Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mental Health - out from the shadows?

I have both a personal and professional interest in mental health.

If I can be a bit presumptuous I actually think we all should have a personal interest in the subject.

Once upon a time, at a particularly low point in my life, I suffered serious clinical depression. I am happy to say I recovered fully. I also spent 10 years of my NHS career as a manager in mental health services.

I have, for many years, supported all campaigns calling for more understanding from employers about the challenges faced by people with mental health problems. I am delighted therefore to read today about new initiatives (click here) that will encourage employers to take steps to understand mental health and the effects of stress and depression for their staff.

As a society it seems we have no problems talking about physical illness and employers are, generally speaking, very sympathetic about something ‘they can see’ or they can relate to. I am not sure that same understanding is always present when employees suffer mental health problems such as depression.

As I have said before on my Blog I am encouraged when I see people like Robbie Williams, John Cleese, Sir Winston Churchill, Stephen Fry and Tom Peters openly talking about the challenge of depression. They are all successful people and it reminds us that mental health problems are not discriminatory. People who ‘apparently’ have 'everything' suffer as do people who 'apparently' have significantly less.

I hope these latest initiatives help those who struggle with the ever present threat of depression. When we examine the statistics it is scary – 1 in 4 of the population will suffer mental health problems at some point in our lives. That is a massive issue that merits greater understanding.

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