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The importance of talking about mental health in the workplace

Uzair Patel
By Uzair Patel | February 5, 2016

I’m an analyst in Corporate and Investment Banking at Barclays. I was keen to get involved with Barclays ‘This is me’ for a few reasons. First, I have a background in public policy and neuroscience. Second, I am a sufferer of clinical depression and don’t believe there should be any stigma associated with mental health. Third, I’m keen to help my colleagues feel safe at work and get the right support.

When I was ill I lost many close friendships and wasn’t enjoying life. My strategy for overcoming depression was to be more open and honest with people and allow myself to be vulnerable. I didn’t want people to find themselves in the same position as me. I wanted it to be easy to find the help they needed to cope with their problems if they were suffering.

Support from Barclays

Recovering from mental illness is easier at Barclays than at many other organisations because of the infrastructure we have in place. I have had support from mentors and the Barclays Reach Network has enabled me to open up to managers.

The Barclays Reach network and the Mental Health Focus group were excellent support. I also turned to HR, who explained all the benefits that my private medical cover offers and helped me to set up regular occupational health catch-ups to make sure I got the help I needed. I found these conversations helpful, especially when people opened up to me about their own experiences. It prevented me from feeling alone and ashamed. Barclays made me feel valued, and that helped to restore my confidence.

I’ve also had great support from my line managers. My previous line manager got in touch with my new team and reassured them that my work was of a high standard, even when I was ill. My current manager allows me time away from my work so that I can attend cognitive behaviour therapy sessions and go to the gym. He also makes sure that Directors are aware of my condition. HR also offered their support here, arranging an open discussion with my line managers. We not only spoke about the issues I was overcoming but also the value I offer Barclays.

Speaking to colleagues about your mental health issues can be difficult, so I would recommend having a discussion with your friends and family first. When you feel ready to speak to work, come up with a plan that includes who you are going to speak to and what you are going to say. HR managers are a good place to start, because they can explain the services that are on offer.

HR can also attend a meeting with your line manager, which I recommend, as they can answer questions from a business point of view. One of the things that I found out during my conversations with colleagues was that others had also been affected by mental illness.

Around 25% of the UK population suffers from a mental health problem, and it affects more people than cancer or cardiovascular issues. As a global company Barclays needs to show our colleagues and our community that we offer support. It’s right not only from an economic point of view but for moral reasons too.

Here is my five-step plan for anyone worried about their mental health:

1. Be honest with yourself if you think you have a problem

2. Seek advice from a GP

3. Try to speak to trusted friends and family

4. Reach out to your HR manager and your line manager

5. Be clear with what your needs are and keep lines of communication open

Stewardship is one of our core values at Barclays. Our values are there to make sure we do our best not only for our customers but also our colleagues, and our mental health campaign is only a small part of that.

If you want to be part of a team that looks after each other as well as our customers, then take a look at our latest vacancies.