9.9 Million Days and I'm in Limbo

bottled_void / flickr
 Creative Commons
At this moment I am on long term sick, contributing to the 9.9 million days that are annually lost to work-based stress or related issues surrounding mental health according to the Health and Safety Executive. I've agreed with my employer that I will not return to that post I now have to hope that a new position is found before my sick pay runs out.

  Four months ago, I tried to kill myself. I'll try to summarise and leave the full details on previous posts of my blog but the main cause was stress and workload at work.  Meanwhile I've seen GPs, my psychologist, I've spoken with Citizens Advice Bureau and the fantastic team at MIND, the mental health charity. Last week I covered my meeting with HR. He discriminated against me; I assume because of my health condition and so it feels like they tried to constructively dismiss me. I went straight to HR. He knowingly exacerbated my condition or at least did nothing to prevent conditions getting worse.
The predominant cause of work related stress ... was workload (tight deadlines, too much work/pressure/responsibility). Other factors identified included a lack of managerial support, organisational changes at work, violence and role uncertainty (lack of clarity about job/uncertain what meant to do.) 
- HSE Stress Fact Sheet / Labour Force Survey (2009/10-2011/12)

I am now in limbo.

 I could do nothing and hope that a position is found but either my cynical side or my illness makes me think I am damaged goods for disposal. I want to find a good solicitor who will take on the fight of discrimination and personal injury or failure in duty of care and get me the compensation that will pay for my care. Where do I find them? Who would take on a case knowing I have no money and an income about to expire. A side effect of my mental health is that I feel pressured to act now. I have to fight 'my battle' now, whilst I am fit and articulate before the 'black dog' strikes me down. Remember, 43% of all work days lost due to ill health in 2014 relate back to stress and workplace mental health, so I cannot be the only one in these shoes.

New glasses!
 One option I am trying to pursue is the career of being a spokesman for mental health. Recently I was invited to take part in a debate on LBC Radio discussing the public health crisis of male suicide; something I am lucky to have survived. How do I move on?
I've tried to publicise my story through twitter and even relate it to the fantastic efforts to get the male suicide crisis discussed just last Thursday in the House of Commons. I would love to be on the review of the newspapers on Sky or the BBC or maybe I could make my wage in just offering my story and being a point of reference for the media?

 Do I just wait and hope for a lucky break?

  Post continues below...

are you looking for contributors / commentators on #mentalhealth or #malesuicide ? #Survivor https://t.co/lk8GZgT5H8Matthew E Streuli (@mattstreuli) 

I find myself stuck.
At this time, I cannot claim benefits and any legal action would take months. How do I pay my mortgage? What can I do? Will I ever be able to work in a office or any stressful environment like a shop again?

Tickets are available online at www.ihdc.co.uk
All profits help fund our nonprofit community club.  
Iver Heath Drama Club 
 My story is not all gloom. I have many positives to hold on to. I have an amazing set of friends and family plus I have found positive and sometimes therapeutic outlets such as my blog, the articles I write on Huffington Post and even my time as a Dame in the pantomime at the local drama club - I look stunning in pink boots! Whatever I do though, I still have this nagging feeling that I am just hoping for one lucky break, for one chance, otherwise I have no idea how I will buy my bread and milk this Christmas.

What else can I try?

Need help? In the UK, call The Samaritans free on 116 123. Alternatively, further information plus legal support lines are available from MIND, the mental health charity, at www.mind.org.uk
Matt Streuli is a blogger, actor and YouTuber who is passionate about mental health and his local community. He has made a career in customer service, entertainment and customer care. He is the Chairman and dame of the Iver Heath Drama Club in South Bucks. 
In his spare time, he hosts The Matt Streuli Show on Southwaves Radio (Thursday 8pm) and lives near Pinewood Studios on the edge of London. His website is www.MattStreuli.uk
A video posted by Matthew E Streuli (@matthewstreuli) on
photo credit: There's more to life than bills & more bills. via photopin (license)

Closing the door

Over the past few editions of my blog I've been recapping my story and explaining the anxiety I've felt towards my meeting with HR but actually I didn't need to worry so much. 

If I didn't ask for help they would have my blood on their hands.
 -Last weeks blog post

I got up early and dosed myself on propranolol before heading to my parents' house.  

I was asked if I was making a complaint or a grievance but even with their explanation, I'm still not too sure of the difference. They didn’t answer the points in my letter per se but were happy to accept that I am not willing to return to work in that team for that manager. Whist that is never how I would want to leave a post, I have to accept that I have been forced out and so close that door.

They did imply I should go see my psychologist again but given my manager's behaviour I think this might just be to cover myself legally and prove this was a key cause of my current sick leave. HR did agree to look for positions for me elsewhere in the company and I should look too. Unless we find a new position before hand, we suggested another meeting in early January as my paid sick leave runs out so we can discuss how we proceed. My stepmother was present to act as an advocate for me and did ask that given they accept my manager’s behaviour was wrong, would they extend my paid sick leave. The answer was no and any further wages would be down to an assessment by their Health Insurance. 

