Speaker and coach #TalkingAnxiety
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Dear Nick: ‘My brother may give up on his life if accountancy doesn’t work’

Mental health coach Nick Elston advises a concerned relative who wants to help their severely depressed but overqualified brother work his way up the accountancy ladder.

4th Feb 2020
Speaker and coach #TalkingAnxiety
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unemployed businessman sits alone in the corridor of an office

The dilemma: My brother is severely depressed. He has a first-class degree in maths but couldn’t get a job in teaching, so my dad advised him to do an accountancy degree. He got a first in that too and has done a lot of self-study.

Unfortunately at 40, he cannot even get his foot in the door. He is extremely bright and hardworking, and I am concerned if it continues he may give up on his life. 

The response

Nick replies: This may be because the dilemma is brief and lacks the depth needed to really dig into your specific adversity relating to your brother, but I have more questions than answers. I’d love to learn more about the gaps in between what you have written to find out more.

Some questions I feel would be really beneficial to have answered are:

  • How long has he had his depression? Is this due to his experiences or did it start before his professional misfortune?
  • Why he couldn’t get a job in teaching given his excellent qualifications?
  • What has he been doing until this point? As you say he is now 40 – could his life experience be used to help propel his career ambitions?

That all being said, I do want to make some observations based on my own ‘lived experience’ both personally and professionally.

Firstly, the question I get asked the most after an event or a speaking engagement is ‘how can I help my (insert relation)?’ The sad truth is that most of the time you can’t.

This is no reflection on you or them but purely because they see you in a different role in life, and not a solution bringer.

Essentially in life, people just want to be heard and understood. When they are, most of the time they will find their own way forward. 

There are many organisations that empower people to get back to work. Similarly, there are many schemes and initiatives which will allow him to build experience, credentials and confidence – which may be what he needs right now.

Sometimes, we are not where we want to be. But to get where we want to go, there are people/situations/circumstances that act as a vehicle to take us between those points.

Always have the end game in mind. But know that right now he may need to take a step back to take a step forward.

It is so difficult to advise on this as I have no indication on his character, history or indeed his conditioning, which can hold us all back at times.

I firmly believe we have all the answers – we just don’t ask the right questions or maybe we are scared of the truth.

If I look at my biggest challenges in life – anxiety, obesity and alcohol – I can trace them back to behaviours and beliefs that were formed in childhood, which makes any changes I want to make on those fronts extremely difficult but not impossible.

Maybe he has developed beliefs or values (conditioning) which has made employment or the professional environment daunting, confidence-sapping or just downright scary and anxiety-inducing.

He has all the skills, he has the attributes, but he fails at the last hurdle which would secure him that position.

Maybe he has done that so many times he no longer has the confidence or belief to pursue the career of his dreams.

We are negatively conditioned in so many ways, whether that is learned behaviour, a toxic environment, others’ actions or narrative or even ‘just’ low self-esteem and low self-confidence. Whenever we tell ourselves enough or we are told it enough to become the truth.

One of the ways that I work with people on building positive mental health (not mental illness) approach is the use of personal development. It gets people to be creative again – like we were before real life got in the way! 

We either choose to let our adversities define us negatively for the rest of our days. Or we allow it to forge something beautiful, something powerful, something positive that never would have existed without you going through your stuff in the first place.

Most of the time, we forget we have a choice.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for your brother to go back to basics and start to question everything, get a clean slate, and rebuild a life on his terms with a positive mindset and new goals.

Maybe he has just got used to losing out so much, he expects to fail.  In that case, that will need to be addressed, 100%.

Either way, I wish you both the very best of luck, and please do reach out to me if you want to have a chat.

The dilemma this month was based on the Any Answers question: Wanting to help my brother.