July 20, 2021

2. Natasha Garcha

2. Natasha Garcha

Hear from Natasha Garcha as she takes you on a journey of her mum's tumultuous experience returning to work after beating cancer. Things don't quite turn out how they should and Natasha is making it her purpose to stop anyone else having to experience disability discrimination in the same way.

Natasha is the founder of Shop Mental Health which is a start-up being created because of the experience that her Mum went through with her employer, when she began to display signs of serious mental health issues following an aggressive form of cancer. Although Natasha's mum was diagnosed with limited insight into these mental health conditions, she was dismissed after almost 40 years of service. The very treatment she endured due to these mental health conditions, Natasha has vowed should not be suffered by any other person - and so she is working determinedly to set legal case precedence to protect the rights of individuals in the same position.

You can find out more about Natasha's campaign and make a contribution here: https://gofund.me/c7b10d63 

You can follow, or get in touch with Natasha on
 - LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/natasha-garcha
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/natasha_garcha
 
A transcription of each episode as well as guest profiles and much more is available on our website www.sondership.com

 Credits

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Transcript
Danny:

Hello, I'm Danny Attias and welcome to my podcast, Sondership, where you'll get to hear inspiring stories from people with purpose. Today, I'm speaking with Natasha Garcha who is launching an ambitious court case to establish a legal precedent in a fight against disability discrimination. Natasha will be sharing the story of how her mother developed mental health issues after returning to work having been treated for an aggressive form of cancer, a situation that Natasha believes her mother's employer needs to be held accountable for. Tell me about Natasha. Tell me about yourself.

Natasha:

So I think the best place to start is to give the high level overview, I guess, as to why I'm here today having been introduced to yourself Danny So, my mum was diagnosed with stage four B endometrial cancer four years ago. So it was January, 2017 and she was given quite a stark prognosis. I mean, so it was 5% chance, survival over five years. Her treatment plan was very aggressive off the back of that. So she had surgery, she had chemotherapy and she had radiotherapy as well. Now my mom is single, so she's a single parent, I'm an only child. So you can imagine the support system, was quite small, but we got through it, we got through it together. And actually, you know, my mom's been, my mum always has been an incredibly, independent. And hardworking person. She was quite strong through the process and actually I had my two young children at the time as well actually. I only had the one then, the other one came a little bit later, which does have a, does have a part to play in the story.

Danny:

Sure.

Natasha:

She does have a part to play too. I guess fast forward from that moment Danny so she she's had a surgery, she's had chemo, she's had radiotherapy now over that, over the duration of that time, which was around 18 months, we're now looking at around, it was May, 2018. And, she had her final scan at that point, so that's the one that you would have after all of your treatment. And after a couple of scares, there were a couple of scares. It turned out she had pneumonia, she had actually something else. She was then given the all clear, which was really, really wonderful news after obviously. Such an intense time. And so was she decided to do, was to go back to work. So she'd actually been on sick leave throughout this time. She was given, a fit to return work note, and she decided to go back to work because she had worked for her employer for, at that point 37 years.

Danny:

Wow.

Natasha:

Yes, yes. A little bit over, but that to her was her bread and butter. And she knew. And that was part of her identity. Like a lot of people work is part of a routine and routine gives you identity and routine gives you purpose. Right? All of that encompassed her motivation and her will to say, Hey, I'm ready to go back to work. Now, low and behold, what we didn't see coming, or certainly I didn't see coming was actually, her biggest problem would be once she returned to work. So actually the cancer journey and the treatment and everything was really small compared to what we were about to see.

Danny:

Interesting. So, I mean, the cancer journey, as awful as it might be is a well-trodden path. It's a, it's a well-documented path and there's some not maybe enough, but there's, there's, there's some support there to let you know what it's going to be like and what to expect and if you started with this horrific 5% survival over five years statistic. Okay. You go in fighting don't you, you, you, you go in with, with, with literally everything to play for.

Natasha:

Yes.

Danny:

So you think when you get that scan, okay, it's done, it's done. It's incredible. I've come out the other side. Let's get back to who I used to be. Let's get back to work and off we go.

