The teacher: I am now a manager myself, and I never forget that a boss has the ability to change lives
To say I was feeling low would be an understatement. A dramatic and unforeseen turn of events transformed my happy life into a trauma overnight. Depression felt like my life was crumbling, the ground ripped from beneath my feet.
In desperate need for stability I threw myself into work with a new-found intensity. I was often the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. Work gave me purpose, but my sense of self became entwined in work – perhaps it wasn’t healthy, but pride in my work boosted my sense of worth and esteem.
Working for yourself means taking time off is not as simple as turning an out-of-office response on
I know the exact moment on my recent holiday where I finally relaxed after months of overdoing it. Towards the end of a trip to the US, my friend and I spent an afternoon of trashy pleasure on the Warner Bros studio tour in Los Angeles.
After winding through film sets, our tour cart stopped outside a building that housed props from the Harry Potter movies. I’m not a Potter addict, but I found myself staring into a glass case filled with magic wands. Without realising, I gasped in a moment of unthinking awe. After months of staring at a computer screen, my brain had finally unclenched.
Taking time away means turning down opportunities. Unless you’re being offered a career-defining gig, try to say no
Related: Wanderlust: five ways to keep your job while travelling the world
Clare Slaney, Richard House and 73 others involved in the mental health field say that voters face an unusually grave choice on 8 June
British society is in crisis. Suicide is now the leading cause of death in men under 45. The Royal Society of Medicine tells us that “relentless cuts” have led to an extra 30,000 deaths. A report to the UN from the Equality and Human Rights Commission noted that work capability assessments “have been linked to suicides and cases of deteriorating mental health”. Benefit sanctions have caused hunger, hypothermia, homelessness and deaths. It is scarcely believable that food banks have become a societal norm. Workplace stress is at epidemic proportions, with working conditions increasingly amounting to servitude. People work for pitiful wages and uncertain numbers of hours, while the highly paid are expected to work a 70-plus hour week. Increasingly, people have to fit sleep around their working life. Employment and wealth have become the primary arbiters of a person’s value and character.
In our view, voters need to revisit fundamental values. Are human beings nothing more than economic units? Are some people valued more than others? Are vulnerable people deserving of public expenditure, or are they disposable? Do neighbours and communities matter – or are we merely people in housing units? Poverty creates chronic mental and physical illnesses that cost a great deal across the life cycle. UK productivity is the lowest in the G7, in part because of stress, because increasing numbers of people hate their jobs, but also because employers refuse to meaningfully invest in their workforce. Treating people as objects has destructive economic effects at every level.
Understanding the difference between counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist can be confusing. Here’s our guide to training as a therapist
The route towards a career in counselling or therapy is baffling. When I began my journey eight years ago, I was struck by the jargon and lack of clear, streamlined advice: would I need a PhD, masters or diploma? Should I specialise or generalise? Work with adults or children, individuals or groups, families or couples? Pursue humanistic, psychoanalytic or cognitive behavioural training?
I couldn’t even comprehend the difference between a counsellor, psychotherapist and psychologist, let alone the difference between a psychoanalyst and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.
Related: ‘I feel privileged if someone says I trust you’: working with domestic abuse survivors
The courses are also intense and emotionally triggering, which is important to know before undergoing training
Related: Mental health workers struggle with stigma about their own issues
The majority of workers on low pay or zero-hour contracts are women, which adds to the stress when they experience long-term health issues
When Sue Heller was diagnosed with multiple-sclerosis (MS) at the age of 33, she knew that her employer’s support was vital. She was offered a higher-paid job a few years ago, but she turned it down: “When I asked what would happen if my health deteriorated, they couldn’t make any guarantees. At that point I realised I was better off where I was, even at a lower wage.”
Women in the UK are three times more likely to get MS – often during their 20s and 30s, when most are navigating the early stages of their career. There are many chronic illnesses, like heart disease, that affect men more often than women: but a range of additional factors come into play with regards to women’s health problems and the workplace.
Related: ‘Be yourself and never apologise for it’ – career advice from successful women
Related: Three ways to succeed at work (if you’re a woman)
Watching you talk about how you support people will mental health makes me anxious – I hope no one else has to endure what I did
Before I started working for you, I idolised you. Your office looked incredible and I couldn’t think of anything better than having dogs running around my feet as I worked, and in-office play equipment which took me back to the days I spent running around soft play areas as a child. I couldn’t have been more infatuated, until you started talking about mental health. When you told the camera how supportive your company was, I knew I needed to work for you.
