Jeremy (Jake) Cliffe | aspiring artist | social innovator | problem solver | founder and director
My background is in Engineering, where I held a number of senior positions in the Manufacturing Engineering sector, with expertise in integrated management systems, using process improvement and advanced problem solving techniques. After suffering a stress breakdown in 2010, I felt unfulfilled and disengaged in my career, and a sense that I had no opportunity to express my own creativity within my work. I started to think about a career change – it felt necessary for my own wellbeing.
I was always very open about my illness. In being open, I was surprised by how many of my colleagues also opened up to admitting that they had experienced problems too. However, there is still a lot of ignorance and stigma that surrounds mental and emotional wellbeing. It can frustrate people’s careers and can lead to forms of discrimination, which can become career limiting. Believe me, mental illness itself does not discriminate – it can happen to anyone, including intelligent and capable people who are in employment and outwardly appearing to be doing well.
I was however personally determined that I wouldn’t let my illness ‘define’ me as a person – but I was prepared to let it ‘re-define’ me. Following a couple of periods of depression related illness, I started to notice how being out in the natural landscape with my dog Lola, enjoying outdoor activities like mountain biking and being more creative with digital photography, brought to improving my own wellbeing. It seemed to be speeding my recovery. I wondered I might possibly combine and incorporate these into a career change – and in effect solve my own problem.
Having sensed the benefits of ‘green spaces’ myself, I began researching for positive evidence that ‘nature’ and ‘being creative’ does have a beneficial effect on people’s wellbeing. I also became aware of the mounting evidence that if employers show concern for their employees, through workplace wellbeing initiatives, it has a significant impact on both employee engagement and productivity.
I knew with certainty, through my own experiences, that the health giving benefits of ‘art’ and ‘nature’ and simple tools like the ‘ways to wellbeing’ could help others too. I had stumbled across a new sense of purpose and direction, which could and would change my career path.
In October 2015 I took what was for me a bold step – I left my employer to found the concept of Human-Nature as a new social enterprise and community interest company (cic). I now lead outdoor experiences, from team building events promoting workplace wellbeing, to activities which support the wider community and the wellbeing and recovery of individuals – helping them stay well. I also hope to use my skills as an emerging artist to support the project, to inspire creativity and wellbeing in others, whilst at the same time achieving a much improved work life balance for myself.
‘I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do – and I will.’
(Variation on a quote by Edward Everett Hale – popularised by Bryce Evans of TheOneProject)