article banner
Inside Grant Thornton

Do you have time to talk?

On Time to Talk Day 2022 Laurelin Griffiths shares her mental health story…reminding us why it's so important to take time to talk about mental health in our families, communities and workplaces.

Run by mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Talk Day was launched in 2014 and takes place on 3 February every year. The day encourages all communities to start a conversation around mental health. To help us understand why it's so important in workplaces, Public Sector Assurance Director Laurelin Griffiths, shares her experiences with depression and anxiety – explaining how being more open has had a positive impact on her and her career.

rich text with image

Laurelin's story

Looking back, I think I've always had signs and symptoms of depression since I was young, but I wasn’t formally diagnosed until I was at university. I've been learning to live with depression since then.

I joined Grant Thornton after university, but didn’t talk about my mental health when I first joined. I wasn’t sure how to raise it and what to say to people, so kept it quiet. It was when I finished my training and took on more responsibility that I felt the need to be more open. I spoke to my manager initially so they were aware of my mental health challenges, but only opened up to my teams when I needed to.

In hindsight, I wish I'd been more open about my mental health earlier in my career. The firm and the people that I work with have always been really supportive, and I’ve had access to great resources, like our employee assistance programme.

Speaking out

It wasn’t until the beginning of the pandemic that I was also diagnosed with anxiety. The uncertainty around that whole period had a significant impact on my mental health and I realised that, as I was now a manager myself, I had the opportunity to show people that it’s okay to be open about your mental health and highlight the importance of taking time to talk. The experience made me want to be more vocal about the challenges that I faced, and it was also this change in mindset that prompted me to apply for a secondment to our inclusion and diversity (I&D) team.

Want to work for Grant Thornton?

Since making this decision, I’ve been much more open both inside and outside of my team about my anxiety and depression. To me, openness doesn’t have to be big announcements in team meetings, even little things will help to reduce the stigma around mental health over time – for example my therapy appointments are in my calendar, and they’re not marked as ‘private’ (I have one this afternoon!). It’s not something to be ashamed of. The more open we can be about mental health, the better.

There is still work for me to do, and I still feel uncomfortable at times when having these conversations, but it’s important to have them. I make sure I bring up my mental health when speaking to a new line manager, which can be daunting but I think it’s a valuable conversation to have. It means they are aware and have the opportunity to actively support me.

Managing my mental health

The firm’s openness means I can take measures that allow me to manage my mental health better. I know the triggers and warning signs that I need to look out for when it comes to my own health, and when I feel the things are getting too much, I know I have the flexibility to book a day off to reset and come back in a better frame of mind. When I am going through an anxious period, I need be more on top of how I manage my time, so I make sure to take time to switch off and keep my work and home life separate. I’m looking forward to going back into the office more to collaborate with colleagues and enjoy switching off during my commute – I never thought I’d miss the commute!

It didn’t hold me back

I am part way through a 12-month secondment with our I&D team, and it’s been a great opportunity for me so far. I spend 50% of my time getting to work on a subject I’m really passionate about, working to fight the stigma around mental health. It’s so different to my day-to-day role in audit and I get to build on different skills. If I hadn’t decided to be more active in this area, I may not have applied for the secondment. During this time, I’ve also been promoted to director, which is an achievement I’m really proud of.

One of my main projects recently has been working on our newly launched Health Hub, bringing together all the health resources the firm offers into one place, making them more accessible to our people.