My experience of depression
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.
Time to Change was a national campaign to end the stigma around mental health problems. It closed on 31st March 2021. Mind has vowed to continue its work on ending the still existing stigma around mental illness.
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 blunt colleague probably doesn’t dislike me but is just having a bad day. But despite these benefits, having depression wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.
Awareness of mental health problems is rising, realising 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, have no interest in anything, and 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 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 incapable of further responsibility. These can be really damaging as no one wants to fit this description. 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 beneficial, but there is still more to be done. Depression often shows itself in the workplace, 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.
- 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, it could trigger stress or an 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, led the Time to Change campaign during this time. Time to Change was England’s biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination (it is sadly now defunct, as of 31st March 2021).
I was genuinely delighted that David Sproul, Senior Partner and Chief Executive at Deloitte, signed the Time to Change pledge. The pledge aimed to improve people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour around mental health. It was a public statement of Deloitte’s aspiration to tackle stigma and discrimination in the workplace. I was and continue to be proud to be working for a firm helping break the silence surrounding mental health.
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