Coronation Street star talks about OCD: Adrian Wakeling
Monday 10 March 2014The Time for Change campaign, Time to Talk, has been working very hard in recent times to get us all to hold a conversation with someone about mental health. This does not have to be the kind of conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable. It can simply mean asking someone how they are feeling.
Adrian is a Senior Policy Analyst at Acas and is part of a team responsible for informing the future strategic direction of Acas and influencing the wider debate on the value of employment relations.
Of course, the more open and honest you are prepared to be, the more impact you can sometimes have, particularly if you have the right stage to share your thoughts. This year's national Health and Wellbeing at Work conference (NEC 3-4 March) certainly gave a perfect platform for politicians, academics and clinicians to set out the future challenges for subjects ranging from employee engagement to toxicology and back care to mental health.
The platform that received the most rapt attention was the one covering mental health. The room was packed to the rafters all day. In the morning researchers and clinicians gave an overview of how to manage mental health, with highlights from the recent OECD report on mental health in the UK and practical tips on how to conduct supportive conversations with employees presenting with possible mental health symptoms.
The afternoon session was largely devoted to talking about mental health by sharing personal experiences. Nicola Oliver talked eloquently about working and coping with Bipolar Disorder and it was obvious that she articulated the concerns of many people in the audience. One clear message that came out was the need for individuals to monitor their own wellbeing. By being aware of mood changes early on, they were more likely to get the treatment they needed in time and to stay in work.
The Coronation Street star, Ian Puleston-Davies, described his life-long struggle with severe OCD. The symptoms of his anxiety have caused relationship breakdowns, career problems and depression. When asked when he first realised something was wrong, he described playing football as a young boy. One of his friends said "whose this" and started mimicking someone running around checking their flies all the time. He laughed along, not realising it was him. The anxiety of receiving the ball had triggered the nervous reaction.
Ian's employers have been very supportive of his condition. Everyone involved in the programme - from fellow actors to the lighting and make-up people - knows he has OCD and give him more time to get ready for shoots. He did admit, however, that the issue of how and when to talk to your employer was fraught with difficulty.
The issue of disclosure was also raised by Dr Peter Verow, a senior occupational health specialist who described his personal struggle with depression. Dr Verow was a professional sportsman and was not prepared to accept that he had a problem that he could not see. He carried on working and although this was best option for him, telling himself he had a problem, let alone telling his employers and staff, was a huge hurdle to overcome.
On the main national policy stage Acas' CEO Anne Sharp ended the day by talking about the importance of creating the right culture and environment for employees to feel comfortable about making these kind of disclosures. She said that there are often no clear boundaries between work and home life and that managers have to be trained to be able to hold "effective conversations" with their employees.
As Anne said, in the end it often comes down to trust. Whether you cross that line and open up to a personal problem may depend on how well you think you will be supported and understood. As many of the speakers recounted, once they had made the disclosure they often wished they had done so long before.
Catch up on Acas' latest policy article on disclosure and mental health.