support, I was cleared from the doctor and was ready to carry on with my life again, but this time, with a smile on my face.

I had my dream job taken away from me because I experienced depression

As Emirates had asked for my records I supplied the required report, where my doctor states that I am mentally and physically fit, that I no longer require any medication and that these were isolated cases linked to trauma. One week before my joining date, I received an email from Emirates stating that I had not met their medical conditions and that the job offer had been withdrawn. The single paragraph left me shocked and heartbroken. I had my dream job taken away from me because I experienced depression. Mental health discrimination is illegal in England but Emirates seem to avoid this because they abide by UAE laws.

I initially set up a Facebook Page called Emirates Against Depression to warn other aspiring cabin crew against the unfair treatment by the airline – I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through what I had. I lost hundreds of pounds, turned down other job offers and lost so much more along the way. Within 24 hours, I was contacted by two newspapers; my story was online at The Independent and published the next day. My page was gaining more views, likes and comments from people who were outraged and shocked by my story from all around the world. Within 48 hours, my story reached the BBC and I appeared on television sharing my story, accompanied by Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change.

I had to help others who were going though similar experiences

As my story had gone global, I received an overwhelming response from people all over the world, sharing their personal stories of Emirates, other airlines and even other industries. I was completely overwhelmed how my story had touched so many, and that they were coming to me for advice and support. But I was more shocked at how many people face stigma and discrimination in the workplace because of their mental health problems.

I spent weeks replying to everyone, thanking them for their support but mainly offering advice. The main question I got asked was “What made you stand up to mental health discrimination?” Initially, it was anger, how could I be penalised for having depression? Secondly, I wanted to warn others to prevent this from happening to them. Of course, I was scared when my story was all over the internet and in the newspapers but I felt so passionate about my story – I had to help others who were going though similar experiences.

I am not afraid to talk about my depression

One in five adults experience depression, and that’s only the statistics for the people who speak out about it. Depression has made me a stronger, healthier person and provided me with the skills to empathise with all types of people and to deal with high-pressured situations. It’s changed my life, but for the better. Mental health discrimination is something I never dreamed of facing, but I am not afraid to talk about my depression. To other people who can identify with my story, don’t give up fighting - there is more support than you may think. In five days, my story went global – this shows to me how important this issue is. It also shows that we are not alone. We all know someone who has experienced a mental health problem - ourselves, friends, and family - so take a moment and ask yourself the question ‘Would you accept mental health discrimination directly?’ I don’t think you would. So, let’s continue to raise awareness, to fight against it and make it stop.

 

Find out more about what Time to Change is doing to bring mental health awareness to the workplace.

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