NEWS MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS MY STORY Kane Pirie, managing director of VIVID Travel “

O’Sullivan: ‘Mental health awareness benefits people in customer-facing roles’

What advice would you give employers who want to focus on mental health? One of the biggest challenges that people face with mental health is not doing something because they’re not sure what the right thing to do is. Starting a journey with authenticity and sincerity is the best thing that people can do. And then engage people at all levels in all parts of the business, ask people what they want, and talk to people at work about what you’re planning.

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by a mental health issue and you need further help and support, contact the Samaritans free of charge on 116 123.

In 2001, I decided I’d had enough. I’d been working like a dog for KPMG and

suddenly thought ‘I don’t want to do this any more’. I handed over a large box of files to a friend and colleague to take into the London office, called my boss and took a train to Manchester. At the time, it felt like a dream, like the end of my career, the end of at least one iteration of myself. I didn’t feel too good and found myself talking to

a doctor. Apparently, I was depressed, which meant nothing to me at the time. I was given one month’s supply of fluoxetine (Prozac) and bundled out of the door. After a few days in Manchester, I headed back to Frankfurt, armed with a couple of books on depression that I found incredibly bleak. The whole meltdown had crept up on me over the years so slowly that I hadn’t even noticed, as there were always multiple issues in play. Firstly, I did not know how to look after myself. I

was not really exercising; I was smoking and I relaxed by drinking at the weekend. Secondly, in the week, I sometimes flew to more than one city a day and often worked through the night. I enjoyed my job at the time, but in hindsight, I was overdoing it. I was squeezed out of my own life. Thirdly, I was between families – no longer in my old family and ahead of my new family. Families are a great stabiliser; daddies don’t cry. Fourthly, I was living in a country where I did not speak the lingo. Everything was harder. Even trying to post a letter could become an ordeal and chip away at your self-confidence.

I am not sure I would have coped knowing from the

outset, but I was actually at the start of a personal war. From 2001 to 2006, I had five years in a fairly grim loop: falling into and fighting out of depression. Eventually, I learnt the tablets were at best a

double-edged sword. I moved back to the UK, found work I enjoyed at Travel Republic in the much more fun and empathetic industry of travel, had years of counselling, stopped smoking and got physically fit, which is underrated as a mood lifter. Paul [Furner] and

I had five years in a fairly grim loop: falling into and fighting out of depression. I learnt the tablets were a double-edged sword

Chris [Waite] were good mates and business partners at Travel Republic and tolerated my wayward nature as I slowly sorted myself out. While it was painful at the time, I would not change anything about it. After ‘sorting myself out’ I became a much happier person, forward-looking and optimistic. I am not really embarrassed about having had

mental health problems. These days I consider myself unusually resilient and that is because of, and not in spite of, some of the issues I have navigated. More people should be open about their own issues.

That will accelerate the day in which the last vestiges of the stigma fade away. I look forward to that.

Kane Pirie: ‘I am not embarrassed about having had mental health problems’

If you would like to contribute anything to Travel Weekly’s Mental Health Matters series, contact Natalie Marsh at natalie.marsh@travel

6 JUNE 2019


PICTURES: Shutterstock; Phil Gammon

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