Category: Mental Health, Wellbeing, mental health initiative, jacobs, workplace wellbeing, personal stories, Mental Health Check-In, Mental Health Awareness, One Million Lives
Hi, my name is Sean Perry. I started my professional career in 2000 within a local authority, working my way up through the career ladder within the transport planning discipline until 2007, when I moved to work with the Department for Transport at the Government Office for the East of England. A year later, I moved back to the County Council, where I continued my career reaching the grade of Head of Service, managing around 50 people and was really thriving in my role.
However, after working for local authority and central government for 18 years, I felt it was time to dip my toes into the private sector. I joined Jacobs in August 2018 as a Divisional Director of Transport Planning (latterly Senior Associate Director, Transport Planning). The beauty of this role was that I was still working with my old colleagues in the local authority as their consultants. This relationship still exists today and is going from strength to strength.
Sean Perry, Senior Associate Director, Transport Planning at Jacobs
In my current role, I manage a smaller team of around 15 to 17 people, I really do enjoy the team management side given that I love to see people progress and develop their careers. In March 2020, COVID-19 happened. I think everybody's lives changed at that point. We moved from being wholly office-based to wholly working at home literally overnight. Remembering this moment, I would give huge credit to my team for picking their laptops up on the evening of the 17th March and started working at home the following day, a situation which still exists today although a return to the office is now thankfully starting.
Mental health challenges during the pandemic
One of my colleagues said, “In January 2020 if I had told you we will all be working at home by March, you'd have laughed at me.” I think that's quite revealing about how much and how quickly we have had to adapt to this new way of working. Prior to COVID, I had found the challenge of adapting to the private sector quite difficult, having been solely public sector up to this stage. This generated some underlying confidence and anxiety issues in me, which at the time I didn't give much attention to because I thought it's a new role and completely different from working with the local authority. I put it down to it just being a case of getting used to it.
This issue, however, became more of a problem with the extension of lockdown. Without my colleagues physically being next to me to help or support or exchange ideas, I was on my own and felt isolated. By November 2020 issues with anxiety and depression became much worse. This is when I thought to take the One Million Lives assessment which Jacobs had launched earlier that year. I went for the longer assessment which was around 70 questions and took 20 to 25 minutes to complete. As I was going through this assessment, some of the questions made me realise that there's actually a serious issue. At the end, it said “your mental health is scored as poor.”
It was time to act, and it was the One Million Lives tool that spurred me into doing something. From that moment on, I spoke to my GP and was diagnosed with moderate depression. They prescribed some medication and suggested that I went through counselling with the NHS, which I did. That really helped, as I gained access to some tools and techniques to help manage depression and anxiety. Since that time I have learnt so much about myself, the warning signs and how to cope with them, I am on to a new stage in my life! I feel a lot better about myself and the things that are going on around me. Obviously, there are still good days and bad days, but it's all about making sure that there are more good days than bad.
Finding help through the One Million Lives tool
In addition to the tools and techniques that the NHS therapy helped me with, I also keep revisiting the One Million Lives techniques and tips that were suggested after taking the assessment. Those tools combined with the support I received from my family and my dear wife throughout this process have helped put me on the path to recovery. I've been off medication for some time now and things are moving up. I'm getting good feedback from my colleagues and my manager. I've also talked about this whole experience with Jacobs, which also helped me in recovering. I didn't mind talking about it and that's why I am sharing it with the readers here because the One Million Lives tool can hopefully help others. I wouldn't want anyone else to go through this, and if they are, then they need to know that there are tools out there like One Million Lives that can help them.
OML is an objective tool and the questions it uses are very similar to some of the questions that the NHS would ask you when you're undertaking a mental health assessment. Being freely available to everybody from Jacobs employees to family members and even to your next-door neighbour for free is a massive plus. The tool is a great way of facing the reality of one’s mental health and finding out whether help is needed.
The tool comprises of two assessments: a longer assessment providing an in-depth check and a shorter assessment which takes around five minutes for regular check-ins. The application retains all of the check-ins on your profile so you can see your progress and keep a regular check on how your mental health and wellbeing are progressing. At the end of the assessment, it provides you with hints and tips about what to do. They are simple recommendations, but they all help! I keep using this short assessment now to make sure that my health is moving in a positive direction.
Don't be afraid to put your hand up and speak about your issues. Gone are the days where mental health had a stigma or a weakness attached to it. I believe companies like Jacobs are really alive to that. Jacobs will not judge you at all. They were really supportive throughout, gave me time off and allowed me to ease back into work gently. All credit to Jacobs for their amazing support, but if it wasn't for the One Million Lives tool I don't think I would have realised there was a serious issue. I would have simply thought, “it's only the lockdown. Get on with it Sean.”
It's a deeply personal thing about whether you want to share information about your mental health but I found Jacobs to be very receptive to listening. They have certainly not judged me in any way, shape or form. Jacobs also provides an employee assistance programme providing confidential advice 24/7. I utilised this service and was able to receive additional counselling sessions through it.
Looking back, I feel I have definitely made the right decision choosing to work here. Jacobs truly values its people. You can see this through all of the things they've made available to their employees. I'm really glad I joined a business with such a global outreach. I am proud to be part of that and to contribute to that. If someone said to me, “I'm thinking of joining Jacobs,” I'd say absolutely go for it. The organisation is forward-thinking and genuinely cares about its people. I feel cared about at Jacobs, not only through this particular experience but during my day-to-day work.