MENTAL HEALTH and THE WORKPLACE:
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
TRINITY HORIZON PROJECT 1997 https://www.irishtimes.com/news/project-to-help-depression-1.113363
My sequence and processing of thought is not ordinary. Prior to my traumatic brain injury, it was a highly organised (executive functioning brain) but thereafter it was forgetfulness and muddling, craving structure like before. The opportunity came and I was interviewed by Dr Margret Fine Davis, Centre for Women Studies https://www.tcd.ie/cgws/research/, Trinity College Dublin, Dr Mary McCarthy, Trinity College Dublin and Professor Pat McKeon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHGTuqiaAYw representing Aware https://www.aware.ie/help/education/aware-monthly-lectures/ which at the time was linked to St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin 8. I was selected as one of the first 15 women to be researched. The funding, similar to now with the Horizon 2020 https://www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/Researchers/…/Horizon-2020.html funds, was Horizon also ie the EU involvement in the research. I must add at this point the significant contributions made by my psychiatrist Dr Jim Maguire, EHB Consultant of Psychiatry (RIP) too young, and Sean Collins, Psychologist.
Ironically Dr Margret Fine-Davis is now my neighbour. I want to document this so that anyone who wants an alternative to the revolving door visits of people consumed by mental health can access the research and maybe the system went off on a tangent and maybe its time to look at an alternative to helping people with mental illness or brain injury or addiction. I was asked by Dr Fine-Davis in the year 2000 to speak on the subject to a host of people associated with mental health, including psychiatrists and psychologists and many other related areas. This is what I said then. Now it is January 2015 and personally I believe little progress has been made. Opportunities are there. TedX talks; TedMed talks; Charlie Rose and Nobel prize winner Eric Kandel – the Brain series have surpassed my attempts by attending each month the lectures at St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin 8, by Consultants in Psychiatry and the quest for knowledge and the reason why? As necessity dictates with significant memory deficits in fact groundhog day living, I used my prior skill ie typing and compiled details of all lectures I attended at that time. Education is essential to mapping your way out of The Brain Crisis attached to traumatic brain injury, bipolar, anxiety, depression, exhaustion causing chronic fatigue. The historical basis is detailed in March 2015 entries on WordPress.com. In 20 years who would have thought that we could access data from our home computers and be so well informed.
MONDAY, 13TH MARCH 2000
Centre for Women Studies
Trinity College Dublin https://www.tcd.ie/
As Participant of Project
Michelle Clarke, Trinity College, Undergraduate in Business Economics and Social Studies Faculty.
I always wondered how people had the courage to speak to a group and here I am, just about to find out. My approach is to talk as within the confines of our Trinity Horizon group some of whom I can see. Hopefully, what I have learntedwill enable me to talk openly. By this time in the afternoon, you will have a very good appraisal of the objectives of the Programme which was namely a Training and Research Programme to facilitate the entry/re-entry of women recovering from depression to the workplace. The Trinity Horizon Project aimed to build up women’s self esteem and self confidence, to remove us from the social isolation that pervades during a depressive episode, to build back a structure to our day – these being some of the residual or ongoing effects of the illness. The conclusion of the Report states that the most positive aspect was probably the content and structure, the provision of routine and individual counselling and that the fact that it was a proto-type gave people an added incentive to participation.
Women and Society, Creative Writing, Drama Workshop, Personal Development, Women and Health, Computer Training and Career Planning – each in its own way enticed out an untapped resource building up self esteem and confidence penetrating the social isolation that haunts the depressed.
Depression is the leading mental health problem in the world today. By 2020 figures are projected to double. In Ireland, it is estimated that 200,000 people suffer from depression i.e. one in 20 workers, 3.5 % of the population. Of these 0.5% will commit suicide. Only 20% of these will consult a doctor. A recent article by Dr. Patricia Casey, Psychiatrist placed a strong emphasis on the new Mental Health Legislation and the importance to de-stigmatise mental illness. Inequity of funds given to psychiatric services compared to General Hospital Services is highlighted and she puts it to psychiatrists to become advocates for their patients. Psychiatric resources must be as advanced as those in general medicine. The challenge put by her to her fellow psychiatrists is that they too stand charged with collusion.
Depression is no respecter of status, intelligence, class or race. I would put it to those present who can to utilise the research and findings of this project to do something. Our Minister, Mary Harney is abroad seeking immigrants to work in Ireland yet so many with a need for an input to their recovery, are here. They just need support, understanding and reassurance.
My personal experience. I can fully relate to the description given by Spike Milligan. When I move to the socially withdrawn stage I find it increasingly difficult to carry out routine functions, feelings of futility, worthlessness abound and my inner mind engages in the argument of why not suicide. The argument is mainly contained by the concern of not passing such hurt to my family – I know only too well what this hurt is about. Sensitivity becomes extremely acute at low times, and I am very easily hurt, the perfectionist characteristic makes it easy to engage in the procrastination characteristic of someone who is depressed. Lethargic, apathetic, disinterested and a deadening of sensation is what the new person becomes. Those nearest to you are the people you move away from. Since my teenage years I have battled with depression. My Father a doctor, acknowledged a problem but because I was his daughter he did not want to see me go through what he had known by personal experience. Perhaps he was right.
I knew the problem but work became the outlet and without having to mention it, I overworked. In London, I was funded to sit my Law Degree while working in Corporate Finance for the Chairman of Prudential-Bache Corporate Finance. The recession resulted in my husband and I both being made redundant, remaining without any work for 6 months, in a dormitory town in Hertfordshire, with a negative equity property, and a high mortgage. This was when my first severe breakdown occurred. The only work available for my husband entailed moving to Zimbabwe where we remained for four years during which time, as a result of a horse-riding accident I fractured my skull, losing my hearing in my right ear and my sense of smell. My husband, unknown to me had difficulties with the marriage and as soon as he met the right woman he asked me to leave repeatedly. I didn’t, I thought I could work it out, I broke down and ended up in hospital in Harare.
