MBA candidate opens up about mental health

Anyone can be hit by depression, says MBA student Matty Dixon. “It doesn’t make me weak or incapable”


Being overly critical of the person in the mirror is a horrible habit. One might assume that those admitted to study an MBA at London Business School would have put negativity behind them.

The reality is a lot of able and outwardly happy people can carry the burden of mental illness. Matty Dixon (MBA 2019) hid his depression while working as a chartered engineer in oil and gas and as a semi-professional rugby player. He would cry driving to work and driving to rugby training afterwards, without knowing why.

His depression has turned the occasional bout of self-doubt into a level of self-loathing that few experience. And even though he is still in the midst of his battle with the condition, he is determined to share his experiences and remove the stigma he still feels. As a result of wanting to share his struggle, he gave a frank and fearless talk at this year’s TEDxLondonBusinessSchool.

“Where I believe society primarily misunderstands is that it believes having a mental health problem makes you weak or incapable. I think this is especially true in business and the MBA environment,” he says.

“I grew up pretty happy. Depression started to impact me when I hit 17. I have no trigger which I can identify, I just started to slide from being a mentally healthy person to not.

“I can wake up feeling good… then inevitably, I will do something to create hate within myself. It might be how I speak to someone who doesn’t deserve it. It could be hurting someone’s feelings.”

He admits to feelings of hopelessness, self-harm and thoughts of death.

“My family and many of my mates don’t know the details.”

“I live with daily medication which I believe helps control my emotional peaks and troughs. Sadly, it doesn’t remove the problems I need to deal with, it just makes them more manageable. Most of the time.

“I still struggle to live with myself. So far in 2019 I can say it has been more of a struggle than a joy.  

“This is one aspect of mental health I would like to express, especially with issues such as depression and anxiety. The person won’t choose for it to happen, choices haven’t led them to it. It just is. It is a state which they are almost definitely struggling to understand and cope with."

The recipient of the Sainsbury Management Fellowship 2017 has not talked in depth about his condition previously.

“I have spoken about depression but not in front of such large audience before,” says Dixon. “My family and many of my mates don’t know the details. I’m OK with public speaking in general but I had to get out of the auditorium and take a walk alone in the park after TEDx."

Why talk?

“Blokes struggle to talk about this kind of thing,” he says. “There are a lot of great messages coming from celebrities and athletes on mental health but I’ve not heard a lot from normal people. That is the main reason I wanted to do it.

“You are not alone, there is no shame and it doesn’t make you weak to ask for help.”

“I still don’t know how I will feel when my family see the TEDx video and a lot of my old mates have no idea. But I just want to deliver the messages I wish someone had done for me.

“You are not alone, there is no shame and it doesn’t make you weak to ask for help.”

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Action Week (MHAW) which this year is led at LBS by the Men’s Rugby Club, of which Matty Dixon is the co-captain. He is leading MHAW alongside Sarah Bertram MBA 2019, who founded LBS MHAW last year with Josefina Haque MBA 2018. The student-led programme is drawing upon help from across the School to build an agenda of events focusing on health and wellbeing from May 13 – 17. Events include using puppies to reduce stress, mindfulness and yoga.

Tips for good mental health

  • Share: this is the biggest one and it can’t be repeated enough
  • Physical exercise is a great outlet. It can be just going for a short walk each day, to becoming a full-on gym user or joining a sports team
  • Try meditation and mindfulness
  • Take advantage of MHAW at LBS to try things that cost little or nothing. The Men’s Rugby campus groups page lists all of the activities
  • Look after yourself, you are worth it

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