Gareth Rees is a Planning Director at one of Yorkshire’s largest digital agencies. During the ten years he’s worked in the industry, he’s applied his talent of utilising various products and services for a range of companies and employers – most notably, the BBC. He has a wife and young family, and when time allows, he can be found swimming in the lanes of his local pool or open water venue.
Gareth has moderate clinical depression, a mental illness that was first diagnosed by his GP during his early thirties. His story is a common one – in that although Gareth admits that the telltale signs of his illness were there all along, it wasn’t until his thoughts and feelings came to a head that he decided to take action.
“[At the time] I was going through a number of significant life changes” he explains. “I had just started a new job and my personal life had become very complicated during a (thankfully temporary) breakdown of my engagement.
“I had moved into a new flat as a result and I wasn't leading a very healthy lifestyle. When I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time sitting in bathrooms and crying on lunch time walks around the office, I decided I needed to act.
During this dark period, Gareth reached out to what he had hoped would be a reassuring light in the form of Samaritans, before eventually taking things one step further by visiting his GP.
“I find talking to strangers quite hard, so instead of calling Samaritans, I emailed them”, Gareth explains.
“This was silly, as their job is to listen, not advise. I wanted to deal with my problems like I would deal with calling my bank or the IT department, and it doesn’t quite work like that. So eventually I plucked up the courage to visit my doctor instead – it was the best thing I could have done.
“I was given a questionnaire to take home and fill out. I can’t remember if I got to score myself, or whether the GP did this on my return the week after. Either way, I fell into the “moderate clinical depression” box. I don’t think the approach is quite as formulaic now, but I liked it, given the analytical and conclusive nature of the outcome. Sure I was put into a box, but this gave me an immediate feeling of relief.”
What followed for Gareth was a prescription of SSRIs (a form of antidepressant that increases the brain’s serotonin levels) and enrolment on a cognitive behavioural course – a practice that Gareth is the first to admit may have been more useful had he made more of an effort to put into practice the things that were touched upon during his sessions.
“I think that everyone’s situation is individual, and what works for one person might not work for another” offers Gareth, “what has definitely worked for me has been consistent, if not daily, exercise. I’ve always needed a goal or event to make this happen, but whenever this has been the case it has without a doubt been the best way to keep my frame of mind positive.
“I have also managed to start daily mindfulness, through the Headspace app. I thoroughly recommend this to everyone, not just those who have ever had mental health concerns.
While managing to find and maintain a balance through exercise and mindful meditation, Gareth considers how the industry has affected his mental health.
“Working in the media and creative industries has been both challenging and rewarding. I’ve had jobs that have required (or expected) long hours and brought with them lots of pressure and expectation. There is no denying that this has impacted my mental health along the way. That said, I’ve always had a passion for the industry and enjoyed (most) of the jobs that I have done, so this has given me an outlet and a purpose that can feel very rewarding. I have never wanted to be signed off work, or even reduce my role, for fear of losing that feeling of achievement.
Reflecting on the past twelve months, Gareth explains how he has enjoyed his most positive and rewarding year since being diagnosed – a factor he’s keen to attribute to his aforementioned exercise routine and willingness to talk to his close friends about his condition.
Looking forward, a swim across the English Channel and plenty of other personal goals have already been set for 2018. In addition to this, Gareth hopes to keep enjoying his work, spending time with his family and following the practices he’s detailed above.
We have every faith in him to do just that and can’t wait to see how he gets on in the year ahead.