Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Three little words describing probably the most misunderstood mental health condition around and one that affects approximately 1.1% of the UK population, including many in our sector. As a sector and a society we’ve made great strides in conquering mental health taboos and becoming more aware and more accommodating of those who live with different conditions. However, we all recognise the stereotype of people tidying their desk and then dismissing it casually as “I'm a bit OCD”. Clearly there is work still to do here and people to help. Stereotypes once ingrained are difficult to shift but if any sector can lead the way on this, we believe with all our hearts that the charity sector is the one to do it.
As with any condition there are differing degrees but at its extreme, OCD can be an extremely destabilising and distressing condition. OCD covers two main areas, Obsessions and Compulsions. Obsessions can be described as mainly internal; ruminating constantly on distressing and unhappy thoughts and Compulsions are mainly external; for example having to check numerous times if you have locked a door or washing your hands. When both are taken to the Nth degree they can be very difficult to deal with and often require professional help to break you out of a cycle.
We’ve both lived with OCD for as long as we can remember and we know the ups and the downs. With help and support we both manage to live with the condition and have become ambassadors for educating those without it and supporting those with it. We recognise that there are certain traits that can actually be useful and we believe there are some key benefits to having someone with OCD on your team.
As we all know fundraisers tend to be people-pleasers, completer finishers and problem solvers. Those dealing with OCD tend to be very much in this camp already and attention to detail is second to none. We are often called upon to proofread documents as we notice the smallest mistake. You can be sure that Risk Assessments will have every miniscule detail analysed! We also go to great pains to ensure our supporters are looked after, almost trying to second guess how they are feeling.
As leaders, as parts of a team, as members of a fundraising family we all have a responsibility every day to live up to our values and to respect and embrace the differences in each and every one of us. We believe that this year's World Mental Health Day is our chance to look afresh at our colleagues and supporters and understand those differences. Like other mental health conditions, OCD is something many of us live with every day and now is the time to understand it, appreciate it and support those who deal with it. There are some great organisations and charities already in the UK like OCD Action and OCD UK, who can provide support and guidance, so choose to make a difference, today and every day. Now is the time for action.
James Davis and Sarah Johnson both sit on the committee for the Chartered Institute of Fundraising North West