Natasha:

That's it. That's exactly. That's exactly the psyche. Right? So you feel now I I'm back to where I was, right. I'm I'm back at that status quo, so to speak. Right. So now we've gone back to my starting point and can put this behind us. It actually took, four months for her to get back into work the point that she told her employers that she was ready. At this point, I'll say that her employers are at the department for work and pensions. a heavy irony in this story. Not that that's supposed to be the, the you know, very important in our welfare state and looking off to the vulnerable. So it took a real, it took a very, very tough four months. And you may think why it took four months.

Danny:

And when you say four months is that four months to ease into a routine or four months from I'm ready to start, to actually starting?

Natasha:

Yes. So it was four months from her saying I'm ready to come back. Here's my fit to return work over my oncologist, to her having her day one in the office.

Danny:

Interesting.

Natasha:

Yes. And the reason behind that is because, her employers wanted her a to have occupational health consultation, which was fine. My mum was actually fine with that. That wasn't an issue, but there was a lot of hesitancy around her coming back into work. So I picked up the phone and I spoke to her manager, Danny, and I said, you know, what's going on? Because her manager actually said to my mum, we don't think you should come back to work. What if she goes sick again? What if she go sick six months down the line that really stuck with me, that phrase really stuck with me because she also asked my mum that same question.

Danny:

Wow.

Natasha:

Yeah. So you could feel already that there was just a sense of, difficulty, things weren't quite the same, right? So you can already tell where there's a sense of. Um, there's a barrier, shall we put it that way? And so what happens naturally is then you can feel tensions are quite high. And so my mum started to question things a lot more, you know, why, why am I not going? And I started to make them all more worried, but through occupational health and through that process, my mum, like I mentioned, and she finally had a day, one in the office. It did transpire later down the line, but legally she should have who employers should have just accepted that fit to return work, that's what they should have done.

Danny:

I'm sure you'll get to this, but are we talking about a rogue manager who basically has never had these experiences since didn't really know what to do? Or are we dealing with the HR department? The, the, the policies or their, just their ways of operating?

Natasha:

That's a really good question. So the person I was speaking to was her direct line manager and in the background, she's liaising with HR, right. So that's a really good question. Yeah. But so she, from what I understand is that she was, she was liaising with HR to see what the best thing would have been to. Um, so she goes back into work and things were very different. The way my mom felt was very different. The reason I know how she felt is because it's very well documented. Throughout her time at the DWP, and the reason I know about the documents is through what's called a subject access request. So I raised, I raised that on my mom's behalf to understand what had happened when she returned back to work, because as I mentioned the cancer was actually the start of her problems, so to speak, this was when it got quite bad and I needed to understand what, what had actually happened her. It's quite clear that when she returns to work, there are certain things that she's struggling with Danny. She is not able to do her job as well as she used to do. She was an administrative officer, so she would deal with customers at a face-to-face level, with their benefits with their queries, you know? So when you go to the, into the job center, plus you'll see somebody there, at reception, that would be what my mum would do, and then my mum would paperwork, do all the admin behind it. Right. So just to put it into context, the type of work that she did, and, it was very clear that she was struggling with that. It was also very clear that my mum felt a bit lost and she felt a bit confused. Her line manager wasn't there straight away when she returned, so she didn't know who to go to. And this is after 18 months out of the office, right. so very long time. She, she wasn't able to complete her appointments in time. So there was a real marked difference in terms of her capability from before she went off sick to after she's come back.

Danny:

Yeah.

Natasha:

She's also then now, now we moved to maybe about four weeks into her coming. She then asked him we've office. Right? So she's at one office when she comes and she's asked to move office. She didn't want to move off this initially because she was worried.

Danny:

And when you say office, is this like a department or is this a physical location?

Natasha:

A physical branch, yes. she actually returned to, a branch in Leamington and then she moved to a branch in Coventry. So that's where she was being asked to move to.

Danny:

Right.

