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Pasche Dreyer is a Junior Application Support Specialist and has been working for Vodacom for 14 years. She shares her struggle with Clinical Depression and what it has been like navigating this illness in the workplace.
Could you please give us an brief overview of your disability and the challenges that it brings to your daily life?
I was officially diagnosed with Clinical Depression in 2017. My fight with Clinical Depression is quite complex as it’s genetic, chemical and hormonal related.
God had really blessed me with a heart filled with constant joy, song, laughter and a childlike spirit for all my years right up until depression hit me. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be fighting this underrated, dangerous and deadly disease.
Even though I’ve learnt to understand my fight with it, getting to know the new and many different versions of myself, seeing a psychiatrist, an occupational therapist and being on my 12th different anti-depressants apart from other meds does not make the fight any easier, but it does help me cope a bit better and understand my triggers and limitations.
I face many obstacles and challenges on a daily basis as my fight with clinical depression becomes more complex and severe. This includes coming to terms with the fact that I might never feel the type of abundant joy I had experienced before, laugh as much or as hard before depression hit me. I may never see my real self again as it has redefined my whole life and a huge part of my personality.
I’m very candid when it comes to my fight with clinical depression to my own detriment at times due to the stigma attached, lack of understanding and compassion. But I’ve learnt that I need to be able to try and get society to understand the horridness sufferers like me fight on a daily basis as this illness impacts us mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s important for me to make those around me aware, just as it’s even more important for them (family, friends, colleagues etc.), to listen, acknowledge and try to learn to understand while also possibly creating an environment condusive enough to assist the person with their fight.
How has Vodacom as a company adapted to assist you with your disability?
Working for Vodacom as a company has been one of the biggest things that keeps me going. Knowing I have to get up in the morning, have a job waiting for me as well as people depending on my input and output, forces me to get up, function, and face the day which helps greatly to fight this debilitating illness. It helps me survive!
On the other end, due to the stigma attached, lack of understanding and people not easily speaking about mental illness until recently, it was challenging. I found that in times there have definately been slight improvements which were not that easy to achieve and still is a work in progress, but Vodacom is definitely trying and is working on getting a basic understanding of my illness.
I’ve always been excited and proud of Vodacom, and even so of late as I’ve been feeling extra proud that my employer is now the first company in South Africa to have a mental health policy in place and is starting to drive mental health and mental disability within the company. I pray and believe that in time there will be more staff who are more aware, understanding and compassionate when it comes to this, and that those who are afraid to speak up about their struggles will have the courage to do so. I am currently a main member representing mental disability on our Disability Employee Forum and a Mental Health Ambassador.
What do you wish people with no understanding or history of depression did more of or less of for those suffering from it – at home, socially and in the workplace?
I wish they’d listen to learn, have patience and understanding. I’d like to see them show the same type of compassion and interest in a mentallly ill person as they would to someone that has a physical disability or even cancer etc. Be careful of the words you choose to use if you feel you want to give advice. Sometimes listening is all someone needs.
Who are some of your role models - who have a disability?
My mom Sheila Matilda Lodewyk Dreyer. She had Clinical Depression with Psychosis. She battled the illlness and fought for her life for many years, most of them alone and in silence due to the topic still being taboo.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15% of the world's population has a disability and only 48% of working-age people living with a disability are employed. These stats show that it is critical that companies become more inclusive and embrace diversity in all its forms. This is why Vodacom has made it our mission to build an inclusive culture where everyone is respected, can be themselves and strives to be their best.
Click here for more information about the benefits of working at Vodacom or here to read another interview of someone from Vodacom living with a disability.