Mandurah mental health advocate shares story of chronic anxiety

Mental Health Week: Advocate Patrick Dudley is making mental health a priority in the workplace by sharing his personal experiences. Photo: Claire Sadler.
Mental Health Week: Advocate Patrick Dudley is making mental health a priority in the workplace by sharing his personal experiences. Photo: Claire Sadler.

For many people getting to a meeting five minutes late wouldn't be a big deal but for Patrick Dudley this left him sitting in his car for several hours overcome by the effects of chronic anxiety.

"I walked up to the front door and thought I can't do it so I walked back to my car ruminated around my anxiety and then went back to the front door and still couldn't go in," he said.

"I did that three times."

After failing another attempt to go into the building during morning tea, Patrick sat in his car for two hours stressing about not attending the meeting.

The more you have the conversation around mental health the better it is going to get.

Mandurah mental health advocate Patrick Dudley

"Then I thought you know what it's lunch time I'll just go back to work so I started driving then pulled over at one of the petrol stations to have a rest," he said.

"I probably sat in that car park for another four hours because of my anxiety and my stress - My whole day was gone."

A conversation could change a life

Now in the process of starting his own business, Beehive Training Solutions, Patrick is attempting to make mental health as important in the workplace as any physical ailment by sharing moments like these.

"I grew up in a home that was full of physical and mental abuse so when I look back my mental illness began as a very young child...at 12 years old I was already abusing alcohol," he tells me shamelessly.

"Having suppressed it my whole life and the stresses of work getting on top of me I felt like I was having a breakdown so I finally thought I have to talk to somebody.

"Talking to people when I'm having a bad day is what helped me and I found when having these conversations people would then come to me and say 'I'm really glad I heard your story I didn't realise it was okay to share my story'."

Mentally unhealthy workplaces prevalent

Although Patrick's training sessions have a lasting impact on people, many workplaces are still mentally unhealthy.

According to Beyond Blue one in five Australians have taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unwell.

This statistic is more than twice as high among those who consider their workplace mentally unhealthy.

Employees who believe this are also unlikely to disclose within their workplace if they are experiencing a mental health condition, seek support from management, or offer support to a colleague with a mental health condition.

Mental health first aid skills make a difference

Patrick said this statistic could change for the better if every workplace made mental health a priority.

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"Every workplace should send someone off to do mental health first aid - My wish would be for everybody in a workplace to go do it so people understood," he said.

"Mental health training shows people how to start having the conversations, they can understand the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and they become more intuitive when people are experiencing mental health issues.

"The more you have the conversation around mental health the better it is going to get."