Natasha:

Yeah. And, she really didn't want to go because her experience at Leamington before her being off sick was so wonderful. She won team awards, she had certificates from her manager for being a high achiever, you know, should have really positive trajectory while she was there was there. She really didn't want to move because there's a big part of you that doesn't want to lose what you've built, want to go back to where you were from before you've had cancer, professionally speaking, as well as personally speaking. Right? So, she had to move, she had to move. She was obviously struggling to hold up her side of the argument to say, I want to stay so she moved and when she moved to Coventry, oh my goodness, it just seemed things really spiralled out of control. Now, from what I've read all about what happened to her at work, is she in summary, Danny was really struggling with anxiety. She was struggling, demonstrating symptoms of OCD, so being quite repetitive, she was very disorientated. She was thinking she was doing really well though. So she would be very much like, I, I can do my appointments, I can do it, I can do it. So she was trying her hardest to. It's all from what I could see that was written. She's telling people, no, I'm fine. I'm fine. Clearly she wasn't fine because she couldn't even use a scanner. She really struggled. She was clearly struggling to see, customers who, had dealt with what she had to deal with appointments to do with berevement very very, very, I struggled with that. So there's a lot of things, a lot of things, but there was a real marked deteriation in her mental health now, bear in mind, this individual has had no mental health conditions in the past, no history of mental health conditions, and now she's demonstrating these really concerning, really serious signs of mental health problem. She's not eating, she's not drinking, she's not taking her breaks. She's trying to ask for leave, quite last minute, you know, the real telltale symptoms that somebody is trying to really struggling. struggling.

Danny:

She's living alone at this time?

Natasha:

Yes, yes, exactly, exactly, and they're were aware of that, they're were aware of her personal circumstances, they've got my details and whatnot as well. And there's there's this, this is a really interesting twist to this, that my mum, is booked on to go and attend mental health training Danny for two days, right. So, she goes to this mental health training, and now where in the end of February, 2019 now Danny, um, she struggled with, she shows high anxiety again. She is confused, she's very, again, very disorientated. I've read about how she was walking in the car park and she was quite lost. There's a lot of things that was, that wasn't quite right then the mental health trainers and these are regional mental health trainers, so for the Midlands race concerning report to my mum's my manager saying very concerned, we were about to call an ambulance, you know, can, can you help her? And that falls on deaf ears, nothing happens also deaf ears completely.

Danny:

Right.

Natasha:

So my mum begins to demonstrate these inabilities is to manage her work. Line management, raise to HR, say this individual has numerous health conditions, but she's not admitting to it. And it's, and the reason she's not admitting to it is because later she's actually diagnosed with limited insight into her mental health, which means she doesn't understand that this is happening to her. She doesn't, and that's the angle to this, she doesn't know what's happening to her. She doesn't know that her that because she's walking back and forth that's a sign of OCD because she's repeating something to make herself feel good. She's repeating something because she thinks she's done something wrong. She just doesn't know what she's doing whilst everybody else around her does. The copious copious, copious notes of emails going to HR saying, we've got an employee she's demonstrated this, this, this, so what HR and this is then to your point earlier what HR then say is well, if she can't admit it, then you need to go down the disciplinary route with her. So what they do is everything that she can cope with. So if, as an example, she asked a colleague for some help, that colleague is at asked to raise a complaint against them. So all of a sudden at the, at the end of February, beginning of March, you'll see a period of two weeks where all these complaints come through against my mum and then all complaints around the difficulties of her doing her job, that then translated into formal allegations against her. So you couldn't do this appointment in this or this period of time. You were unable to see this customer because of this reason. they're all translated into allegations, so she receives a disciplinary. Now the interesting thing about when she receives this disciplinary is on the very day when my mum also receives an outcome of a grievance that she put in. So my mum felt that she wasn't being supported. So she put a grievance in to say, look, I need support in terms of my development, right.

Danny:

Yeah.

Natasha:

On the same day she received that letter of her outcome. She received this complaint on the same day, has an absolute hypermanic anxiety attack, Danny, she melts down, she breaks down, she says, I don't understand why this is happening and she displays again, absolute acute signs of mental health issues. Yeah. I can remember really clearly reading that when she had this letter, when she was crying, there was a, there was something else randomly in a bin like happy birthday card, and my mum just started to focus on that. She's like, why is that in the bin? Why is that in the bin? So she's just, she's completely disorientated, completely lost, completely confused. So she has to go home with that letter. She comes back in and not the next day, but the day after. They are actually given her another disciplinary letter for hypermanic attack because of the way she reacted...

