May 14, 2016

I had worked in architecture for over twenty-five years and have suffered from depression for the last six. During that time I worked for two different architects practices in Bristol and have to say that the attitudes of both companies differ greatly.

The first firm I worked for could not have done more to help me deal with the illness as it ebbed and flowed in the two years I worked there and was fortunate enough to have a HR manager who had herself suffered from depression.

However the four years I was with the second firm could not have been more different. From the outset I felt that my depression was in remission (mainly due to the care, support and understanding of my previous employer) and therefore felt no need to make any mention of this when I started work. As the years passed I noticed that there were people in the firm who had problems with stress and depression but sadly they were put in a position where they were in effect made to feel quite unwelcome by the management and duly left or were made redundant at the first possible opportunity. As you can imagine having seen this happen I was now even more unwilling to disclose anything about my condition which by now had become worse, due mainly to the toxic environment I was working in.

It was only towards the end of 2011 that I was signed off by my GP for two weeks with stress. When I returned to work it became obvious that I was going to get the same treatment as the others as my workload was gradually diminished, my confidence systematically undermined, unfounded accusations made and at my annual appraisal I was told that I was no longer trusted and also questions were asked about my mental stability. This duly culminated in me being made redundant at the end of May 2012. Having been told that the reason was due to me being untrustworthy, although no direct reference was made to my illness. In addition to this I do know for a fact that HR made a point of checking whether there would be any problem about making me redundant on the grounds of 'Disability Discrimination'.

This whole process of my redundancy nearly ended in me committing suicide, but for timely intervention of a friend who referred me to my GP who in turn put me in contact with the local NHS Crisis Team. Although the firm went to extreme lengths to ensure that on paper me being made redundant was not as a result of my depression, both the previous experience of what had happened to others with the same condition and the inconsistency of the evidence they presented, clearly pointed at least circumstantially to the fact that my illness was the reason for my removal.

However I have now changed careers and moved well away from architecture as this industry was I believe at least in part responsible for making my depression worse. Thankfully my current employer takes a more enlightened approach to mental health issues and supports those who suffer from such problems. I'm speaking up to show employers just how devastating discrimination against people with mental health problems can be, and just how far a little understanding can go.

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Comments

Jason's Blog

Well done for speaking out Jason! The fact that firm did all that checking etc showed they were fully aware of disability discrimination. To me this is disgusting! At least when something is said or done in ignorance it can be challenged with a chance of success. Shame on this firm!

But it's still there

I won't tell my employers I have a mental health condition. The reason being that when they look it up as novices...they'll probably get rid of me....and that will be another nail in my coffin I can't handle.....just like I can't handle life....chronic social anxiety is a nite mare. ...I have always been shy...I looked back at a photo of me when I was a child in Wales the other day....looking at the floor away from the camera....looking even then like a little person deep in their own world...inquisitive on a private scale of the world without showing......I walked out of my job at the newspaper which I had for ten years.....because my boss unplugged my phone and took it away.....I was doing things above my pay scale....I never told anyone this not even my husband.....when mirror group started the takeover...I was talking to people at the mirror I shouldn't have been talking to....getting involved to the point where they were calling me not my boss....we had a huge argument and he took my phone away....I was so insulted by his attitude...I walked out....of course looking back I didn't know at the time I had my disorder and was doing things I shouldn't be doing.....I should have told him.....not waited for him to find out....this is the kind of thing we do privately.....seeking information....always looking....always searching.....

Discrimination in workplace

I wish you all the best Jason I too have left and took early retirement. They didn't offer me anything but that, just wanted to get rid of me. I am now making a recovery and hopefully I might get a part time work better then being bored. Anyway Jason you are not alone

Mental Health in the workplace

This is exactly how I am feeling right now. Having been branded the scapegoat, the forefront of all problems, I am now left feeling tired and emotional and wanting to end everything! All my life I have suffered from bullying, being a black sheep in the family and endless years of just trying to fit into life and a workplace and to be happy. I'm 37years of age and I'm not sure how I can cope with this anymore.

Thank you Jason

The story you tell here really resonates with me, with an eerily similar timeline. I too have now changed careers (from IT to property maintenance!) and it has taken about a year for my stress levels to reduce to where they were 10 years ago, before things started to go off the rails. Looking back, I waited too long to take action, feeling trapped in my situation, but I'm glad I eventually did. What did you follow architecture with? Thanks for sharing you story.

Shuld I communicate my condition to my employer or workmates?

I have the privilege of having found a job that I love: computer technician. I have a very possitive outlook on life, I'm not pessimistic, I'm optimistic. Being depressive is something inside your unconscious mind, it doesn't at all mean that you have a negative outlook on life, what you think of life and of other people is more conscious, more evident. However, I suffer from depression and sometimes tend to be detached at work, not participating much in conversations. I'm usually polite and collaborative but this introversion sometimes communicates to others and makes them defensive. Which makes the problem more acute. I wonder if I should comment on this to prospective employers: I guess this wouldn't help me get jobs right?, or to workmates: what about those who would feel above you the moment you said it?

