As the Duke of Cambridge launches a new mental health initiative for employers, Remploy chief executive Gareth Parry tells Sky News why he believes his own struggle with depression has helped him become a better boss.
When the doctor told me I had depression three years ago, I was gobsmacked.
It finally put the pieces of the jigsaw together.
I had been going through a crisis in my personal life and I knew my condition was fluctuating. When I was down, I was really down.
I didn’t feel loved and I didn’t feel valued. I would get home from work and cut myself off. I wouldn’t talk to anybody.
My daughters would see me cry but they didn’t really understand what was going on. It was pretty horrible stuff.
After my diagnosis I realised I had been showing the symptoms for some time – the social isolation, the lack of communication with family members. It all added up.
My GP told me I was suffering a significant depressive episode.
The condition can be completely debilitating. It causes low energy levels and a loss of focus on what matters most – I kind of lost my sense of perspective.
But even during my lowest points, I never took time off work.
When my personal life was in shreds, work offered structure and routine. It was really important in my recovery.
I was on medication but it was only 18 months after my diagnosis that I realised I couldn’t solve the problem on my own through self-help books.
I started going to counselling which changed my life.
My bosses knew about my depression when they promoted me to chief executive in May 2016.
My colleagues were incredibly understanding and they allowed me to work more flexibly. That made a real difference and enabled me to keep working.
:: Prince William to launch workplace well-being website
I’ve been employed by Remploy for my entire career. I joined the company in 1988 in a junior admin role and worked my way up.
Through my job, I’ve worked with a lot with people with mental health problems – but I had failed to recognise the issue in myself.
I truly believe that overcoming depression has made me a better chief executive.
I’m a better decision-maker now. I no longer waste time worrying about things that aren’t important.
I don’t believe you ever fully recover from depression but thankfully I’m in a better place now.
I’m no longer on medication and my family and friends have a better understanding of the condition.
It doesn’t surprise me that almost half of UK workers say they have experienced a mental health problem. I believe most of those people will probably be in work just trying to get by.
That’s why it’s so important to have high-profile people such as Prince William and Prince Harry talk about mental health.
It’s helping break the taboo and I hope that continues.
:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.