Danny:

from the previous day?

Natasha:

Yeah, because of the way she reacted, because of having a hypermanic anxiety attack and her panicking, they, they, she has a superseded letter with, a higher, with a higher disciplinary reaction. So the first, I believe was like a first written warning. And then this one now says it's a final written warning.

Danny:

That's incredible.

Natasha:

Yeah, exactly. And on that day, on that day, my mum, again, she actually doesn't have a hypermanic attack on that day. What happens is she goes very subdued, very subdued. And now it's past 5:00 PM on that day and there's a colleague on the floor plate, and my mum tries to talk to her, not about the case, but a colleague actually comes over to her and says, are you okay? My mum tries to talk to her, my mum's line manager intervenes and says, no, you can't talk to her. And then my mom then goes into a hypermanic mode saying why can't I talk to her it's after five o'clock like, I actually want to talk about work issues? She goes, no, you can't talk to her out of the blue she gives a suspension letter and says, because you challenged me, on this I'm suspending you. So from that moment, she's put on suspension.

Danny:

Wow.

Natasha:

She's put on suspension until the time, but she's actually been served with an official, final written warning Okay. She comes back then. Now she's actually gone on suspension. She's been put on suspension for about seven weeks, but I don't know the extent of it at that point, because I'm in London and this is where I'm a London with a new born, I had year old and my mum doesn't want to worry me. Right. My mum wants me to feel like everything's okay, because I'm obviously trying to manage two really young children. Right. On the day when she comes back to work with this final written warning, a lot of things happen in between a lot of unfair things happen to her in between, but she's essentially given a training plan. She's then accused of not doing things on that training plan, which she proves that she did. And then on the day that she gets a final written warning, when she's back in the office, she then told to move desks and bearing in mind she's now having another hypomanic attack, and then she's told to move desks, she said I can't move desks today, I can't move desks today, like I can't because you wanting me to sit with the people who have complained about me and I can't do that. I can't do that. Help me. They then agree that the next morning when my mum's calmer they'll move desks. So she does, she moves desk the next day, the very morning, but then three hours later, she receives another disciplinary investigation letter. And this is just before she's about to leave to go to a cancer checkup appointment six-monthly appointment just before she's about to leave the office. And it says on that letter that, It says on that letter, but you didn't complete like a flexi sheet. You didn't do this, you didn't do this when she did, she had done one of them and those were overturned but it's because you didn't move desks, even though she had moved desks. So they had it already the day before, right and then she goes to the disciplinary process again by herself and then she's dismissed because of not moving desks. She's put on also a performance action plan in between that. But my mum's saying but I'm working fine, I don't understand, I don't understand. Now this is the beauty of it, and this is why I've changed my vocation. And this is why I've changed everything that I'm doing to help people to stop this happening to somebody else is because when you read all the witness statements Danny

Danny:

Yeah.

Natasha:

When you read it all. It is shocking. The number of people that said in those investigations, this I've known this employee for many a number of years, and there's a huge deterioration in their health,

Danny:

Yeah,

Natasha:

Another person, she needs, help and support, another person, please call it a family member. Was that ever done?

Danny:

and this is all in the written record.

Natasha:

Yeah. Yeah. Everything is written and. Was that evident? No, not once was a family member called, not once throughout this whole process. So I have this now, so I have this information, Danny, right through the SAR. I then think, something's not right here, something's not right now. I'm no lawyer. My, my background is in management consulting. but I still feel like something's very wrong. I then apply. I basically pulled all this evidence together and I, I formed what I believe are claims of discrimination against somebody with a mental health condition. I apply to legal aid. Legal aid is very, very rigorous, very, very, very, um, you know, very, very thorough, very, very rigorous my mum passes the means test being of extremely low financial means. Uh, so I have a lot of experience with the legal aid process Danny, a lot of experience and then, she passes the merits test her claim. Now this is because of the evidence we have and because of the strong merits of the case now a really stark figure is that disability discrimination cases that are taken on by legal aid set up only 5%.

Danny:

5% success?

Natasha:

5% that are taken on, from people who fight because they have to be confident that the case is winnable, that the case is evidence-based in order to justify the spend on representation of

Danny:

So the fact that they took on your case is a good sign?

