'I wasn't prepared to accept that'
Mental health conditions are widespread and most of us will either experience one, or know someone who has experienced one. ‘I wasn’t prepared to accept that’ tells the real life story of David and his experiences of mental ill health and work.
I WASN'T PREPARED TO ACCEPT THAT - DAVID CREPAZ-KEAY
I was told many times that I had to give up any expectation of having a career.
I wasn't prepared to accept that.
My first recollections of what I think of as my madness, if you like, started when I was 13, 14 years old.
And for me the experience has nearly always been about hearing and seeing things that other people aren't aware of, but they would be aware that I was behaving oddly.
By the time I was, say, 17, 18, I was on tranquillisers, antidepressants and mood stabilisers and on my third psychiatric diagnosis.
Although it took up a lot of time, it didn't have as big an impact on my education as it could have done.
So I got my O levels, I got my A levels, I got into Cardiff University and started studying to be an economist.
My final diagnosis was that of schizophrenia.
Although I was now getting what you might think of as the right medication, I was still hearing and seeing things.
I worked in a variety of places.
I spent a little bit of time writing economic models for the Treasury. I loved my time there.
I had one brief period where I ended up in hospital. I had a lot of support from people at work.
People came to visit me in hospital. People were happy to talk about it or not talk about it, as I wanted to.
I went back, gradually built up my hours. I altered my hours a little bit.
I was seen first and foremost for my work.
There was no great mystery or problem about it.
When, on future occasions in future places, after they realised I had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, people treated me completely differently. And I think that came as a complete shock to me.
I was genuinely surprised by that change in attitude.
Some people stopped talking to me. Some line managers decided I was no longer capable of doing a particular job, regardless of the fact that I'd been doing it for some time before they knew my diagnosis.
On one occasion it all changed when someone found that I was taking a particular type of medication, and I was basically managed out of the organisation.
And that happened on more than one occasion.
For me, my priority was to get a job. Once I had a job, my priority was to keep a job.
For most people, the things that they find most important are, you know, home, family and work. And for people with a psychiatric diagnosis, that is no different.
We think about accessible work places in a very physical way. We're nothing like as good at understanding what access means in terms of mental ill health. We're starting to get there, but it's very, very early days.
It's important to remember that work is good for your mental health.
The person I am now is as much a product of meeting people through word of mouth, through local voluntary organisations, through self-help, through peer support, that kind of work, and that's enormously powerful.
EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Why is mental health a workplace issue?
- Most people with mental health conditions are in paid employment and are almost as likely to be working as anyone else.
- Employers should expect to find that at any one time nearly one in six of their workforce is affected by a mental health condition
- The combined costs of sickness absence, non-employment, effects on unpaid work and output losses in the UK is £26 billion a year
What can employers do?
We are encouraging employers to take action using our guidance and awareness-raising materials. With our partners we have looked at what makes effective policy and practice, defined the business case and agreed a strategy to promote the guidance to others.
We have developed a set of tools which you can use in your workplace to tackle sickness absence and address the stigma associated with mental health conditions.
- Mental health is your business: guidance for developing a workplace policy - download in English (PDF) | Welsh (PDF)
- Mental health top 10 tips
- James' story - the business case for a workplace policy
- Mental health workplace policy presentation
Last updated: 02 Dec 2016