People first, not profit

February 1st, 2018 by Laura Hetherington, Planning and MI Analyst in Recruitment

Time To Talk 2018

On #TimetoTalk Day, it’s important that we encourage healthy discussion on mental health and debunk the myths and stigmas that come with it.

Several years ago I was working for a company that’s main (and sometimes only) concern was to make a large profit. Staff were solely judged by how much money they’d made the company, and the managers would drive this relentlessly.

So much so that I would often find my colleagues visibly shaken and upset, dreading the thought of even re-entering the office. I had spoken out on the treatment of staff and defended them, but I could only handle so much myself. My low point came during a meeting about holiday leave.

My personal plans didn’t align with the company’s plans, and that was a problem for my manager. During the conversation, he stood up, loomed over me and repeatedly jabbed a finger in my face while making a point. And I burst into tears.

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not someone who cries often. They also know I’m not afraid of confrontation, but the meeting was a turning point. I couldn’t find it in me to so much as get out of bed in the morning.

Laura Hetherington

I’d watched my mother go through a similar transition after her parents died and I knew my partner described similar feelings after his divorce, so I went to my GP and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

I was signed off work for a while and spent the time in cognitive behavioural therapy with a wonderful counsellor. She helped me pinpoint my triggers and develop coping mechanisms. I realised that a lot of my triggers were work related, but my managers resisted when I had tried to work with them to get myself back to work.

They assumed if I was back at work, I was “better”. Their approach of putting profit before people, and their ignorance in trying to understand mental health was the ultimate factor in my decision to move on. I started putting my CV out and eventually Home Group found me.

I was lucky. I still have anxiety and depression, that isn’t going away, but I know how to manage it and how to spot the signs if it’s getting bad. I feel safe in telling my manager that I just can’t “do” a day and he’s very understanding.

It’s been over four years since I last thought about ending my life, and even though there are bad days, I know I’m stronger because of my experience. I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed of how I am, I’ve always been open with my team about it and they’ve never judged me for it.

This is me.