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We need to talk...

Category: mental health at work, international men's day, mental health group, testimonial, Mental Health, mental health initiative, Capita, Staff Testimonial, mental health first aiders, mental health awareness training, mental illness, mental wellbeing, suicidal, suicide, mental health awareness, mental health in workplace

Mental Health

We need to talk...

Thursday 19th November, was International Men’s Day and over the last couple of weeks I have been working with some colleagues to shape what we will be doing to recognise the day and raise awareness of issues that affect men and their health. 

With the year we are all living through we decided to focus on mental health, why the stigma still persists and how we can encourage men to open up more. Whilst I was reading a piece of research that Time to Change had commissioned the figure that jumped out at me, amongst many, was one that said 75% of men would not feel able to openly share that they have a mental health issue with their friends. That is incredible and my shock was driven by the fact that I assume that I am in the 25%.. Then I started to reflect.. “am I really in that 25% and would openly share when my mental health is at a low point?”. 

The truth is, and having spoken to a couple of friends about this, I probably like to think I am one of the 25%..BUT..I am unclear as to the threshold at which I would share? There is no doubt for me that I am more than likely one of the 42% of men who would not want to burden their mates (or anyone) with their mental health struggles. It turns out, so were the two friends I spoke with. Something we all need to work on then! We have also made a commitment to each other that we will speak up if we need to and we will listen if one of us needs support.

Time to Change have launched a couple of related campaigns to tackle this issue and the insight is excellent. I would recommend you having a look at their “Be in your mate’s corner” and “Ask Twice” campaigns. Sharing tips on how we can be there for people and how to spot the signs of when someone is struggling:

  • Ask Twice: It shows that you are will to support and listen
  • Read between the lines: Rather than saying they are dealing with mental health issues, 31% would say they are stressed and 30% that they are not feeling quite right. Interestingly, 35% said  if they wanted to talk to a friend about their mental health they would ask how their friend is doing and hope they’d ask them back
  • 63% of men said they would be most comfortable talking about their mental health over a drink. Listen out for this and at upon it
  • Spot when people are not joining in with the jokes, they are not in the mood for laughing or they want to be serious. Let’s also stop using phrases such as ‘man up’ – yes, people still do - they are never helpful. In fact, 42% of men say phrases like that are conversation blockers
  • All people want to hear is that you’re there for them and your feelings towards them will not change. You don’t have to try and give advice or fix anything for them, just be the good friend you’ve always been.

As part of our activity we planned a roundtable session to explore how we tackle the stigma and challenge the traditional concept of masculinity; how do people cope when their mental health is at a low point and build their resilience; How do we create the right environment. Given the above research there was some trepidation ahead of the day. Would we get people to attend? Would the conversation flow? Plus many more questions.

There was no reason for those worries. What an incredible session! Open, brave, honest, inspirational, emotional and ‘over-too-quickly’. We had senior leadership colleagues on the call, which further confirmed to all that we take this subject seriously. It was a group of men, who were clearly in the 25%, and women who shared and supported each other. Some shared and everyone listened. It was a safe space that was welcomed by everyone on the call – I spent a couple of hours last night reading through the ‘chat comments’. I am blown away by the incredible people I am lucky enough to have as colleagues.

Everyone agreed that we need more of this, more opportunities to share and talk to each other. The chance to learn from and inspire each other. A means by which we can start to break down the isolation that people might feel and show that they are not alone, “it’s OK not to be OK” and there are plenty of ways that they can be supported. Starting with talking to someone else. Together we can make a difference and smash the stigma that persists. I am already looking forward to the next session and know that should I need to talk, it will be a little easier to do from now on.

Ricky Alfred

Ricky Alfred

Head of Responsible Business at Capita


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