I had lost my confidence and self-belief. I was completely broken. 

Aamer Safdar opens up about his own work related stress and anxiety and his journey through the tough times to build himself back up.

Aamer Safdar has spent 25 years working in pharmacy, leading on education, training & workforce development, and during this time has held numerous board and committee roles. Here Aamer opens up about his own mental health journey.

Firstly, I would like to introduce myself to you all. I am an experienced pharmacist with over 25 years where I have worked mostly in hospital pharmacy. Most of my career has been spent at a large teaching hospital, and in 2020, I joined another NHS Trust. A few weeks into the new job the Covid19 pandemic happened, and things were difficult for everyone.  I managed to get through my first year with difficulty as I had some family issues with my mother being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and suffering from dementia and the children not going to school.  

I got through that year and began 2021 by being redeployed to a vaccination hub at one of the hospitals. After this, I was told that my manager was disappointed with my leadership. I was suffering with my mental health and should have sought help earlier but my work ethic and the need to look after our trainees and junior pharmacists overrode my own mental health. I had spoken to a clinical psychologist about my experiences, and she suggested that I would benefit from counselling when I was ready for it.   

For the first time in my career, I called in sick and got a sick note from my GP who diagnosed me with work-related stress and anxiety.   

Professionally, I was off work having only ever been off sick for one day in my career.  Personally, I had lost my confidence and self-belief. I was completely broken. 

Choosing Pharmacist Support was a no-brainer for me. I’ve had many trainees in my career and for those who needed help, I always suggested Pharmacist Support. I knew that I would be better off with an organisation that I knew when it came to something so difficult for me. 

Once I had decided to go with Pharmacist Support, I had to call them to book some counselling slots.  The booking process was quite easy in that I called them to be referred to the counselling service and then agree some dates and times. I was offered six sessions of counselling, (which has now been increased to twelve), and requested they be in the evening. I didn’t want to bottle out so I agreed immediately with the slots that I was offered. I had completely forgotten about the Euro 2020 championships which were going to be on during my counselling!  

I was allocated to Simon and in our introductions, I asked Simon if he followed football 

He did follow football but didn’t want to disclose what team he supported. He said his team was a small local club in Manchester… my immediate thought was Manchester City! I remember that one of my sessions was during a football match where I was calling from my brother’s house where we had gathered for the football. I heard cheering from downstairs and said to Simon that someone has scored a goal, but I don’t know what team it is!   

Aside from the banter, most of my counselling was very serious. I shared my challenges with Simon and spoke about how I felt, and how some of this took me to my childhood traumas.   

Simon had a fantastic style of questioning which I appreciated. I was able to talk freely without any filters as we had initially agreed the ground rules and that Simon could ask me anything. There were times when I was drained, times when I was emotional and times when I was relieved to be able to share things knowing that I was not being judged.  

Reflecting now that I am in a better place, it was a very tough time and I needed to build my confidence.  I learnt a lot about myself, the dark moments and how to overcome those times and how hard it was to genuinely smile.  I gave myself permission to cry during this time as I couldn’t help it when thinking about what had been done to me and if I would ever get better. 

Religion has always been important to me; I pray regularly, five times a day, and this helped me to get better.  We have a saying ‘after hardship comes ease’ and Allah SWT has a plan for all of us; I stuck to this belief as best I could and slowly got better.  I learned how strong we need to be for our families, especially given that my mother has a condition that will only deteriorate.  

If you find yourself reading this and think that you are in a similar situation in terms of your mental health and work, I strongly advise that you take the step of getting counselling and support; speak up about how you are getting on and what challenges you are facing with your counsellor as they are there to help.  It can be difficult to work in a place with a difficult workplace culture which is why it’s so important to get help. 

Based on my experience of receiving counselling from Pharmacist Support, I would 100% recommend it. The Pharmacist Support team were very professional from start to finish, and I couldn’t have asked for more.  

Mental health support for pharmacists

If you have been affected by this story and are struggling with mental health, help is available through our free and confidential counselling service.

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