The Recruiter's Soapbox

Mental health in recruitment

Let’s talk about Mental Health in the Recruitment Industry

Last month, BMR hosted a function raising funds for mental health. This involved me getting on stage and speaking to 120 Recruiters. Not my idea of fun I can tell you. I think it’s safe to say that public speaking does not come naturally to me! The majority of my speech was aimed at thanking our guests and explaining why we were hosting the night. However what I found interesting is that a small part of my speech, resulted in the most attention.

Basically I admitted to a whole room of recruiters that I am a “basket case”. I don’t think that I intended to, but I did.

A little bit of background is required here. As a team, we have recently started supporting the mental health charity Livin. Livin was created to wipe out the stigma on mental health and to change how people understand and interpret it.

The reason why we chose to support this organisation is that the whole subject is close to our hearts. Out of a team of 4 here at BMR, 2 of us suffer from acute anxiety and I am one of the two! It was in trying to explain to a room full of people why we were supporting this charity, that I inadvertently let the cat out of the bag re: my “condition”.

Once done, I didn’t think any more about it, I rushed off the stage relived it was all over, grabbed the nearest glass of bubbles and set out to enjoy the evening.

The night took an interesting turn however. I was approached no less than 5 times and I have lost count of how many people have reached out to me since. People admitting that they have or still do suffer with mental health, be it anxiety or depression. All levels of people, business owners, who to the outside world are the most confident, to trainee recruiters. One particular individual suffered from acute anxiety for 2 years and not told anyone. Not his family, not his friends and certainly no-one in our industry. Why? He is concerned about the stigma and being perceived as “weak”.

We work in what can be a very stressful job. When it’s going well it’s the best job in the world, when things are not going so well it can be extremely overwhelming.

So what am I saying here? Well, its two fold:

Managers and Business owners:

We have to be aware that mental health issues are rife in our industry and that most are probably too scared to admit it. It goes against every character trait we are told makes a good Recruitment Consultant. We are constantly told that we have to be tough, resilient and keep going no matter what. It’s no wonder that we are scared to admit when things actually do get on top of us.

I believe that we have a duty of care to support our staff who may be going through difficult periods. Taking on that care can pay dividends for you. If we take my employee who suffers from acute anxiety as example, if I had not supported her through difficult times, I would have missed out on my highest performing Consultant.

I can see positive changes in our industry, a focus on sustainability and guarding against burn out. A number of our clients have started diverting funds away from boozy team bonding sessions towards personal trainers and meditation classes and I think we will continue to see this.

To Consultants/employees:

Don’t be scared to speak up and to ask for help. There is a lot of support out there. Managed properly, you can enjoy a long career in our industry, but it will require investment from yourself. There are people you can talk to who can help you understand why you are feeling the way you are. People who will help you develop strategies to get through difficult periods. My strategies involve voicing to my colleagues when I am having a high anxiety day, upping my exercise (amazing for mental health) and curbing my alcohol intake.

So yes, I stood up in front of a room of Recruiters and admitted my weaknesses, but I feel empowered and stronger for it. With 50% of BMR suffering from anxiety we are no strangers to talking about it and it is actually working in an environment with supportive colleagues where we can openly talk and quite often find the humour in our issues that have helped us to deal with them.  #itaintweaktospeak