The ICE has published a film of an ICE member recalling her struggle with depression, to raise awareness of mental health issues in the civil engineering industry.
The film is being published as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 17 to 24 May. It is part of the ICE Talks series in which engineers discuss issues which affect engineers, but which are rarely discussed.
In the film, Highways England engineer Alexis Field tells of her experience of returning to work after maternity leave, and of her battle with postnatal depression.
Field is a growth and improvement team leader for Highways England’s operations directorate. She is is an incorporated civil engineer with over 10 years experience in the industry.
In the film, Field explains that her team and management helped support her return to work, but that the transition to parenthood and the emotional strain of returning to a high pressure professional environment took its toll on her mental health.
Ten percent of women experience postnatal depression, and other forms of clinical depression affect about one in 10 people at some point in their life. Field hopes sharing her story will help those in the industry and encourage fellow ICE members to be mindful of their colleagues’ mental health. She also wants to encourage managers to support their employees’ mental welfare.
“I found out I had post-natal depression and anxiety,” she says in the video. “I was fortunate in a way that I did get some support from work, but I did feel quite isolated going through that process because you work with – generally speaking – quite a lot of men whose wives may have gone through it, but they haven’t been through it themselves.”
Depression can leave sufferers feeling lost, emotional and isolated. Field said her relationship with her family helped her recovery: “I’m in a far more positive place and, actually, having a family has put a lot of stuff into context for me, so I try to get the work-life-balance right, and I’m making decisions now – being more thoughtful about the impact that it has on people.”
She says depression affects different people in different ways.
“Sometimes it’s not about equality, not everyone wants to be dealt with in the same way and we have to understand the intricacies around that.”
The ICE exists to support members by developing their understanding and practice of civil engineering throughout their careers and into retirement. The ICE Benevolent Fund forms an important part of this service, offering a range of services to support members in times of need, including a 24 hour helpline, face-to-face counselling sessions and personal resilience workshops. The Benevolent Fund also offers financial advice and assistance to improve mental health by helping to remove some of the financial stresses some members face.