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.