Today, one in four people are, or will be, affected by a mental health problem in their lifetime. Worldwide, some 51 million people – almost the population of England (53 million) – are currently living with bipolar disorder, a condition that can cause extreme mood swings. When conditions are this widespread, they cannot be ignored by the world of business.
While mental health is moving slowly to the forefront of people’s hearts and minds, there is still a long way to go in terms of tackling and speaking freely about mental health conditions, particularly in the workplace. Some people are in denial about their illness, while others anticipate judgement from their peers and fear the resulting stigma.
Byron Vincent is a writer and performer who is very open about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder and the effects of his condition on both his work and personal life (see box, below). He believes that people in the public eye opening up about their experiences of mental illness help normalise conditions and challenge assumptions.
“Honest and emotive autobiographical stories from people who have lived experience is the best way to combat stigma,” he says. “I’ve woken up in many a hospital, and could have resigned myself to a life. of being told when to eat and sleep on a psychiatric ward. I needed more from my life; resisting a life of institutionalisation can be a struggle, it’s harder still to find a positive and useful role in the world, but it’s important to me to be more than just a diagnosis. I don’t want to be defeated by it."