Over the past three decades David Westgate has built a very successful career in advertising as a Writer and Creative Director. Alongside this, he is also an advocate for raising the volume on conversations about mental health in the workplace.
As someone who suffers from Bipolar Disorder, David has a lot to give to this discussion and hopes that by sharing his own experiences and opinion he can help others who are struggling with their own mental health issues.
This month David has launched a simple mental health initiative called CLUB 20. Here’s what he had to say when we spoke to him about it:
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been in advertising for about 35 years. I’ve worked in large multinationals, small boutique agencies and even run my own. In many ways, I’m pretty boring. I married my childhood sweetheart and we’re still together. We have two kids and live in a nice Sydney suburb. If you met me I reckon you’d think I’m a pretty average bloke. To a degree, you’d be right.
You have recently worked on a proposal for your initiative Club20. What inspired you to do so?
Throughout my adulthood, I’ve suffered from Bipolar Type 1, so I know firsthand how it feels to be driven by anxieties so strong I sacrificed weekend after weekend to needless work. I know what it’s like to be so sleep-deprived my keyboard resembled a pillow. And I know what it’s like to perform brilliantly in a boardroom one minute only to find myself crying in a bathroom the next. That said, my colleagues never knew a thing. Like most mentally ill people, I’m a remarkably good actor.
Given my experience, I wanted to do something that might help others suffering silently from mental illness. Plus, I wouldn’t mind making a quid from it too.
How do you hope Club20 will evolve going forward?
I want it to be recognised by corporate Australia as a credible, practical initiative that helps employees suffering from mental illness. I want it to be an initiative that complements any programs companies may already have running, and I want it to help normalise this issue within the workplace.
Over the span of your career, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the attitude to mental illness in the workplace?
There is far greater recognition of mental health issues within the workplace. Media attention has helped bring this issue into the light and many companies are doing great work in building cultures that are far more inclusive and understanding. That said, many people who suffer still fear ‘coming out’ and revealing their illnesses.
What advice do you wish you’d been given earlier in your career?
Enjoy it and realise that everyone around you has something they can teach you. Often people who think they are the smartest people in the room, are the biggest idiots.
What 3 tips would you like to pass on to someone struggling with mental illness.
1. If you feel you are having mental health issues, do something about it. Speak to your GP. Don’t bottle it up and try and deal with it yourself as it won’t work.
2. Realise you are not alone. 20% of adult Australians suffer from some form of mental illness in any given year. There are heaps of us out there.
3. People love you and want to help. Don’t ever convince yourself they don’t.