I feel a massive sense of relief that they were so understanding and perhaps in hindsight I allowed my anxiety to get the better of me regarding how bad this meeting could have been or how negative they may have been. They have asked that I remained signed off until we can agree on a new position – I don’t know if this is best legally but I am currently signed off until end of this month. Part of me is worried that I may not be able to work, that I am too ill, and all because of my time in that team; I wasn’t this ill 12 months ago – I guess I won’t know until I try but I have a mortgage and bills to pay.

Once I get their letter summarising the meeting I'm going to call MIND's legal helpline. They admitted the manager shouldn't say those things but didn't comment on whether laws had been broken or if it was bullying. There is no harm in getting legal advice. If I can prove my condition is worse due to their inaction and treatment, surely that is a personal injury claim?

My stepmother did raise one question to me privately regarding my diagnosis. She asked why I have borderline personality disorder rather than bipolar disorder and I couldn’t give a definitive answer. I think it was because my ‘black patches’ were caused by events rather than just occurring but She believes that I show clear signs of severe depression and clear signed of mania, some of which I miss because she has an external view compared to me.  She is a Specialist Nurse who has just retired but has limited experience in mental health.  I have been reading DSM 5 which suggested there is a lot of overlap between the two conditions. In theory, would it be possible to trial me on medication for bipolar? Is there any harm in trying? 

Going back to personal injury, I just wanted to mention the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Paris as well as the incidents in Iraq and Syria to name a few. I need to leave you with a thought that I realised through a tumblr post (below) in the past couple of days. The injuries are not limited to those who were shot or blown apart. 
Bataclan Theatre aftermath: shockmansion.com

The mental health injury spreads to those who help the victims, whether medical professionals or locals trying to help, and even further to the victims friends and family at home. To witness the blood and brutality first hand is a horrifying image especially as stories come to light such as those from the Bataclan theatre where people lay hidden under their dead friends. The wounds in the mental health are more complex and will take much longer to heal. Learning to move on, understand and accept what you have seen or the loss of a loved one in such a needless and barbaric way can never be as easy as shutting a door.



A photo posted by Matthew E Streuli (@matthewstreuli) on

The Mental Health Fight & Unboxing a Little Box of Distractions

Four months ago, I tried to kill myself. The main cause was stress and workload at work, since we had lost several members of staff without them being replaced, but the trigger was an incident at work where I defended someone I 'saw' as vulnerable but I came under attack. Without consciously knowing it, I needed to look after that vulnerable person just as I was the sole carer for my Mother between the ages of 8 and 13. She died when I was 13 from alcoholism. My 'damaged' hardware and software of my mind crashed. Once I returned to work, I volunteered my NHS assessments to my employer, saw their appointed Doctor who gave them a list of adjustments (which they only followed one of) and I agreed to be more open rather than bottle things up. I did. We all did.
I lasted just over 3 months. The trigger was when I brought something to the attention of my senior Manager and challenged him, just like we are always being told to. I told him he had offended some of the staff and he replied with "I don't care". It set off the same cascade failure we had seen a few months earlier except this time, I asked for help. When I told that same manager I had been signed off due to work he replied "No one else has a problem." He even tried to convince me to resign. I've seen GPs, my psychologists, I've spoken with solicitors and legal teams at Citizens Advice Bureau and ACAS as well as the fantastic team at MIND, the mental health charity. He discriminated against me, I assume because of my health condition, and tried to constructively dismiss me. I went straight to HR.

I self harmed because of him.  They knowingly exacerbated my condition.

On Monday, after some postponement, I have my first meeting with HR. If I didn't ask for help, this meeting could be taking place at an inquest in front of the press and a coroner. If I didn't ask for help they would have my blood on their hands.

I summarise my story because some of you are new to my blog. I have proactively removed any evidence of who I work for from my website and social media and I have never mentioned it here or in my interviews with the press. I want to tell my story but I do not wish for the negligent behaviour of a man to damage such a fantastic company I would work for but, I make clear, I would rather KILL MYSELF, then work in that department again or for that man again.

Such a meeting is playing on my mind. I went on a midnight walk last night to try and clear it. Will they be reasonable? Will they care about me? Will they be concerned for the welfare of those at work, working Saturdays to try and keep up? Will they want me to back in a different division?

Even though I am so much better than I was four months ago when I tried to kill myself, and better than I was a month ago when I first asked for help, my anxiety has returned and I am scared for my future. How will I pay my credit cards? My mortgage? It would be great if I could do more interviews like the one for LBC last week and fill my life with the little volunteer projects for the local Police and even this blog, but how will that feed or water me?

