THERE is a sense of loss that comes with Clare Linane's depression, knowing what she otherwise could be capable of achieving on a professional level.
But there is also a sense of liberation for Clare in finding a work place in Ballarat that was prepared to be flexible, not frightened, to take her on knowing she had a predisposition to mental illness.
This is about working differently to how Clare had always thought she would in the corporate sector but it is also about promoting workplace strategies to help her stay well.
The human resources manager said corporate support like this is the exception. Clare is calling for a national approach to make it easier for both prospective employer and employee to speak about mental health during the recruitment process, without fear of discrimination.
It comes about five months after sharing in The Courier a raw and honest account of her journey, driven by her quest to re-enter the workforce. One year earlier, Clare detailed her mental health and permanent employment struggles on a social media platform and while earning support from the viral post, the hard part had been convincing an employer to give her a go. Clare has since earned a job with a Ballarat disability services that was willing to work with her.
"I know you can have the conversation in an interview. It comes back to two questions an employer can ask: how can we help you succeed; and, what strategies can we put in place to help you stay well," Clare said. "In turn, that can really engender loyalty from an employee.
"It's really liberating for me now. You can bring your true self, your whole self, to your work and not feel you have to hide in a place where you spend so much time. It's enabled me to stay well, too, and if I go downhill then we've got strategies to help me through the struggle."
Clare is renewing her call for greater corporate awareness with the launch of Intrepid Women, a book featuring Clare in the stories of 12 ordinary women overcoming a big life hurdle. The book's release coincides with International Women's Day.
This follows a week in which Clare has attracted national attention in advocating for men's mental health amid the conviction of Cardinal George Pell for child sexual abuse.
Clare also launched her BrainSweet website on Friday night to help equip employers and employees in mental health awareness.
What Clare has learned in her journey is to speak out, but find the right way to do so. For too long, the high-achiever could mask her mental illness at work before spiralling into depression and needing to leave a job to recover. It became a cyclical process.
Clare said it was possible to work and be open about mental illness from the outset without losing credibility: "Be really clear in saying 'I'm experiencing an illness and it's nothing work has done but I need strategies, are you willing to work with me'."
The first time Clare tried, her effort was extremely apologetic but she said practising saying it out aloud enough times, without crying, was important. And a good employer would listen.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.