Natasha:

Yeah. A hundred

Danny:

So this is, this is the second time you've come up across a 5% figure, but this is a good 5%. Not the, not the scary 5%.

Natasha:

That's true. That's very true.

Danny:

You're listening to the Sondership podcast and I'm your host, Danny Attias. Natasha garcha, founder of Shop Mental Health, has been sharing the experience of her mother's cancer scare followed by how she developed mental health issues following her return to work. Listen on to find out how Natasha is planning to take on the department for work and pensions in the legal battle and how you can play your part in supporting a legal aid crowdfunding campaign. We now pick up the conversation to find out a little more about Natasha herself, as well as her experience of sonder. Tell us about Natasha who's Natasha and in amongst all of this we're hearing your world through your mum's experience, but the underneath all of this, who are you and what's your life like?

Natasha:

I'm just hard working person, I just work hard to achieve where I've come in life. I said to you before that my mum was a single mum, but she taught me very strong working ethics. I have always just worked really hard, put my head down and focused on, just achieving good qualifications, studying quite hard, basically all the things that my mum couldn't have. I wanted to do.

Danny:

And she wanted for you as well?

Natasha:

Yeah, exactly, I've always just worked really hard. I moved to London, after studying international relations at Birmingham university, I then did a post-graduate in London, in journalism, but I worked, two jobs at the time in order to be able to fund both my university degree and I'm a post grad, so I've always worked myself to pay for what I have.

Danny:

You made your own way.

Natasha:

Exactly, exactly. So a hundred percent always had that working ethic in me. And then after my journalism course, what I really struggled with because I was working two jobs at the time was the free work I had to do. So I really had to, obviously I had to pay for my rent. I had to pay for my course, I had to tube travel. All of the costs are significantly higher in London than they are in the Midlands.

Danny:

Yeah.

Natasha:

I did do quite a bit of interning, with a couple of newspapers And I did an internship at the BBC as well, but this was all alongside two other jobs. I was working a night job, and also was trying to do my course and it just got too much for me. It got, a lot. It was very, very, very heavy handed. Then I happened to me, my husband, obviously wasn't my husband at the time. And I met, I met, I met. So

Danny:

convenient. That would have been everything taken care of the wedding and everything,

Natasha:

yeah, it was actually a mutual friend of ours introduced me to Sukh just because I was, I said to him, I'm looking at, I don't know anyone in London and I didn't. I said, you know, it's really tough. So he said he knew someone in London. He had actually gone to the same university as us, but I've never met him why don't you meet this person? You might be able to help you. So, he did, Sukh met me and we started talking. I started opening up a bit about my struggle s he started, he started being more concerned about, you know, like walking home really late at night after I'd finished work. So then it'd be somebody you know, on the phone that would just make sure I was okay. I lived in quite a referral area as well because the rent was quite cheap. The student struggles, and then, but he actually, he worked for KPMG at the time that introduced me to the concept of the big four.

Danny:

Right

Natasha:

Now, one of the jobs I had was actually working for Halifax. So I used I the bank and that was my day job. Um, and

Danny:

What was your night job?

Natasha:

My night job was W H Smith. working at the train station, yeah, yeah, yeah. It was quite insane. Um, I'll tell you it was freezing and I hate the cold and obviously it was just really cold. And I just remember, I would be like, please, can I bring a heater into work so I can just stand at the tills with a heater. That's my memory of Smiths and the mice, because it's a train station. There's mice the floor. Yeah.

Danny:

Okay. What's your cultural background, Natasha?

Natasha:

I am Indian. My mum was born here, my grandparents are the first generation who migrated from India,

Danny:

You're a second generation British born.

Natasha:

Yeah, I'm second generation. Cause my mum's. From meeting Sukh, I then started working because I understood more about the big four. I actually started working at PWC in management consulting. So everything took, everything, took a turn. I started working more on systems, transitions and Halifax because of the merger between Lloyd's banking group at Halifax I understood more about process transformation systems changes, that led to management consultancy..

Danny:

Yeah. I'm guessing you're not a Smiths anymore. Right?

