In an interview with the BBC, the philanthropist opened up about suffering from post-natal depression following the birth of her daughter and having ‘suicidal thoughts’.
Marking the publication of her autobiography, The Virgin Banker, Gadhia is urging businesses to start taking mental health more seriously. Admitting that she previously perceived depression as a ‘weak-minded’ problem, but after going through mental turmoil herself, she “realised nothing could be further from the truth.”
Depression started to consume Gadhia after the birth of her daughter, who was conceived following cycles of IVF treatment with her husband Ash. She began feeling that her life was “out of control.
"Ash had given up his job and we had only me earning, a new mouth to feed and I remember feeling completely out of control because what I wanted to achieve - that is, packing up work and staying with my child - was unachievable," she explained.
“I didn't know where to go, I didn't know what to do, who to talk to and at that point, everybody expects you to be happy and thrilled.”
After suffering from depressive thoughts and at one point, convincing herself that her daughter was dead, she sought medical help. The doctor confirmed that she had serious depression.
"It was knowing what I was dealing with that helped me to deal with it," she said.
"I think if I'd have just gone on and not realised that I had a clinical problem and that depression wasn't something that you can just sort of push through, it would have been very different."
To combat her illness, Gadhia started working shorter hours and took up exercise to achieve a healthy work-life balance. After changing the way she worked, not only did her family benefit - she received the highest bonus of her career.
Gadhia believes businesses must start to de-stigmatise the issue surrounding mental health: "I think we still have a culture of not talking about it," she said. "I don't want to get to a place where we we've got everybody crying on each other's shoulders, but I think finding a way for organisations to support staff that want to talk about the issues that they're going through and having maturity of line management to know when that's required - to know where help can come - is really important.”
The Virgin CEO opening up about her battle with depression follows Prince Harry’s confession to The Telegraph yesterday about suffering with his mental health after his Mother’s death. He called on those in similar situations to get help: “[Staying silent will] only ever . . . make it worse.
“You will be surprised, firstly, how much support you get.”