I was first asked to write for Stigma Fighters a few months ago, and to be quite honest with you I found the thought at the time, daunting. I reviewed the website and saw quite a eclectic mix of stories from individuals and mental health professionals. I honestly thought how could my story and writing style be worthy to be placed on such a website. I spent months trying to work up the courage to get to this point and share my story. In the end I finally decided the best way to do it was to just be honest and write the way I always do, from the heart.
I spend many hours a day trying to raise awareness about Psychosocial risks in the workplace. Ten years ago I was bullied at work so badly that it affected my mental health, caused suffering to my family, ruined my career and nearly cost me my life. I have spent the last ten years trying to come to terms with not only the loss but also the added complications of a mental illness. I have had to spend 25% of my life recovering from this trauma. During these ten years, it seemed like it actually consumed 100% of my time and energy. This has definitely been a trying time. However deep inside me there has always been a fighter, someone who never gives up, someone who always tries to find ways to overcome life’s obstacles. I am happy to say that that fight in me now is channeled to fighting stigma.
Yes, I became a ” STIGMA FIGHTER”. This single act of boldness of being able to speak up about my experiences and mental illness has given me a new sense of purpose and direction in my life. I have decided that instead of having my mental illness being a disadvantage, I wanted it to be an advantage. I wanted what society viewed as my great weakness to actually become my greatest asset and strength. After all, it is now very much part of me.
Since this shift in my perception of my mental illness my life has changed dramatically. I am now offering training to companies about the importance of people looking after their mental health before it comes a mental illness. I have had the great pleasure of becoming involved in health and safety at work. I am now specializing in psychosocial risks in the workplace to prevent what has happened to me happening to anyone else. I have also just started to begin my training in Organizational Psychology with the view of finding solutions of overcoming workplace practices and cultures that are detrimental to a person’s mental health. All of this started because I wanted to help others by sharing my story.
I know just as well as anyone living with a mental illness is tough. So many times you question where does the illness stop and I begin. Truth is it doesn’t, you are one. It is just as much a part of you as is your heart or lungs. The key is to channel the good things that it has to offer. My mental illness has taught me about compassion, empathy and what is actually important to me. It has taught me that the way we treat people and judge them are more important to cultivating a richer meaningful society than having technological advances. I can honestly say that having a mental illness has given me equally as much as it has taken from me. I just needed to be able to see the good things it offered and work with them. Although, this can be extremely difficult, it helps me get through the times when my illness is impeding me instead of inspiring me. I would recommend everyone become a STIGMA FIGHTER and use your illness to breakdown barriers that you thought previously held you and society back.
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Neil is a campaigner that tries to raise awareness of Psychosocial risks in the workplace. He has has a video released called Work Under Pressure that is available to watch on You Tube. https://youtu.be/XiXUf58I0EU He currently is on the path of studying Organizational Psychology with a view of helping others. If you are interested contacting or supporting Neil you can reach him the following ways:
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Great article Neil. I myself was bullied at work so your message resonates with me. Take care, Mike.