David finds workplace support

"I have survived suicide and I have a future."

Having a mental illness holds no fears for an employee of Norske Skog Tasman, who spoke about his experiences during Mental Health Awareness Week.

David Holmes of Norske Skog Tasman, said he knew prejudice still existed and people’s perceptions could be very cruel and hurtful. But, he said, "I have survived suicide and I have a future. That is the reason I am standing up to be counted".

The consistent support from management, colleagues and whanau, was important in helping him cope with his illness. Speaking of his episodes of depression, he noted, “My colleagues know that if David sits and looks gloomy, then it is nothing they have done that causes this. Two or three times a year, I am totally incapable of functioning. I have no fear of being disadvantaged for taking sick leave for mental health recovery, as I am aware my management will support me.

Norske Skog Tasman’s health and well-being programmes are very progressive, he said, as they are not just for people who have a physical illness, but for people who are psychologically affected too. Employees need to know that they will be supported and not disadvantaged when they are open about their needs.

Openness is important, so management and workmates can be informed and know what to expect. Too many people are confused by myths about mental illness. Some think medicine is a panacea, that you can get a happiness pill. "I am sad to report that medicine is just not that good." he added.

During mental health awareness week, David spoke to the company’s health and welfare forum. People were awestruck that someone was prepared to say that they have a mental illness.

At question time many spoke of mates who had committed suicide – there is a real need for information, a need for education in the community, to get it out of the closet. Suicide has a real impact, it’s like a pebble in the pond, the stone sinks but the waves keep going out. People don’t want to interfere. We live in a society that doesn't want to know.

If you fall over and break a leg the pain drives you to do something about it. Mental illness is different. We need to intervene where people are beyond helping themselves.

People need to know that it is possible to live well in recovery. “I am employed by an international company as a Procurement Specialist and am expected to compete in a global market. The fact that I achieve and exceed my stretch target in my yearly performance contracts bears witness to this fact. I don’t consider myself a victim, but a psychiatric survivor,” he said.