Mental illness can affect anyone at any time. 1 in 4 people experience some form of mental illness and a new study from Mind suggests that around 1 in 2 of us will suffer from mental ill health in our lifetime. It is one illness that does not discriminate.
34 year-old Paul from Barnsley discovered just this, whilst working in his last job at a leading call centre. Confident, charismatic and funny – Paul definitely doesn’t fit the stereotype of someone who suffers from anxiety and depression.
“I was a great employee, top 5% in the company actually. I used to be the person that they would bring the CEOs and top executives to speak to about ‘life on the floor’. I earned a good salary and I was well liked around the business, I had lots of friends there.
“One day I took a call from a customer who didn’t have the right information they needed and threatened to kill themselves. I didn’t have the support I needed - I didn’t have the training to deal with something like that. After that it just snowballed. It wasn’t just at work, it had a knock on effect with my family and home life too.
“The negativity had created a mental block which stopped me from seeing reality as it was. I didn’t want to leave the house. I had anxiety over meeting people that destroyed my social life. Then one day, I don’t know what happened, but I tried to commit suicide. I just stepped out into traffic.
“My work weren’t able to support me going into a different role and they didn’t have any system to reallocate people. They gave me two options, either I get on the phone in the next hour or quit. So I rang my wife and she just said “your health comes first Paul”.
“It was hard but I had to quit and it was a shock to the system. We had a family support worker who assessed my situation and she referred me to the job centre, after explaining my situation I managed to get on ESA.
“I went to my GP and he referred me to the crisis team - I started to see a psychologist once a week and it really helped. It reigned in my thoughts. I attended IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) for six weeks. They offered me CBT and it worked so well that they wanted to use my story as a case study.
“Attending group session and sharing my experiences with others was really important, to know that I wasn’t alone. Nobody mentions that social interaction is so important to the recovery process.
“One thing led to another and I started volunteering in the community shop as a community leader. One day Paul - the Working Win manager in Barnsley - came in and started talking about the health-led employment trial. We spoke about my situation and he offered to set up an initial appointment.
“The first meeting was really difficult. The thought of getting back in to work - meeting new people - it was allot to deal with. I was shaking and on the brink of tears. But I got through it, and Mike the specialist who met me really helped.
“Now I’m working and I couldn’t be happier. I work as a customer care assistant with a high street fast food retailer in Barnsley. I get to work with people that I really like and they love me there, I’m already being promoted to customer experience leader.
“Now I’m saving up to take my wife and four kids on holiday. It will be the first time we’ve been abroad. It’s great to have something to look forward to, to feel positive and love every day.
Paul signed up to take part in Working Win. Supported by NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Department for Work and Pensions; Working Win is a free trial testing a new type of support for people with mental or physical health conditions that are affecting their work or their ability to find a job. If you live in South Yorkshire or Bassetlaw, you can learn more and refer yourself to the trial here.