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How Mindful Partners Came About: Kai’s Story

By December 31, 2020 No Comments
Title graphic for Mindful Partners blog

As we head into a brand new year, we have a lot of exciting plans for Mindful Partners. However, to give you a better understanding of who we are and why we do what we do, we thought it would be beneficial to go back to the beginning.

In this blog, we tell the story of Kai, our founder and managing director. He shares his own journey with mental health and explains why it led him to Mindful Partners…

Our Founder And Managing Director: In His Own Words

I set up Mindful Partners at the beginning of 2019 after spending 9 weeks in The Priory. I’d spent 18 years working in HR/Recruitment in the financial sector before the wheels finally fell off.

I must have been seriously depressed and anxious for at least 6 years, although, I always seemed “happy”. Eventually, my poor mental health resulted in me trying to take my own life in 2018.

Whilst recovering and building friendships with other patients, I realised in the whole of my working career I had never received a CV of a candidate who had been off sick with depression. I wonder how that was possible if, as I was told, “1 in 4 suffer from a form of depression”?

I had interviewed and hired over a thousand people during my time in the city. And not one person internal or externally had felt comfortable sharing their past mental health experience(s) or admitting they were battling their own demons. How was this possible?

For all senior candidates, we did a full “physical” medical check, as well as criminal/social media search on them – but nothing for their mental well-being other than how they approached sales/trading “risk” (post-Lehman’s).

Potential applicants were happy to share the financial history, their career aspirations, strengths, weaknesses, hobbies and children’s names – but not their mental health.

So, mental health wasn’t something I was aware of or understood until I was in a very dark place myself. I knew I was in a dark place when I was asked by a colleague one evening “how was I?”. To which, as always, I replied “FINE thanks”.

Unknowingly, which I am sure she later regretted, she asked again “how are you really?”. Such a simple and caring question. Yet one so hard for me to answer without removing the mask I wore to work every day to shield and protect me.

What happened next? Well, I uncontrollably cried like a newborn baby – this was when I realised I needed some help.

Mental Health And The Workplace

 

Other patients I subsequently got to know in The Priory seemed to share a common experience to myself. It wasn’t just their depression that was “common”. No, each of them shared with me their experience of plucking up the courage to finally tell their employer about their depression, to be then put on “sick leave” for 3/6 months. That’s great, right?

No!

They then spent their weeks self-isolating between their 1-hour therapy appointments. That’s 167 hours a week they spent alone. Well, not completely alone, they still had that extremely loud and self-critical voice with them to help them to feel like a failure!

I do however appreciate that the patients I met are the very “lucky” few who had been admitted by a loved one, a wife, husband, friend etc. And I say “lucky” half-joking… how can someone suffering from severe Anxiety/PTSD/Depression be lucky?

Well, they are lucky because they had someone who cared enough to overcome being pushed away and/or verbally assaulted by their loved one, to seek help for them.

Sadly, the repercussions to family and friends close to someone with Mental Health issues are equally immeasurable! Depression is a black-hole in which those closest to the “patient” are likely to be drawn into the darkness with them while trying to help.

While on their journey down the road to recovery with low self-esteem, I had heard from patients who had been invited to an HR meeting, only to be offered a pay-out to leave the organisation. I am by no means calling this common practice, but in my recent experience, this is what seems to have been happening.

Then it got me thinking; I’d had my first (of many) panic attacks while in The Priory when a busy/stressful environment made my anxiety level hit the roof. For me to calm down I needed to get outside in the fresh air where I no longer felt as trapped.

This led me to ask myself “how on earth could I get a job if I was unable to sit in an interview and calmly sell the best version of myself?”. I was not even sure I could sit in a room and make eye contact with someone I did not know without sweat dripping off me and my thoughts screaming for me to get out of there!

The Beginning Of Mindful Partners

 

It was these struggles and worries that led me to set up Mindful Partners. In simple terms, I wanted “to help others” who have found themselves in a similar position. I wanted to help the people who were ready to be written off career-wise and just needed a helpful employer to implement small changes to help them return to work.

More recently I started to talk and share my personal experiences with others. This has not just been beneficial to my own development, but I have learnt to really listen to others rather than just waiting for them to finish so I could express my wants/needs. When you truly start to listen, it is amazing what people are willing to share with you.

This made me realise, at least, that the dark thoughts I had were not unique. And that my self-critical voice would never say those things out loud to another human being! From listening to others, I gained a better understanding of their experiences and expanded my knowledge. These skills are just some of the tools I believe I can use in helping others recover from a Mental Health episode and return to the workplace.

Get In Touch

At Mindful Partners we are passionate about helping both clients and candidates. So, if you have been out of work with mental ill-health and are ready to get back into a career you love, get in touch. We will provide intensive ongoing support to help you ease into your new job.

Alternatively, if you are an employer and would like to find out more about partnering with Mindful Partners to recruit staff and create a mentally healthy workplace, please get in touch.

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