Twenty-eight-year-old research associate Erik is very familiar with the concept of failing.
“The best way I can describe working in science is to say that progress is so often achieved on the back of numerous failures,” said Erik. “Science is built on experiments and research that fails. You keep failing until you gain a greater understanding and finally achieve success.”
Erik is based at a North West university and had been experiencing a great deal of pressure, which often comes with an academic project that is expected to generate results within a specific period.
After working as a research associate for more than a year, the pressure of expectation proved too much. Erik wanted to find the right support and a work colleague recommended Able Futures.
Erik approached Able Futures, which delivers the Access to Work Mental Health Support Service on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. He was able to access support in March 2019 at no charge and to arrange regular appointments with a vocational rehabilitation consultant.
“I had been managing a massive crisis of confidence for months,” explained Erik. “I am researching what is probably best described as the study of measurement. Since starting the project, I have endured a steep learning curve. Our ultimate goal is to further develop micro-chip technology to improve particle measurement.
“I am on a fixed term contract and I am conscious that there is a finite period to deliver results, which brings the identified inherent pressures.
“At the time I would say that I was also experiencing a loss of direction in both my professional and personal lives. I was feeling so tired during the day. I was staying in most evenings and although I was still sleeping, I would not say that I felt refreshed in the mornings.”
“My first contact with Alicja Blada-Edgeley, the vocational rehabilitation consultant, happened quickly,” commented Erik. “Gradually, Alicja encouraged me to seek and establish better habits. She had spotted my repetitive negative thought patterns and that I had stopped doing the things that mattered to me. Our conversations evolved and I started to think about my general lack of personal activities.”
Erik has now taken up swimming and goes to the nearby pool at lunch times to break up his day. He is developing an interest in painting and making time for other people outside his working environment. He is planning to accompany a friend who enjoys hill walking and wild swimming in the countryside.
“My engagement with Able Futures has lasted for seven months,” said Erik. “The support ranged from phone calls, email messages and face to face meetings.
“I certainly feel less anxious now about workloads. I have developed a different perspective on my professional relationships and status - and have a greater awareness of self-care approaches.
“I would urge anyone who feels they need help to go straight to their HR department who will be able to advise them on the programmes of support that are currently available.”