Natasha:

Fortunately, um, exactly. Um, so that basically is how I into management consultancy and how I then started to work on large scale process changes,

Danny:

Yeah.

Natasha:

changes and that went from there. So that's about, that's pretty much about me, I would say.

Danny:

This podcast is called Sondership and it's based on the concept of sonder, which is that realisation that other people's lives are as rich and complex. Now, clearly you're seeing that depth and that complexity from your mum, but have you had instances outside of that, where you have a memorable moment, where you've had that realisation that you can share?

Natasha:

For me it does still come up from my mum, so I actually moved from PWC to British Airways continue my work in transformation change. I worked there for six years and last October I left, I put in my notice and I left. And the reason I left is because I wanted to help other people who were in my mum's position to not go through that same experience.

Danny:

So through your mum's experience, you could see there's a whole world of this happening. This isn't just a one isolated case and that you can maybe do something about that?

Natasha:

Yes, it's my mum's case. I want to, and I'm desperately trying to make sure that we see case precedents so that this doesn't happen to another person, right. Other employers, need to be responsible, in terms of making reasonable adjustments when people have gone through a trauma and then experienced mental health issues.

Danny:

That's one thing that the pandemic has helped with is this rapid acceleration of awareness of mental health issues. There can't be that many people listening to this or in the world who haven't experienced a little wobble, over the last 18 months or so and just get a little bit of insight, a little bit of experience of what, what that feels like. And also the bringing together of mental and physical health. If your mum had walked into the office in one leg, they wouldn't be forcing her

Natasha:

yeah,

Danny:

hop around. That's a terrible example. Let's try a slightly better

Natasha:

yeah. None of it. But I understand your point. The point is there's a physical, there's an invisible distinct.

Danny:

Exactly exactly and, and some organisations, I think it's Thames Water doing an incredible job of this, where they treat it exactly the same. So if someone's offset with mental health issues, it's treated, is that the same as physical health issues and the return to work? And it's, it's, it's one combined function is so important. So let's pick up where we got to. So, so you're at this positive 5% now you're with legal aid, they've picked up the case. What happens next?,

Natasha:

So we're at this positive stage, legal aid, however, no matter how strong your claims are, do not cover representation in court.

Danny:

Right?

Natasha:

Right. And say, this is due to the austerity measures that were probably, I think about four or five years ago so previously they did, but due to these measures, now you are seeing Danny, an absolute number of people who are just at their knees begging help in our justice system. Because no matter how strong that case is, if you don't get representation in court, you are not an pertaining to the other side. Right. So I said to Pam our solicitor from day one, I said, Pam, this case is not about my mum, this case is truly, truly, I'm going to, I said to her, I'm going to put my all in and this is why I did. I left my work. I'm going to put my all into this to be sure that policy changes happen so that somebody else doesn't go through this because this would have led. It could have very easily led to a loss of life. And you know, a lot of people out there who could be in this position, they can't understandably can't defend themselves, they cannot. I'm actually starting a campaign, crowdfunding campaign, is to raise the amount of money that we need in order to, fund the, representation in court. So the hearing itself is a 12 day hearing it's been listed as it is against a panel of, three employment tribunal judges, because it is such, such a large ,it's a large case. LAMS identified a barrister who has the paperwork but it has to be a very specific barrister who is experienced in the the European human rights convention law, and the equality act because when somebody does have trauma and they experienced mental health conditions it actually is a human rights issue.

Danny:

So you're here not just trying to resolve your mother's issue, but set a precedent and really, yeah.

Natasha:

Exactly, and that's why I said from day one, so this is two fold this is still just one stream of what I'm trying to do. Right. Our country, Danny works on precedence. That's how the law works. So you've got precedents in your case. If you've got precedents that you can set, you lead the pathway for other individuals. You lead the pathway for other employees, other people who have gone through cancer, I go back to work. Other people who have gone through trauma, whether it's a bereavement, as an example might have, it's an accident, you know, whatever it may be, that sets case precedents for that individual. That is why I am pushing so hard. I really really feel that if I don't do this, you know, sincerely somebody could lose their life in this.

Danny:

And, what's the size of the fund that you're trying to raise Natasha?