Prior to my accident, I had started voluntary work with two marvellous people, Sr. Noreen and Sr. Margaret at Mashambanzou. This changed my view of life, i.e. the life that is not consumed by a depression. They accepted me in my debilitated state. I played with the little children some of whom were HIV positive and whose mother’s, HIV infected, worked in the cooperative set up to support them while at the same time allowing them dignity. I managed to type letters thanking people for donations and requesting funds. I spoke to people who came to the drop-in centre. These nuns along with friends came to my support. They organised for my brother to take me back to Ireland. My mother cared for me, the broken person that I was. Being a doctor it facilitated non entry to hospital. This was 1996. By 1997, in the midst of yet another depression, I battled daily to the Trinity Horizon Project in Hatch Street. All I can remember is the support. I was clinging on. I was fighting to remain in reality. All I knew was that I had to keep going. By January – “I” had returned. “I” thought the place had been painted, this really is true. It hadn’t – my mood had changed.
It was from the Trinity Horizon that I applied to Trinity. I had resolved throughout the course that my future path in life would be one of openness about my illness. I attended the aptitude test. I was then called for interview by two members of the Economics Department. I was granted a place in BESS and moreover I passed first year. The system in Trinity involves the appointment of a tutor and similar to a mentoring system, they act on your behalf. The concept of disability allocation is new and it takes a University of Trinity’s reputation time to come to terms with the needs of those so classified. Suzy Byrne, a student, is involved in Disabilities and it was she who directed me as to what was available. I understand that a full-time disability officer is employed so this will make the environment for people with disabilities more proactive. I entered Trinity first year in yet another depression but I managed, with the support of others – especially family and friends to get through it. Unfortunately, in second year I was not quite so fortunate and last year was almost 5 months in hospital and had to have 15 sessions of ECT and a change of medication. It was a difficult year but I am back in Trinity, the new medication is suiting me better and I can confirm that one becomes a person among people. My fellow students are a great support. I can ask them clearly if something I am thinking about is ‘sane’ and Stephen even goes so far to ask me if I am down from Planet Lithium yet. You see people see me not the illness. Not alone have I the genetic factors affecting the illness but also there have been quite a few stressful life events which can result in recurrence. Trinity is an experience I would recommend to anyone – not alone is it an academic education but moreover it is an education in life and about people. The interaction can be a two-way exchange – a means of humanising the myth.
• Awareness. Acknowledge mental illness, try to understand it, educate oneself about it. Let the media address it. 4 years ago – I was overwhelmed, to watch a TV advert in Zimbabwe. It showed a young African man attending an interview and filling in the relevant form. The question that was highlighted was ‘Did he suffer from ‘Mental Illness’ The Message was – Don’t Discriminate. This is a Third World Country as far as the West is concerned. Can we learn anything?
• Vicarious compensation. A person handicapped in one way excels in another. My cousin, unfortunately now deceased, first became ill at the age of 19. It did not hinder becoming him becoming a Barrister/a High Court Judge/a writer. Ironically, being a Judge was less suitable to his illness. A Barrister can manage it more successfully – the flexibility exists.
• The Human Resource person(s), if not office management and Academic staff in Universities, should be sent on 2 day courses specifically geared to psychological training. The benefit of this would not only relate to those with mental illness problems but would deal with other crises e.g. alcoholism, marital breakdown. These too severely impact on productivity. An Investment in Human Capital is essential. Adam Smith rated people as the Wealth of Nations and there are economists seeking its recognition as a contributor to economic activity.
• The option of community work is essential. I was very impressed with Mr. Norbert Tietz, Director EX+JOB, Wunstorf, Germany. The 6% compulsory allocation of employment quota and the 200 mark fine which goes towards the fund for those in rehabilitation from a mental illness is a good example for our policy people to follow.
• Mentoring programmes also provide ideal opportunities to assess a potential working relationship.
This is about Mental Health and the Workplace – What are my ambitions? The truth is to live each day as it comes because as yet I haven’t had a sufficiently long period without depression to be assured that I can commit but I am working at it and I will make it there – I hope. I am presently enjoying the company of Aristotle, Plato, Machiavelli and enjoying the opportunity given to me.
Thank you to Aware for sending the application form, Dr. Fine-Davis, Dr. McKeon and Mary McCarthy who interviewed me and decided to provide a much needed ‘stepping stone’ to the other side of the lake. The solidarity, in particular of a core, within the group has created a synthesis of women who have shared empathy. We will I hope be forever a support to each other, when possible, and moreover true friends. I would also like to thank all others involved in the Project, my family, my friends, my Psychiatrist and his team.
I really hope that someone will recognise this research work and provide the funding to ensure that the Project continues to assist people who suffer from a mental illness. They really need help – untapped capability exists, put aside the stigma and examine the reality.
Depression which is disabling and debilitating should be distinguished from a milder depression ‘soul loss’. strong correlation between depression and social support. Traumatic brain injury can lead to depression. There are many pathways to depressive illness. 10 to 15% of depressed patients will eventually die from suicide. It is long known that depression worsens a physical disability. 25% of marriages break up when one partner becomes depressed. Those who are depressed have to take responsibility for it. They need to learn as much about it as possible.
I am afraid to tell you who I am, because if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and that is all that I have.
Tennyson ‘I must lose myself in action, lest I wither myself in despair.