Showing vulnerability at work was simply something that David Beeney was not willing to do – but it lead to 30 years of masking his true feelings.
Mental health charity Mind says that one in six people at the workplace will suffer some form of mental health problem – whether it’s stress, depression or anxiety.
David, 54, suffered from the latter, and considered it a blemish on a career which included a three-year spell as the general manager of the Hemel Hempstead Gazette in the 90s.
And he’s reached out to his old newspaper to send out a simple message to readers – don’t suffer silently like he did.
“I used to refer to my issues as a phobia,” he said.
“I knew I had panic attacks and in meetings, if I was asked to do a presentation, I would try and duck out of it.
“When I did have to do them I would try and make them interactive and involve other people so that it would take the pressure off of me.
“This wasn’t just public speaking nerves, it was full scale panic and I couldn’t breathe. But you develop your own coping mechanisms, and I managed to mask it for a very long time.”
Despite his problems, no-one really knew what David, who lives in Bennett’s End, was suffering, such was his desire to keep it hidden.
He tells the Gazette that he recently met an old work colleague whom he had not met in many years, who was stunned to find out what his former colleague had been through.
He said: “When you work in the corporate world you think you have to be perfect and that you can’t show the slightest bit of vulnerability.
“I have hidden from everybody in my life a mental health issue that has troubled me for over 30 years. And when I say everybody, I do really mean absolutely everybody.
“I chose to suffer in silence because I felt embarrassed to admit my fears and was scared that I would lose my job.
“I felt that I would be looked at differently, was embarrassed and would be discriminated against for not being normal.”
But last year David took the brave step of admitting to his mental health problems. So what sparked the decision?
“It was national mental health week, and I was asked to do a speech as I had become a mental health counsellor – after my own counsellor told me I would be good at it seven years ago,” he says.
“I wondered what I would talk about, so I thought I would talk about my career and ‘out’ myself. I was humbled by the number of people who related to it, in particular the men as men find it very difficult to talk about it.
“It’s difficult to talk about these issues. You have to be brave, and you do worry about what people will think.
“But when I look back at the people who I admired the most, they all had a bit of vulnerability. People will admire you more if you talk about it.”
Now David has founded Breaking The Silence, and works with business and HR departments to create a culture at work where people can feel comfortable to speak out about any mental health issues they may be experiencing.
He said: “There’s that famous old saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. If you can talk about this stuff with the right people then there’s no shame in having depression or anxiety.
“It’s far more widespread than people realise. I now do everything I can to reduce the ignorance that exists around a mental health issue.
“If you do suffer then please don’t suffer in silence and wait 30 years like I did to speak out.”
If you wish to contact David to see how he can help you or your business, then either email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07572 211610.