Craig Eldridge, Frontend Developer at Etch, continues the myth busting conversations we have around mental health by openly sharing his story with mental ill-health and why we need to bravely speak up at work and to employers
As an ambassador for Dorset Mind, I am passionate about people talking out about their issues and finding help. So, what better way to make it ok for everyone at work to talk about their problems than to lead from example and talk frankly about my past. To show it's ok to not be ok.
On the 6th February for Time to Talk Day, this year’s Time to Change initiative, I decided to give a very open presentation about my experience with mental ill-health and problems caused by not talking about my issues. And now I’m sharing my story to world.
A few years back I never really spoke to my (previous) work about my issues. This almost ended in the worst possible way, ending things before it was actually my time to leave this life. My family knew of my issue, but not to the full extent. Work hardly knew a thing about it. I would panic every day before work and whilst at work. Work was so stressful, I felt like a cog in a machine with no support or help. I also had a personal issue fearing food that would make me ill and I wouldn’t eat. It was a vicious circle, where I couldn’t find the exit. I would go and get fresh air on the roof to calm myself down and stop panic attacks; until one day I went up there to not come back to my desk. From that point I decided to get professional help and start talking about who I really am.
Talking out loud wasn’t easy, it made me feel very vulnerable and not everyone really understood. I couldn’t say out loud to them that I almost took my own life, so I showed them a video which did it for me. The video was by the World Health Organization, it's called I Had A Black Dog, His Name Was Depression. My parents were in tears, so we all decided it would be wise to stop working, look after myself and find professional help.
My time off work was tough, you grow up all your life knowing you have to work to make money and to be social. I felt like I was giving up and running away. But it was a break I truly needed. It took me about nine months to get back into work, I got a part time job completely unrelated to Web Development, just in case the stresses triggered me again. After almost two years, I decided to take the plunge and get back into Web Development. And here I am, a Web Developer at Etch.
But what do I say about my blank space in my C.V.?
You know what, I told them the truth. “I took time off for my mental health". People always say its brave to be so honest in an interview, but I have two views on this. One, it is a part of me, and I can’t change the past. Two, why lie to your boss? Be open and honest to them and they will be open and honest to you. No one wants to invest into a lie. If people don’t want to employ or support you for something like this, are they really the type of company you want to work for? Would they really look after you and support you?
Etch have been super supportive. They realise that it’s not always about clients and projects. It’s about investing in people. If you invest time and energy to help the people within the business, they will perform so much better. If I’m in an environment where I feel safe, I can be so much more productive then struggling at work worry about things in your head. They allow employees to be flexible and work remotely if needs be, but also, they provide a wellbeing and information helpline for us to contact whenever we need help.
Be brave, talk out about what is really going on. If I can do it, so can you.
If you would like to talk someone, here are some good contactsyou can get in touch with:
Mind provides confidential mental health information services. With support and understanding, Mind enables people to make informed choices. The Infoline gives information on types of mental distress, where to get help, drug treatments, alternative therapies and advocacy.