Natasha:

I have to raise 50,000 pounds

Danny:

50,000 pounds.

Natasha:

yes. To cover the cost of this, and it's a 12 day hearing, so it's, it's a long hearing. I've been doing a lot of work over the last couple of months Danny to talk to mental health charities, cancer charities, individuals, who have had cancer or have had mental health issues, to try and, you know, just connect myself to people to try and, see who's good to talk to. Who'd be interested in helping and supporting because. Again, the most important thing is it's not just for my mum it really, it really will make a change for so many people. And the other group of people I've been talking to are focus groups. actually what I've done from having left work and why I'm so passionate about doing this is I'm trying to create a, business which helps individuals with their everyday mental health issues. So stress anxiety being the two key ones, which are up there having spoken to many individuals. And the individual was that open speaking to you, actually focus groups through, through networks that I've made following my mum's treatment. So this is to help charities and it's also through, her crisis care teams, and through other community groups. So I've been able to set up focus groups to discuss what is it that people actually want. Danny? What do people want in terms of their everyday mental health support? What is it that they actually want from their employers? Right. What would actually help them get over the line in terms of seeking help if they needed? And that's the aim and the I've been working on away my mum's case. That's the bit where I changed my career. I've changed. I haven't changed my career because the management consultancy, it brings a lot to it, right. To be able to check some information, to be able to see it more from a, you know, like to be able to bite-size it all

Danny:

So you're creating the service that your mum needed.

Natasha:

A hundred percent.

Danny:

You're plugging that gap from direct or indirect, experience

Natasha:

Exactly. Exactly.

Danny:

And, two small kids at the same time?

Natasha:

Yes, yes, exactly. Then my daughter just turned five, so she just turned five and the other one's three. So they've obviously gone through this whole experience ever since my mum's diagnosis to today so it's really hard, but I'm so determined and so hopeful to make this change. I just don't want, I really don't want other people to go through what my mum's going through or really don't. And I feel that with, with the work that I'm doing, once, because of what I'm hearing and what people tell me is that it always feels very top down. People don't talk to people directly. Who's actually going through it saying, what would you like. It's always, somebody comes into the office, they do a presentation or they do a talk or, you know, they give them an EAP leaflet or there's a leaflet or the coffee area or the toilet door.

Danny:

Yeah.

Natasha:

People don't resonate with that.

Danny:

Yeah.

Natasha:

They don't, you know, it needs to be something more nonclinical, something which is tangible, something which is more long-term, but you don't feel like you're judged and that's the, that's the package I'm trying to work on.

Danny:

It's got to be integrated. It's got to be part of what they do. Yeah, I, I suppose that's why I asked the very first question about, was it just one individual responding to your mum's return to work or was it w was the HR team involved? You know, you need to get it down to every single individual to be aware and to be conscious and to support, to prioritise. I think prioritise is often the key word. It's all. I've

Natasha:

Yeah,

Danny:

other stuff going on. I don't really want to deal with this. Well,

Natasha:

yeah,

Danny:

it. As a manager, this is the most important thing that you need.

Natasha:

yeah, yeah.

Danny:

So, how's your mum at the moment?

Natasha:

Um, so she has a good and bad days. She does. So on a good day, for example, she'll be quite motivated to, so she's doing an IT course, so I've got a hold on it cause she works with, yeah. She works with a development worker as well. These are all the things I've learned that I would love to hopefully through, through my business, again, help other people with. So she works with the development worker who helps her in areas of interest as an example. So if she wants to join a walking group she'll, she'll help her on where to find that so now she's able to use the internet to just feel the rebuild, her confidence. She is trying to apply for jobs as well, she, I'm not going to lie, she's struggling. there's obviously a lot of parameters to that in terms of her struggles. But I think the hardest thing is, is when she has a bad day, she has nightmares of what happened to her at work. She has flashbacks. She gets really stressed out. She gets really worked up she feels like she's a failure or she feels like she's lost hope and that's really difficult. That's difficult. So it's the good and bad day ballad completely.

