At the beginning of her career, Beth found her employers less than understanding when it came to her mental health. She’s now a Time to Change champion and is campaigning to make sure everyone feels able to talk about their mental health at work.
Leaving university during the recession, where there were no jobs in my chosen field, was a pretty anxious time. After nearly a year of working in a pub as a cleaner and bar staff, I finally got a job but had to move away from home to do it. I moved in with my partner at the time and started my career in public relations.
The days got longer and I was making mistakes at work. I was paranoid and convinced no one liked me.
Things started off well and then, a few months into the role, I had glandular fever and was off work for three months. I couldn’t eat, I slept for days and started to get social anxiety through not going outside. When I finally went back, my ‘phased return’ was non-existent and then came the pressure. The days got longer and I was making mistakes at work. I was paranoid and convinced no one liked me. I was pulled aside about the quality of my work and the manager suggested that maybe public relations wasn’t for me. I persevered but in the end, I had to choose: either my work improved or I left.
I found another job in a public relations agency back at home and things started off well. Then the same things started happening again; I had brain fog, I felt really spaced out, my work was being done ridiculously slowly and I would cry in the toilets after receiving criticism. I went to see the GP and they said I had depression. I was prescribed medication and when I got back to work, I pulled the manager aside to tell her. She wanted proof in the form of a doctor’s note to back up what I was telling her. I got the note from the doctor and carried on with my work.
I met with two managers who asked if I was better yet. I wasn’t.
However, I was still suffering. A week or so later, I met with two managers who asked if I was better yet. I wasn’t. We met again a week or two after that, they asked again if I was better and I said I wasn’t. They gave me a verbal warning and suggested that I get my act together or I’d be gone. They also told me that clients coming into the building would think I was unprofessional because I wasn’t wearing make-up to work. I was distraught. When they went to give me a written warning, I told them I was leaving.
From there, I went to another agency and had the same issues, so decided working in a high pressured environment wasn’t for me. I began working for charities and progressing in my roles. Although some of the staff were very understanding, there was more that needed to be done by HR.
Then I became a Time to Change Wales champion. I started bringing in information to leave around the office and suggested in several meetings that they have some staff trained in mental health first aid. After a few years they decided to do this and I was lucky enough to be trained through New Pathways on their SURE for Mental Health course. I have since left the charity that trained me and they now have mental health champions in the workplace, which makes me really proud.
Mental health should be a top priority at work because that’s where we spend most of our lives.
I recently received a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (emotionally unstable personality disorder) and my new place of work are so supportive and look out for my wellbeing. It’s amazing and I’m very lucky.
Mental health should be a top priority at work because that’s where we spend most of our lives. More people should be mental health first aid trained and more people should be nominated as workplace champions to help stop the stigma at work.
As for me, I’ll be carrying on raising awareness through my personal blog and at work, to ensure more people can talk openly about their mental health.