The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has once again gone public on his mental health problems. “Last year, I realised I was depressed,” he said. His daughter made him realise it was “nothing to be ashamed of.” And so it shouldn’t be. However, Welby shows commendable understanding of the world inhabited by those who are nearer the bottom of life’s food chain than those like him who are at the top of it.
Welby said while he found it “quite easy” to talk about his depression, he understood it was different for many people who worry “because you don’t know how your boss will respond.” He added: “Depression is interpreted by many employers as someone who…is incapable of getting out of bed in the morning and isn’t able to do their work properly.” Actually, I think things are much worse than that.
I have seen a good number on the many sides of how people react to depression. Generally, I have been quite lucky with actual employers, with the massive exception of the bullying and abusive British Red Cross. Although I do have my limitations – part normal me, part mental basket case me – I can hold a job down and do a more than acceptable job. My evidence-free guess, based on little more than anecdotal information and my life experience, suggests Welby is right.
I always tell prospective employers the truth about my mental health. In recent years, I have failed to even get interviews in job applications. This could be because I was considered to be unsuitable for them – the most likely explanation, probably, given my stellar collection of one O level – or because they chose not to take what they saw as a punt on someone who might be unreliable. I’ve talked with friends about it and sometimes they say, “Just play the game and tell employers what they want to hear”. I can’t do that. I feel a duty to all mentally fucked-up people to always tell it like it is.
My attitude is, I hope, the most honest one to take. It could, just possibly, be damaging to my own prospects but what the hell? I am at the tail end at my professional life and well into the last quarter of my actual life. If it’s one small step for mental health, then I reckon I have done my job.
I have spent 50 ‘glorious’ years in the dark room of life and, yes, I’ve spent a lot of that time feeling ashamed of being depressed, letting down my father and other people around me. Don’t tell me I haven’t because I am telling you how I felt and how I feel.
It’s good that Justin Welby has spoken out from the highest pulpit in the land, at least metaphorically speaking. If he was admitting his problems whilst at or near the bottom, trust me he would not get such a sympathetic and supporting hearing. Trust me: I know.