Related: What I wish I could tell my boss: ‘I was broken, and you fixed me’
Unpredictable income, reduced human contact and over reliance on social media makes self-employment even harder for people with mental health issues
I remember the day I decided to take the plunge and go freelance. It was 2015, I was in a full-time job I wasn’t satisfied with, and the thought of it stretching out infinitely in front of me felt stifling.
In my inbox was an offer of a short-term contract that would give me the freedom and flexibility I craved; I envisaged mornings spent cooking myself healthy breakfasts and jogging before starting work, revelling in the fact that every day could bring new commissions and challenges I hadn’t expected.
I’d been so seduced by the millennial, Instagram-ideal of freelancing that I hadn’t even considered the negatives
More than ever, we’re living in an age of uncertainty. Now is the time to invest in tackling the mental health problems we know this engenders
We are in the middle of an unprecedented revolution in our working lives. Within the next 20 years nearly half of current jobs in the US are at risk of being automated, according to the Oxford Martin School’s commonly-cited prediction. London will be as affected as anywhere by the global moves towards automation.
But working is what most of us want to do. Work not only gives us an income, but also a purpose. Unemployment increases the likelihood of depression and anxiety by up to a factor of 10 within 12 weeks, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. In the rust-belt states of the US, high rates of unemployment, economic decline and social stagnation have led to sharply rising death rates from drugs, alcohol and suicide.
Related: We need mental health support at work – and every employer should commit to it | Norman Lamb
Hours and pay need to be transparent and fair; job insecurity should be minimised and zero-hour contracts avoided
Related: Is mental illness real? You asked Google – here’s the answer | Jay Watts
The teacher: I’d been suffering anxiety for weeks when I came to you, and you did everything in your power to help save my life
I was broken when I came to you. My life felt futile, my existence pointless. I had been crying for days. I was always tired and never hungry. My body weight was down by 15lbs. I’d been suffering anxiety attacks, both day and night, for several weeks. Muscles in my arms and legs were twitching uncontrollably. I’d been to the hospital’s emergency department twice with thoughts of suicide. I was trying to hide it, but I know I looked sick. I didn’t want to admit my mental illness to anyone, but I couldn’t go on hiding my depression. So I came to you.
My brain had turned against me, but you joined my side of the battle
Cuts and stretched services are affecting the mental health of carers in the sector, with many too ashamed to seek help
Understanding around mental health is improving: campaigns such as Time To Change have drawn public awareness to the issue and employers are realising the affects of dedicated wellbeing support to staff – which have led to a 30% reduction in mental health-related absences. But surprisingly, stigma still exists for those working in mental healthcare themselves.
Many people working in the sector are reluctant to talk about their own experiences, says Elizabeth Cotton, an academic at Middlesex University researching the topic. She was one of them. “I walked a thin line between being a competent professional and feeling like a fraud at managing my own mental health at work.”
Related: ‘I work full-time yet can’t afford to meet my basic needs’: care workers speak out
I still think every day about the patients I worked with and how the system is failing them
Figures for deaths in England suggest highest risk among women is for those employed in culture, media and sport
Men working in the construction industry and women employed in culture, media and sport, healthcare and primary school teaching are at the highest risk of suicide, official figures for England suggest.
Related: Strong link between disadvantage and suicide, says Samaritans
I felt I had no choice but to expose fraud at work, but was bullied and ignored. Now I have lost all hope in work
Twice a week we publish problems that will feature in a forthcoming Dear Jeremy advice column in the Saturday Guardian so that readers can offer their own advice and suggestions. We then print the best of your comments alongside Jeremy’s own insights.
Six years ago I was a whistleblower at my workplace. I worked there for three years, but from my first day I noticed daily cover-ups, misuse of position and daily cash fraud.
With such poor prospects in jobs, housing and savings, it’s little wonder young men turn to a heavily advertised, supposedly masculine form of escape
Men of my age often feel trapped between one group of people telling us to “man up” and another suggesting that our plight is less grave than that of others. Indeed, many will probably shrug when they learn that a new study suggests that a quarter of men between 18 and 24 have a gambling problem. Yet it does not take a genius to see a link between gambling and millennial males’ current place in society. We are a group lacking hope – and gambling is just one symptom.
My demographic is gambling for a number of reasons – some of them innocent – but economics and mental health are crucial. Of course, the cause of minority groups are generally more pressing than that of millennial men – we should not feel uneasy about asking not to be forgotten, while advocating other progressive issues. It is coherent to champion both.
16% of young men think that no matter how hard they try, their life will amount to nothing
Related: Revealed: the 30-year economic betrayal dragging down Generation Y’s income