During 2018 I have tried through this short series of “Property Minds Matter” articles to highlight some of the issues associated with poor mental health, in particular anxiety and depression, and how symptoms can manifest themselves in both the workplace and at home, writes Alan Burke.
Place North West has not been alone in highlighting the issue of poor mental health during the year, indeed a plethora of organisations, individuals, charities, the Government and even members of the Royal Family have elevated the issue to the point that it is now part of a national debate. This has got to be a good thing.
As we enter the Christmas period, and indeed as this is the last in the current series, it is perhaps time to contemplate what I have learnt from my battle with depression and what lessons I can pass on to others who may suffer from the illness or know someone who does.
Poor mental health is much more common than I ever believed. It is something that anyone can suffer from at any time in their life or career. A person’s visible exterior is not a good sign of their inner mental health. I am without doubt that there are many people out there suffering but not seeking help for fear of the stigma and potential ramifications of discussing their feelings with others.
We all deal with life’s challenges, stresses and responsibilities differently. Most of us are good at hiding our symptoms until we reach breaking point. People suffering from depression all have to find their own way of dealing with their troubles.
I would say that my journey to recovery has been guided by four key lessons.
First – you are not alone. As discussed in previous articles depression and anxiety are prevalent throughout society and there are signs that the problem is getting worse. There is absolutely no need to feel ashamed, embarrassed or alone if you are a sufferer. Very many more people are in the same boat – probably even a number of your own work colleagues. Sufferers become adept at hiding the problem but they are out there.
Second – recognising the problem is essential, as is the disclosure to others of your condition even if that is only to a few loved and trusted friends and colleagues. Suffering in silence is not an option, neither is pretending that the issue is not a real one.
Third – we all have to take responsibility for helping ourselves, believing we can conquer our demons. Tackling the problem and taking personal responsibility, along with the support of others, is critical to our recovery. It is very easy to allow depression to “sink” you – fighting back is essential.
Finally – solutions and help are available. Whether they be in the form of medication, counselling, therapy or simply books and other self-help guides, there are tools, individuals and organisations available to give sufferers support so that anxiety and depression can be overcome or, at the very least, managed on a day-to-day basis.
I certainly wouldn’t choose to have to deal with depression but I have come to terms with the fact that I do. If I continue to face up to my issues realistically and honestly and continue to take on board medical advice, administer self-help measures such as regular exercise, and remain open and honest with friends, colleagues and loved ones, I believe I can have a relatively depression-free future.
These days I am a mental health ambassador at Lionheart, the RICS charity dedicated to the health and well-being of its members. Some great work is being done to raise awareness and tackle depression by this charity and many more. In the first instance I would urge those in the property community who need help to consider accessing the wide range of resources available. National mental health charity “Mind” is as good a place as any to start. (www.mind.org.uk)
I would like to thank Place North West for giving me the opportunity to raise awareness of poor mental health in the property community – from the emails and personal messages I have received in response to these articles I am more convinced than ever that the issue is a very real one in the sector.
I very much hope that in highlighting my own issues I can play some small part in encouraging others to seek help, as I myself have been helped in recent years.
A happy and peaceful Christmas to you all.
“The only thing more exhausting than being depressed is pretending that you’re not”
Property Minds Matter is a series of articles in which Alan Burke explores mental health in the property sector and how it can be improved, based on his own experience and struggles during 30 years in the industry.
Alan is a surveyor and former development director who has specialised in the identification and delivery of major projects and urban regeneration initiatives over a 30-year period. He’s worked for PwC, the Homes & Communities Agency, Langtree, Bruntwood, and Ask Real Estate. He now runs his own consulting business which offers property, regeneration, development and funding advice to clients in both the public and private sectors, and is also a mental health ambassador for Lionheart, the charity for RICS professionals.