One way of helping people with mental health, especially those in a difficult place or an unhealthy frame of mind, is a box of distractions. Kerry Elliot is running a scheme where those who need the box can get one for free or a small donation. The scheme is crowdfunded. It is a brilliant idea and is really helping me at the moment, taking myself away from some of the more destructive thoughts. A video review is down below but boxes like this are really helping. I wonder whether a monthly box, like lootcrate, would work. I'm quite interested to use some of them and as you will see from the video, my cat Punch likes them too.

I have so much going for me. Hopefully you'll agree my interview on LBC went really well and maybe they will give me the leg up to do more media things. My radio show has a steady amount of listeners and my blog gets steadily more popular. The pantomime is coming really well and for the first time in a couple of years, I'm not being all negative and hateful towards it, an apparent side effect of work. I'm fighting. Fighting not to let them kill me. Fighting not to overthink. Fighting not to fail. Fighting for what is right and just. Fighting so that people with mental health are not locked away or left for dead. Fighting to survive and so that others survive too. Fighting to help others, and not hurt them.

I can see all of this on a loop. I'm going to open up that box and distract myself. I have to try.


Mental health is like diabetes OR Postponement and Positivity

I was really anxious. I felt low and had nightmares. Even with my birthday.

I was meant to have my first HR meeting regarding my formal complaint but due to unforeseen circumstances on their part, it has now been delayed by 2 weeks. It is an enormous weight to be lifted, but it still hangs over me. My only concern now is that when we do hold the meeting I will have been off work for a full month and potentially no investigation will have been done.

Matts birthday xx
Posted by Carol Campling on Saturday, 31 October 2015

 Still, I'm now 26 and after an awesome birthday weekend I feel enthused to be active.

However, this week we have good reason to be positive about the future. In the past few days the British public has been very open and hopefully accepting of mental health. It started with a fantastic documentary on BBC Three by the musician Professor Green around male suicide and affect his Father's suicide had. To talk about a taboo such as suicide is brave. To put then appear on BBC's flagship news programme Newsnight and discuss your own mental health, putting your reputation on the line, even more so. To educate, entertain and inform is the remit of the BBC and the join effort by BBC Three and BBC News did a fantastic job to rugby tackle such a complex and difficult issue and honestly explore it.
"The life expectancy for people with mental health problems remains 20 years lower than for the general population." - BBC News
Everyone is so scared of discussing their mental health. My own Father voiced concerns on this blog about my honesty. Would it affect my future career or how people treat me? If anything, the fantastic work being done shows that mental health is like diabetes; when managed correctly we can be perfectly functioning members of society and normal (or not!) as everyone else.

Equality is a key ethos. Everyone should be treated the same regardless of who they love, what genitals they have, their skin colour or their medical condition. Yet, I have faced discrimination. Ruby Wax with several key politicians and celebrities such at Matt Lucas, Alan Rickman and Caroline Lucas kickstarted a campaign this week. I honestly believe the staff of the NHS do their best to treat mental health equally to physical health yet we all know that in the end, this is not the case. We've discussed here on this blog before that when compared to cancer the physical signs of mental health are harder to see, that people get pushed back. For many years, Time To Change, has championed that one in four people will be affected by their mental health however it was former 'spin doctor' Alistair Campbell who argued that we all have mental health. If you read back through my blog, I have already lead a charge that we all have mental health and that it sits on a spectrum; we have all suffered with mental health moments when you take the breakups, grief and turmoil we have endured into account. Mental health isn't just the physical brain not working, but in cases like mine it appears to be more that the software on my 'computer' doesn't work either. Mental health is like diabetes; when managed correctly, whether therapy or medication or more, we can be perfectly functioning members of society. Please take this opportunity to have browse through my blog and sign this petition by those experts and celebs to pull mental health away from this victorian asylum image that horror portrays into the 21st century because, one day you will need it.

If you keep a close eye on twitter and my local newspapers, then you may see my name and that of the Iver Heath Drama Club crop up. I can confirm that Pinewood Studios has renewed their sponsorship of the club. IHDC is over 60 years old and is funded through donations, membership fees and profits from shows. It has over 40 members of all ages, abilities and disabilities and I am proud to be Chairman of the group. I am also proud to be the pantomime dame which you may have noticed. There is a video below of work thus far on our next show as well as information on our KickStarter campaign where we are raising money for props, paint and costumes through selling badges, VIP family tickets and even a dinner date with me. All the money we raise helps us keep ticket prices and membership down so we can include and entertain the whole community.

Carrying on with the club, I have been approached by Thames Valley Police in Iver to create a display regarding home safety this festive season. Did you blow that candle out? Did you lock the doors? Did you leave a light on? If you are in South Bucks and have any 'empty' and wrapped christmas presents you wish to donate, I will be at Iver Flowerland on Saturday morning constructing a makeshift bedroom with PCSO Rav Lewis.

Thank you once again for all your support and feedback on my blog and my Huffington Post articles. Please keep sharing the link to my blog and have a browse of my highlights below xxx 

A photo posted by Matthew E Streuli (@matthewstreuli) on

#equality4mentalhealth   #equality4mentalhealth