Wow, what a disgusting

Wow, what a disgusting attitude! With prevalence of mental health difficulties being so high, the chances are your former employees will struggle at some point and then they'll see what they've done to people. Cold comfort i know. I told my boss about my severe depression as i need weekly time off to go to councelling and psychiatrist appointments. He has been very accommodating. In monday i had a complete breakdown at work. My boss was amazing. He shut me in his office and calmed me down, told me what a valuable employee i am to them and that he wants me to take some time off to recover. He reassured me that the company will support me all the way and my job is there ready for me to come back when i'm feeling stronger. It's a massive weight off my shoulders but i know that itzs an unusual attitude and that i'm very lucky.

Sorry you went through this

I'm sorry you went through this and pleased you seem to be out the other side, offering inspiration and strength to others with your story and your wisdom. Much as the mental health stigma has decreased I still understand why people don't tell employers they have depression. I've had fantastic employers who have been very supportive when I've been honest with them. Then again I've had the thin edge of the wedge and was sacked for poor performance three weeks after I was diagnosed with depression. It was a horrible experience and I explored whether I could take them to tribunal but ultimately decided not to do this but concentrate on getting well. It's left me stronger and now I am Upfront with employers even at point of interview: their reaction helps me see if I would be happy working there. I work from home now so I have a great work life balance and made the decision to prioritise my mental health in everything I do. This means telling people and surrounding myself with people who understand depression and support me. People who don't support me don't stay in my life. Yes it is hard and scary telling employers in case they sack you! But you're still better off not having to work There any more. If you're lucky your employer will be supportive and your co workers too. I look at it like this: if I had a broken ankle I would have crutches and a cast and colleagues would be able to see I need help with simple things like navigating my way round the office. Depression is invisible so you need to explain you have it and be brave enough to explain the support you need. Even tho I had the worst experience of being sacked I have since found that being open and honest about depression will gain you understanding support and even inspire other people to open up as well. You're not alone, you're never alone. And if you do get made redundant / get the sack? Yes it seems like the end of the world but take it from me things do change and get better. The plus is you're not working in a toxic office any more and you can get some control and build your life the way you want to. Which is empowering. And wonderful. Thank goodness for therapy and meditation and Prozac and my rescue dog and my sad lamp and sleep and gym and eating healthy (not that easy as I have eating disorder too!) and friends who listen and hug xx

How to live the life to the fullest

Hi, I just just gone through your nice and informative blog . Its really very helpful and real life story . I have learned a lot after going through your blog. Really waiting for your next post. Thank you!!!

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This resonates with me. Same career in Arch too. What did you move on to? Thanks for sharing this.

I'm an architect too

and have suffered from anxiety and depression on and off throughout my life. it has led to breakdowns at work and my experience has been that my employers were sympathetic and supportive, allowing me time, months usually, to recover. It remains a very stressful job for me,i however, and I am considering giving it up as a career. I hadn't thought of train driving, I must admit! Best wishes, and thanks for sharing.

Never Ever Tell Them!

I have had a lifetime of discrimination and I particually noticed in the last 10 years it seems to have gotten really bad in the workplace. Because of discrimination laws (which should be a good thing) employers just use sneeky tactics to get rid of people, it's shameful. I always have a policy now of never telling employers about my conditions and then just leave when I start to get sick... it avoids all the aweful meetings to 'discuss' my condition and try to 'help' me back to work (all the whole time are usually just looking for a way to get rid) Nope, now I pre-empt the discrimination, when go to a place to work I try to suss out from the becoming who are the most likely to discriminate. One useful way to protect yourself is to insist the vast majority of communication is written in email, always say 'can you drop that in an email to me' so there is always written evidence of all discussions. What seems like an innocent comment now, may have much more meaning down the line.... like I say, these people are sneaky. It shouldn't have to be this way, but it is! Anyway, nievly, I messed up today. I offered to volunteer for an organisation that actually helps people with life lissues such as homelessness, addiction and learning dissabilities. At the meeting, after much discussion from the organisation about inclusivity, I mentioned my own struggles with depression. Well it looks like they will be turning down my offer to Volunteer. My bad, for thinking that the voluntary sector, specifically helping people with issues, would be so open minded to let a person with depression work for them (unpaid). Itssych a chronic shame tgat those with mental illness are shamed into silence. But, no matter how many 'celebrities' or 'royals' talk about mental health, nothing is gonna change in the work place for us normal people.

Discrimination

I work for a company that had signed up to the pledge then since i told them i have been subject to continues discrimination. The manager even confessed to it and when asked why he said just could nt resist. They have not fired demoted or moved him and have forced me to carry working under him and now im facing disaplinery because he said i was aggressive after hed be goading me and personnaly attacking me. If this is how time to change employers act then what is the point?

Employers pledge

Hi there, I'm really sad to hear you've experienced this. It must be really difficult, and it's not right. I should say that our Employers Pledge is a commitment to improve, and each organisation will have different starting points and action plans - and change can be a long process. We are unfortunately not able to hold each one to account. If you would like to speak with our Employers team further about the pledge, please do email them at employers@time-to-change.org.uk. Wishing you all the best, Tim at Time to Change

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