According to the World Health Organisation, depression is so common a mental disorder, that more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. A worldwide leader in disability causes, it is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. I’m not talking about just being ‘sad’. Depression is, for many like me, an sense of perpetual suffering, not temporary sadness.
This is something that’s all too common. The WHO also says that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
One in four. Consider where you work, and the three people who have a desk or cubicle closest to you. Statistically speaking, one of those three will have some form of mental illness in their lives, and if not them, then it’s you.
This is a significant concept for us to grasp. So when it comes to a high-stakes, high-pressure office or work environment, there are some who take the slings and arrows of their work lives as ‘water off a duck’s back’, and those who simply cannot function under the pressure. The way their colleagues, superiors and managers respond to this is what makes the difference between successfully navigating mental health issues, and becoming statistics of it.
In my own situation, I didn’t show a great deal of care about how others around me were nor weren’t coping with their mental health, ostensibly abdicating any and all responsibility for it through a process of rationalising: I absolved myself of my indifference to the suffering others by consoling myself that I was suffering too, and therefore expected others to cop as I was (outwardly) doing.
My job was one of pressure and stress. The outward facing self told the world, or whoever was listening, that I was fine with it all. There’s no doubt that had I been mentally healthy that I would have thrived under the pressure; used it to my advantage. The sad reality was that it used me it its advantage.
Thanks to a more culturally aware and sensitive workforce culture, coupled with public service awareness campaigns about mental health, there is room in the modern workplace to be alert as to the symptoms of someone else’s failing mental health, and if nothing else, then to be aware of the symptoms of your own. This was not always the case, and I was eventually going to become a victim to both the workplace culture, and the way I was raised: the expectations that boys don’t cry, that men guard their emotions, that you suck it up, push on with the job and achieve success.
If it was taking a toll on you, it was seen as more of a reflection on your inability to cope, and less about the fact that you were in need of some degree of help. I pushed through, having convinced myself that I was thriving under the pressure, when the fact was I was doing myself a tremendous disservice.
I’d like to think that I am living proof that we need to be ever-vigilant about mental health, its impact, its effects and how many people are susceptible to it. And while it seems as though it’s a discussion which as more prominence, less stigma and more awareness, it’s still something for which we should contribute to strive to improve people’s education, awareness, tolerance and acceptance.