Sign up for NPL updates
Sign up for NPL updates

Receive regular emails from NPL to get a glimpse of our activities and see how our experts are informing and influencing scientific debate

Anonymous - early

Research Scientist

4 minute read / TW// Mental health

Read an anonymous story from one of our colleagues written in their own words.

I am currently a PhD student studying at the University of Strathclyde and working at NPL. The experiences I want to talk about today started back when I was a child. I almost dropped out of secondary school because of my mental health but I still went to university – where I failed for real. I then decided to get a job in industry where I worked for a couple of years.

I decided to give my degree another go and complete it while I was working. Once I did complete it, I went to do my masters at St Andrews. That means that between my last time at uni and my new studies there was 4 years of industry work.

Currently, I’m doing research in computer science, in particular things that are to do with verification of software, and formal verification and proofs. Every day is really different, so I’ll lay out one example – yesterday I woke up and did some admin in the morning, read some research papers and went to the gym. Later in the day I started working for a side project and, in the evening, I finally had time to do some research. Every couple of weeks I’ll travel down to the NPL site in Teddington where I work with my colleagues in the Data Science department. We’re currently undertaking a project to improve the ergonomics of software and ensure its quality and safety.

Through conversations with colleagues, it’s sometimes brought up if working in science and our particular fields, is something we’ve always wanted to do. Finding the ideal area or interest for me has never been the main issue. When I was having trouble, which started when I was very young, my difficulty was just existing. At that point in my life, I didn’t even think I could have a job. Ever. I never had a dream job or goal because I did not imagine that I would survive this long.

There are lots of people who have told their story in the past regarding their mental health, but I think it’s rare to hear a story that starts when the person is very young or when there is no strong environmental factor. In my case, as far as I can remember, I was depressed. I don’t have any good memories of being a kid. I was pulled out of one school because I was having very dangerous thoughts and only managed to get proper medication for depression when I was in secondary school. It was only after I left this schooling environment that I have been able to recover and lead a normal life.

What’s difficult to talk about is that there’s nothing going wrong. I mean, depression is always like this. There’s nothing ever going particularly wrong. Nothing’s “really bad”. Somehow the mind just doesn’t want to be here. I found it really difficult knowing that I basically lost the first 20 years of existing because they were plagued with barriers that are of the mind.

Advice to people in a similar situation can be hard because I know that when I was in this circumstance, I would not take advice from anyone. Looking back, I think it’s important to remember that advice isn’t going to solve or fix much but it might give some respite. If something isn’t working out for you right now there will be another opportunity coming very soon. This will be just as good and right now you just don’t know about it. These things can come in many forms and for me it was finding a job that appreciated my skills. It could be finding a community of people who share the same history or stories.

Going forward I would really like to see more collective action for mental health support. It’s like the health equivalent of climate change. You can improve individually but at some point, we’re limited by the constraints that are put on us. While this isn’t necessarily a solution, acknowledging this gives us a path forward and that’s hopefully better than what we have now.  

Read more stories here

Opportunities to join NPL

The information contained on the above text is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional or medical advice. All content, including text, images and information, is for general information purposes only and NPL does not warrant nor represent that it is intended or is suitable for a specific purpose.