I’ve been thinking of re-launching my blog, and today I think I have something important enough to start writing again. Yesterday, at #truStockholm, I got in to a bit of a conversation with someone about mental health, and how to best support someone suffering with depression from an HR point of view. I’m passionate about this subject because it is very close to home, and something which I feel is grossly misunderstood, especially by recruiters and HR professionals, because mental health, unlike other disabilities is really seen as a problem. I don’t think that is right, and better understanding is needed in these areas because 1 in 5 people live with some form of mental illness, and many others are impacted by a partner, friend or family.
For my part, some of you will have heard me talk about my wife Fran, and how she is bipolar. I’m not going to say that it is something she suffers from, because it is a part of her, and something she deals with and just gets on. Most days you would never know, other days it is really apparent, but it just is the way it is. I’m sure she would change it if she could, but she can’t, so we do all we can to understand it and get on.
I think we are all a bit crazy one way or another. We all have down days and moments of high, the difference with those with bipolar is that this can switch quite suddenly, from extreme depression and lethargy to extreme excitement. When you live with someone like this you know the signs, and you can, for the most part see what’s coming and be supportive in the best way you can. Sometimes that means offering a shoulder to cry on, even though you can’t see the reason for the tears, and other times it means nodding in the right places and waiting for the high to subside.
What I have learnt as an observer is that anyone with bipolar lives life in extremes, outside of long periods of normality, (if there is such a thing.) Extremes can bring dreadful dark days, but it can also bring extreme creativity, energy and brilliance. The comedian and actor Stephen Fry is famously bipolar, so too was Steve Jobs. When you read the Jobs’ life story it is easy to see it. Van Gogh was bipolar, it can be a genius’s blessing and a genius’s curse. The question I ask here is if Steve Jobs would get employed in a job based on his “condition” and behaviour? Where would the world be if he was condemned as a “mad guy” and never given an opportunity?
All I’m asking for is for everyone in HR and recruiting to find out a bit more. To understand what bipolar, depression and other mental health issues mean, and consider how you could make a bit of a difference. If you can deal with the downtimes, you know the genius will follow. Everyone is affected one way or another. We would make the effort for someone partially sighted, hard of hearing, disabled or with one leg, why should we think of mental health as any different? I know from experience that every down time is followed by genius. Embrace it and deal with it, because that might be where the elusive innovation can come from.
It’s good to be back,
Bill