Danny:

And you're describing something that tens of thousands of people go through every day. The people who've had that kind of, not, not to the same degree as your, your mum, not to do a disservice to that, but, but tens of thousands of people who've, who've had that anxiety from work who feel unsupported unloved, undervalued, leave with that trauma where they can't, they can't get it together again. And that type of thing can take years to get over. It can take time, it can take therapy, it can take family support. It's so incredible. How hard. Natasha. This is an incredible story. I mean, it's obviously very much unfinished so we were going to have to get you back to here what happens next, further down the line. Where can people go to find out more about your crowdfunding campaign and what it is you're trying to achieve?

Natasha:

I'm using a platform which is called go fund me and all donations raised on the GoFundMe platform, are transferred directly to the equality and employment law center, charity who then will pay the barrister directly. The whole story is on the Go Fund Me platform with a video of the story itself so I would really urge listeners to please click on the link please have a read of the story and watch the video. All donations are gift aid eligible and they can also be anonymous.

Danny:

So there's governance all the way through end to end as well. So it's not, yeah, that's amazing. We will include a link in the description for this podcast, for this episode, that people can follow that link. When do you hope to have the funds raised by Natasha?

Natasha:

We hope to have the funds raised by latest, the end of August.

Danny:

Excellent.

Natasha:

We need to be in a position, obviously for the charity to send over all the funds to the barrister to get going.

Danny:

Brilliant. Natasha. We, wish your mum, a steady recovery, and that she gets back on her own two feet soon, and you huge amount of luck and support in, in not just raising the money, but actually getting through this case. I'll certainly be following it very carefully to see how that unfolds and and also with the creation of your new business idea, which sounds absolutely wonderful. you very much for taking the time to come and share your story.

Natasha:

You're welcome. And I would say if anybody wanted to get in touch with me, I'm on LinkedIn and I'm on Twitter as well. So if anyone had any questions around, the tribunal process or legal aid process or had any ideas, obviously more than welcome to get in touch with me. I'm all about helping. It's all about one-to-one support at the end of the day. That's how, that's how we get through. We go through life together. Thank you Danny. Thank you.

Danny:

You've been listening to the Sondership podcast with me, Danny Attias, our guest in this episode has been Natasha Garcha disability discrimination campaigner, and founder of Shop Mental Health. Please do follow Sondership on your favourite podcasting platform and tune in to future episodes where you can hear more inspiring stories from people with purpose, including female empowerment, social mobility, climate change, and much, much more. What have you learned from it so far, Natasha?

Natasha:

So if I'm really honest with you, I, I wouldn't change any of it because I know from this, I can, and hopefully will make a change. It's been a massive, massive learning curve and it's so hard. It's so hard. And some days, you know, you sit there and you think, oh my God, what's happening. You know, can I do this? Can I do this? And you question yourself, you doubt yourself. But I go through that process, and then I think to myself, you know, you know what, I can't do it because I'm doing it for everybody else. That is, that is my, my hand on heart truth. What's getting me through is to do it for other people. No matter how hard I feel. It's certainly not as hard as the person going through that experience themself. And that's my motivation.

Natasha Garcha

Founder of Shop Mental Health

Natasha is the founder of Shop Mental Health, which is a start-up being created because of the experience that her Mum went through with her employer, when she began to display signs of serious mental health issues following an aggressive form of Cancer. Although Natasha's mum was diagnosed with limited insight into these mental health conditions, she was dismissed after almost 40 yrs of service. The very treatment she endured due to these mental health conditions, Natasha has vowed should not be suffered by any other person - and so she is working determinedly to set legal case precedence to protect the rights of individuals in the same position.

Through Shop Mental Health, Natasha is also collaborating with mental health SME's and with those directly experiencing everyday mental health conditions (such as anxiety, stress, depression) to produce a bespoke '#SMH hit the ground running' package, developed with a true understanding of what the end-user needs.

Vlogs and advice of her lived experience as a carer, as well as the employment tribunal process and legal aid process is also part of Shop Mental Health's offering. Her goal is to provide central end-to-end support to wider hard hitting questions e.g. how do I know if I have been discriminated against? or How do I, as a carer, prioritise my daily needs, as well as that who I am caring for. These are questions Natasha struggled to find honest answers to, for herself as a carer, but also on behalf of her Mum. This was because a platform with this lens didn't exist ... until now (!)