Mum who had mental breakdown now helps employers with wellness in the workplace

Ngozi Weller (right) and Obehi Alofoje

A high-flying mum who suffered a mental breakdown while working for an oil and gas company is now helping SMEs to deal with mental health in the workplace.

Ngozi Weller from Manchester is using her experience to help employers implement effective wellbeing strategies in the workplace through Aurora Wellness which she launched with her cousin and co-founder Obehi Alofoje four years ago.

They now work with SMEs across the UK and have seen a huge surge in demand for their services since the start of the pandemic.

Ngozi is open about her experience of working in a high-pressured environment often away from her young family, which eventually led to suicidal thoughts and a complete mental breakdown.

Her aim is now to be the “person that could’ve helped me.”

Speaking to, mum-of-two Ngozi revealed how she spent 17-years with an oil and gas company having joined straight from university as a graduate trainee.

She climbed the ranks eventually taking up the role of project manager but then hit the “brown ceiling.”

“I could see other members of the team with far less experience climb the ladder faster, but I was still willing and determined to show that I too was good at my job.

“But as a black woman I had had gone as far as I could and then when I had children I was completely side-lined. I was good at my job and I was a hard worker and I wanted to show that being a mum wasn’t going to impact my work so I continued to work just as hard. I was required to stay away once a week, so my husband I worked around that as I was determined to show that I could still do the job.

“There was no help, there was no recognition and no promotion, but still I thought I need to work even harder.

“In the end, the only person that suffered was me. I had bad anxiety, I was unhappy and I dreaded work to the point when I started having thoughts that I was probably better off dead.  I would plot ways I could die thinking it would be easier for everyone.

“Even then I didn’t see what was happening, I blamed myself that I should be working harder and doing more.”

Ngozi eventually suffered a breakdown and was taken to her GP who had diagnosed her with work-related stress, anxiety, and depression.

She took time off from work eventually leaving and slowly started the road to recovery.

“My husband took me to the doctors, and I wasn’t convinced she could do anything to help.

“But then she listened to what I had to say, and I thought, ‘oh she understands and can help me.’”

She continued: “It took me a while but eventually I recovered but it wasn’t easy.

“It was painful to think I felt that I didn’t belong, that I wanted to die. It was tough but with the right help and support from my husband and family I got there.

“But what it did make me realise, was that it didn’t need to happen, that I could have been helped a long time ago.”

It was this hard realisation that led management consultant Ngozi to launch Aurora Wellness with Obehi, a qualified psychologist and stress management coach.

The pair work predominantly with SMEs to help them establish wellbeing strategies through a range of programmes, talks and events.

Ngozi said: “The pandemic has had a positive shift towards people thinking about wellness in the workplace.

“A few years ago, we were trying to convince businesses that mental health is real, and it has an impact on staff and productivity.  Now most people recognise the importance of mental health and wellbeing and that being proactive about it makes a difference not just to you as an individual, but to you as a company, because it affects productivity and therefore it affects profitability.

Ngozi Weller (left) and Obehi Alofoje, founder of Aurora Wellness

“So as a reasonable employer, it’s your responsibility to look after your employee’s mental health and wellbeing. It’s no good if you’re an employer that has brought in a pool table and extra refreshments for the staff room if you then expect staff to work 12-hour days.

“People are a company’s greatest asset and being a good employer starts with genuinely caring and recognising the value of your people because they can only do their best if they are at their best.”

Now that Ngozi has successful established her own business, she doesn’t wake up with the “dreaded back-to work feeling.”

She said: “I love what I do and that’s such a privilege. It really is. I spend quality time with my children, and I can still give this my all and still feel happy and I get to help other people at the same time.”