2016 was a memorable year for many, from big potential changes to the political landscape with the Brexit and Trump votes, to an apparently large number of celebrity deaths.
It also seemed to be the year that several celebrities announced that they were suffering from anxiety disorders with singers Zayn Malik, Selena Gomez and Ellie Goulding, as well as group Rizzle Kicks, each cancelling several concert dates due to the condition. We also saw Robbie Williams see in the New Year by shaking hands with his fans and promptly and publicly getting out the anti-bac hand cleaner… he has openly shared his struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety.
The pressure for perfection has probably never been so high, with people sharing filtered and re-touched selfies on Instagram and Facebook and celebrities being under constant scrutiny. It would therefore not be surprising to see increased numbers of celebrities suffering from the condition. However, will more celebrities be open and honest about it?
Zayn spoke after his announcement to explain that his “people” had initially offered to say that he had come down with some other bug, but that he wanted to be a positive example by not hiding it from his fans.
So what does this say about employees? Is this indicative of an increasing openness about mental health problems, and if so, will celebrities help to de-stigmatise these mental health conditions?
In general, it does seem to be the case that mental health is being more widely spoken about, and according to the latest Mind Survey on attitudes to mental health (published in the latter half of 2015), we are more tolerant and willing to discuss mental health conditions than ever before. Nevertheless, this survey still showed that 48% of people would not be comfortable talking to their employer about any mental health problem they were suffering from. There is therefore still a great deal of work to be done to get employees who are suffering from issues to speak out.
Getting employees to be open about their conditions can clearly mean the difference between them being supported at work and things spiralling out of control. However, there is also the fact that certain conditions, whilst offering significant challenges, can also provide significant benefits to their employers. People with autism are probably the most obvious example as often they have a higher attention to detail and less fatigue from repetitive roles than non-autistic people. They are also often very loyal to their employer. Similarly, those with a tendency towards anxiety (including obsessive compulsive disorder), can often be individuals with a significant attention to detail which can help mark a company out from the crowd.
Whilst it has not traditionally been the view that those with mental health conditions are of particular benefit to an organisation, it may actually be the case that in certain roles, such conditions may help that person to outperform others, with certain “disorders” and conditions appearing to be a positive benefit. It has been suggested that some successful CEOs have been successful because of a mental disorder. Indeed some psychologists are saying that about Donald Trump.
Whilst it is impossible to say if this is so, it may be that singers and performers who announced breaks from tours due to anxiety have actually had the success they have had partly because of the very same anxiety which is now inhibiting them. As employers, it may be that by helping employees to be more open about their conditions, we can help employees to make the most of what they can offer the business (which might be more than initially anticipated).