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My experience of depression

Friday, 15 November 2013 Jacqui

Jacqui Crane from Deloitte works in National Audit and Accounting, managing part of an internal audit change programme. She talks about her experience of depression and the importance of Deloitte signing the Time to Change pledge.

For me, some good has come from having depression. I'm more compassionate, more motivated and I know more about how my brain works. I try to understand other people better: that colleague who seems blunt probably doesn’t dislike me but is just having a bad day. But in spite of these benefits, having depression wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.

Awareness of mental health problems is rising, with the realisation that depression isn’t the emotion of sadness and an anxiety disorder isn’t the same as feeling anxious. For me, depression feels like the day before you get a horrible cold: you’re not sneezing and don't look ill yet; but you feel like you can't think and that all your five senses are smothered in cotton wool. Turning the wrong way out of the lift or spelling your own name wrong feels like the worst thing you’ve ever done. Depression can cause you to feel very sad, hopeless or guilty, to have no interest in anything and to find it difficult to make decisions.

I was lucky to access prompt treatment for my depression, which made a huge difference. Treatment can be a combination of medication; formal therapy and other therapeutic techniques such as mindfulness; increased activity and exercise; and changes in diet. Treatment, at whatever stage, doesn’t always mean a cure. Some mental health problems for some people can only be managed, and living with a mental health problem doesn’t have to mean an effect on performance at work.

But to get that help, I had to acknowledge the problem and admit that something was wrong. Misconceptions can paint people with mental health problems as weak, unable to cope with stress and not capable of further responsibility. These can be really damaging as no one wants to fit this description and so they force themselves to carry on as normal, often causing a downward spiral.

Deloitte colleagues I’ve told about my own experiences have been really helpful but there is still more to be done. The workplace is often where depression shows itself, so it’s here that we need to educate individuals and managers to recognise the signs of mental health problems and know how to help.

My advice? Don’t define a person by their mental health problem: treat them as people, and be a good listener. Don’t tell people to cheer up or pull themselves together. If that worked, I promise they’d be well already. Don’t ask people why they have the illness: at best it’s intrusive, and at worst could trigger a stress or anxiety reaction. Don’t use “mad” or “schizo” (or other words relating to mental health problems) as insults. It’s demeaning.

In June 2013 Mind was selected by Deloitte staff as one of three national charity partners for the next three years. Mind, together with Rethink Mental Illness, are leading the Time to Change campaign, England's biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.

I’m genuinely delighted that David Sproul, Senior Partner and Chief Executive at Deloitte has signed the Time to Change pledge. It aims to improve people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour around mental health and is a public statement of Deloitte’s aspiration to tackle stigma and discrimination in the workplace. I am proud to be working for a firm that is helping break the silence surrounding mental health.

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