A personal reflection on mental health

by Dr Bharati Singh

For my 4th blog in 5 years, I have decided to move away from writing about my learnings from the corporate sector and instead write a personal reflection on my encounter with mental health.

I have been on this planet for half a century now and have experienced highs and lows both in my personal and official life. Growing up in India, in school when we came across classmates who did not do well or did not understand simple things or failed – we just called them ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’. We did not have any awareness of learning disabilities or mental health. The first time I learnt about ‘dyslexia’ was from a Bollywood movie called ‘Taare Zameen Par’ (Stars on the ground, 2007).

Then, I met with a huge personal tragedy in 2011 which made me leave India and move to England. It was here that I learnt about various learning disabilities and about mental health. This was also the time when back home in India, there were discussions about mental health and some famous Bollywood stars started talking about their own personal experiences with depression.

This is when realisation dawned on me that I myself had experienced issues with mental health but not having any awareness and not knowing the symptoms, had just plodded on with my life. However, there were indications which I had overlooked like severe weight loss and alopecia leading up to my departure for England in 2012. I joined University of York to read for a PhD and forgot my troubles as there was a very strong collegiate life and a very strong social network. After 16 years of corporate life, it was difficult to get back to studying but the atmosphere was very conducive with the support from my college, colleagues, supervisory team and the friends I made.

In the last year of my PhD, I secured a full-time job and moved to Staffordshire University at Stoke. The first 5 months were consumed with the new job, understanding my role, impending PhD viva and subsequent corrections. Just after submitting my PhD corrections, post-PhD blues or depression hit me. While, I had great colleagues, they went home to their families after work, and I would come back to an empty flat. I lost 1.5 stones in the space of 2 months. Finally, after 4-5 months, I decided to seek professional help.

However, in all of this, I did not lose focus at work. I had literally restarted my career at age 46 in HE and gave it my all. Slowly, I made friends in Stoke and travelled quite a bit. Along with the professional help I received and the support of family and friends, old and new, I became mentally stronger.

The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2022) has stated that depression is one of the main causes of disability. However, there are still many countries which still do not recognise mental health and people suffering from it may face different types of discrimination. Today, globally mental health ranks second in health concerns having overtaken cancer (Ipsos, 2022; ).

In UK alone, 1 in 6 adults suffers from depression (Pindar, 2022; ). NHS stats (July 2022) state that 1.61 million people have been in contact for mental health services.

NHS July 2022

While organisations have focussed on employee mental health, workplaces have seen an increase by 81% post pandemic (MHFA 2022; ). However, most of the action is reactive rather than being proactive. MFHA further states that UK employers spend almost £56billion per annum on mental health.

Just last month in October 2002, we celebrated World Mental Health Day.

However, just celebration alone will not help the cause. If you feel that someone may be suffering from any kind of mental health or you yourself may be feeling the blue, please remember: