Kimberley Burrell, florist, living with anxiety and depression

Why is this campaign important to you?

This campaign is a chance to be heard, to be empowered. To face my fears and help make a change in the workplace and people’s understanding of mental illness.

How has it been for you, experiencing ill mental health and being in the workforce?

While working for others, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It was pretty scary, I didn’t really know or understand at the time what was happening to me. I was fortunate enough to have people around me who had a great understanding of depression and anxiety, and provided me with the reassurance that I needed to take time for myself and that I wasn’t a burden on anyone around me. I was offered resources, encouraged to take time for myself, and just a general ‘ear to listen’. I actually think I was one of the lucky ones. In my own business as a leader, I’ve come across young people who are totally open, upfront and honest about their mental illness. Not in a ‘I’m gonna warn you about my mental state’ way – but in a ‘this is my illness, it doesn’t define me, but it’s a part of me and it’s normal’ kind of way. It’s refreshing to just ‘talk’ about mental illness with co-workers… it helps normalise it, instead of tip-toeing around it. Tip-toeing around metal health issues makes it feel like a problem.

What impact can this campaign have?

By flipping the idea of what mental illness ‘stops’ a person from doing, to what mental illness ‘helps’ a person do. Anxiety makes me overthink EVERY little detail. Over and over and over and over! But when I’m working on something I love, or that I’m passionate about, this overthinking isn’t necessarily a bad thing… my clients are thrilled when I present them with an exhaustive, detailed design and plans for their wedding flowers. I’ve also acted out every single thing that could possibly go wrong in my head (at least seven times, ha!) so I’m pretty much over-prepared for their wedding day! Anxiety drives me, pushes my creative boundaries – to be better than I was last week, or last month. My anxiety wants me to be in control of as much as possible, so I actually thrive in the huge responsibility that comes with creating stunning florals and designs for something as big and important as a person’s wedding day. It also means I will never sleep through my 4am flower market alarm because I’m too anxious to sleep! This campaign can show people that mental illness doesn’t have a face. It doesn’t have a style or a type. It doesn’t discriminate and can affect everyone. That bubbly, giggling, happy co-worker who appears confident and self-assured, might actually be struggling with high-functioning anxiety. It’s so important that we paint a different picture of what mental illness looks like, especially in the workplace, so that it doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.

What advice can you offer to others who might have similar experiences?

You’re not alone and you are not a burden. Your mental illness freakin rocks! Own it and let it drive you, not hide you.

What do you think makes a mentally healthy workplace?

Compassion and understanding. Acceptance and empowerment. Creating an environment that makes employees feel safe, secure and empowered by their mental illness.

What would you say to business leaders about workplace mental health…

Just because you can’t hear someone coughing, or see their bandages, doesn’t mean they are not ill or unwell.