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Nick Jemetta - Graduate campaigns to reduce mental health stigma

When Nick Jemetta was invited to share a story of overcoming adversity during a public speaking workshop, it unlocked a new passion to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental ill health.

Nick graduated from BU with a first class honours in 2005 and now works in digital marketing management for retailer Sainsbury’s Argos. The married father-of-two said: “I consider myself to have a great life, both personally and professionally, which I am very grateful for. However, during my younger years I suffered with anxiety and (I believe) undiagnosed depression and it got to the point where I considered taking my own life. Fortunately, I managed to come out the other side, but it wasn’t until I was asked to talk about adversity in that workshop that it came flooding back. I began to share my story and the response was really positive. It has since given me a new life purpose to speak out with a view to helping others.”

Since attending the workshop, Nick has set up a mental health and wellbeing group for colleagues at Argos (and parent company Sainsbury’s). He has spoken in front of 120 staff and launched an internal communications group which now has over 750 members. As well as helping the company develop its approach to supporting staff, he has begun to take his message out to others by working with several charities including Mental Health UK.

Reflecting on his personal experience, Nick recalls starting university as an introverted and insecure teenager who struggled to make friends. He said: “I’d had a normal upbringing with a loving family and no major traumas to speak of. However, I now know that I was fighting an internal battle with myself. I had little to no self-worth, felt unattractive and anxious, which made going to university daunting. Though I struggled to connect with people, in my first year I made one good friend as we had a shared interest in video games! He invited me to join him and his mates in a house share in my second year and, although these are now some of my best friends, at the time I wasn’t happy in my own skin. Already feeling low, I exacerbated this by drinking too much alcohol which I now know is a depressant. On these nights I would walk home on my own, thinking it would be better if I just stepped out in front of a car and put an end to my pain. I didn’t know what I was experiencing then and at the time mental health wasn’t being so openly discussed. I managed to get through it with a combination of the friendships I built in that second year and a good degree of luck. It’s only on reflection that I realise how close I came to making a decision which couldn’t be undone”

Nick is now passionate about bringing mental health issues into the open. He said: “I can only speak from my experience but for me the most important thing is to encourage people to share what they are feeling with someone. You must get out of what I call the ‘echo chamber’ of your own thoughts and negative feelings. I hope that my story can help others to realise that they aren’t alone. One in four people will experience mental ill health every year so it’s much more common than you think. It is also often temporary. When you are in that place it can feel paralysing and that there is no way out, but there really can be light at the end of the tunnel.”

Nick recently published his top five takeaways from his experience via a LinkedIn blog.