In the last six months, I’ve begun to mention my OCD to people. I never want to be the victim or try to get sympathy or attention. But if I believe it’s appropriate to discuss it, I feel I can now. I’ve achieved a lot in life and business; I want to support bringing this subject out into the open. It’s one of the final unspoken areas of diversity and inclusivity.
Many people don’t understand OCD. I had to switch off the programme Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners. It portrayed OCD as comedic; ridiculing and finding humour in illnesses that cause some people to take their own lives. I hear people saying ‘that’s the OCD in me’ but they have no idea how challenging it is.
It was a problem for me not being open about my illness. I was exerting brainpower keeping it hidden that could have been used more productively. To be open and know people accept you for who you are – you build better relationships at work that way. Imagine if everyone was comfortable with everyone else’s challenges. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
It’s in my nature to worry about things and I am concerned that people might treat me differently or might not want to engage with me or hire me. But if that’s the case, that’s not the type of organisation or person I want to work with. I’ve accepted my condition and it’s part of who I am. I’m not suggesting that everyone has to start celebrating the fact they’ve got mental health challenges. But we could be more open and accepting that there are mental illnesses and help people adjust and cope with these – just as we do for physical challenges.
I want businesses to realise it doesn’t need to affect productivity and performance – on the contrary, if you support people, it could actually increase them. Difference is good and different ways of thinking are good. People who are different come up with different, sometimes better, solutions, and form better teams.
It would be great if, rather than assessing people against skill and experience sets alone, we could look at them as individuals. What makes you different? What a great question to ask and explore in detail in a recruitment process.
We need to show how people with mental health challenges can bring difference to bear on real world challenges. If not, we will leave the generations that follow to apologise after the fact for our behaviour.