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Ex-broker calls on industry to wake up to mental health

Ex-broker calls on industry to wake up to mental health

A former broker has called for a radical change in the way mental health is handled in the workplace after finding the stigma often attached to mental health was preventing people from seeking help.

Mel Joseph, who worked as a private banking and structured investment broker for 22 years, left the city life in 2014 after experiencing two mental breakdowns.

She now runs Mente — a firm dedicated to improving the way staff and employers think about mental health.

According to Ms Joseph, the "denial" and "ego" found in the finance sector provides a perfect breeding ground for mental health issues and people suffering burnouts.

She said: "What you’ve got with financial advisers is that they’re responsible for other people’s money. In that world, you’re always on. You have to be very competent and you’ve got to do it well.

"There’s a culture of independent financial advisers and other finance workers who battle their ego and don’t tell people when it’s really hard work and [they are] potentially getting too much."

Ms Joseph said the impact of this on an adviser as a person and on their revenue was massive as there was a real pressure to the job which was "difficult to get right".

She went on to say that she experienced pressure from the industry not to talk about or make known any mental health problems or feelings of burnout because she would be "deemed as not fit for the job".

She said: "The job is driven by money and performance and in this industry, when you show signs of burnout you show signs of weakness."

In fact when Ms Joseph first published a blog post about her mental health experiences in the finance world, many people messaged her telling her to take it down and described the post as "career suicide", she said.

Ms Joseph said the lifestyle of those in the financial sector often included after work dinner and drinks either with clients or colleagues, which meant "nine hour days often turned into 16 hour slogs" which opened up an avenue for substance reliance.

She said: "For example, if you’re working nine hour days, meeting with clients after work, going out drinking, getting home and popping a sleeping pill then getting up five hours later to do it all again, it’s going to catch up with you."

Ms Joseph spoke about ‘double diagnosis’ — where someone deals with stress or anxiety through drinking or other drugs — as a prevalent feature among working people.

She said: "A culture definitely exists around substances and mental health. Many who struggle with their health can turn to alcohol without understanding it’s actually perpetuating the issue."

Findings from Lifesearch, published last week (May 30), showed almost half of British adults ‘self-medicate’ their mental health issues and symptoms.

The study found one in five used alcohol, over-the-counter meds or illegal drugs to medicate while others were drawn to gambling, sex, food, or spending to alleviate chronic mental health symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia or depression.