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Talking about Men’s Health at Jacobs

Category: Mental Health, Movember, jacobs, health awareness, One Million Lives, Men's Health and Wellbeing


Hi, I'm Paul Hendry, Global Vice President of Health, Safety and Environment for Jacobs. My career path has not been linear as I took a career change when I was about 28. I started off in construction, running small jobs at a very young age which grew into larger jobs. At that point, health and safety legislation started to become more prevalent and clients started asking me to get involved in it as part of my job. After getting qualifications, it took about four years until I decided to make the leap to health and safety. From there I went on to handle major projects until I joined Jacobs at the end of 2011, climbing the ranks from running the UK to running Europe to Head of HSE for the global P&PS business.


Paul Hendry


I feel really blessed to work in an organisation that puts the health and wellbeing of its people at the forefront of their thinking. Every single day there's a highlight. I see how we've driven our mental health programme since 2015 from a standing start to where we are in 2021 and launching One Million Lives in 2020 as a massive source of pride. The work that my team does and what the organisation does at keeping our people and our community safe is amazing. 


Health and Safety Vision at Jacobs

The usual perception of health and safety is that it's all about protective gear, glasses, and hard hats. But there is so much more that goes into it. The health, safety and environmental teams are almost the conscience of the business. They are a trusted ear and people lean into them for support constantly. The conversations that we've been having around mental health is proof of this. We treat every conversation privately and seriously and we try to guide the individual as much as we possibly can.

Around 2014, I had a conversation with a team member with mental health challenges. However, I wasn't fully educated on it. It was him who educated me and gave me the challenge of doing something about it in the organisation. We created a training course, then asked for volunteers and right away we had about 80 people, who I call the pioneers at Jacobs, to form a small network in the UK. As the word spread, it started evolving and went global. 

We had 5% of our global workforce volunteering to help and no specific programme or initiative launched previously had had that impact. So right away there was a leading indicator that Mental Health was a challenge that hadn't been spoken about often enough. It was clear that people wanted to speak out to normalise a conversation and eliminate the stigma. 

It was also a conversation that the organisation wanted to have, so I travelled to Pasadena to give a presentation on the things we do for mental health and our CEO said, “I'm really passionate about that. If I can do anything to help, I’ll do it.” Our COO was the same. From there, the company has provided a lot of funding to promote health and wellbeing. That's where we got the funding for One Million Lives. I wanted it to be open source for friends, families, clients, not only for Jacobs people and we got the support to do that. That's why I say I'm really blessed to work for a company that is willing to put back in our communities.


Taking mental health support to the next level

Mental health programmes are usually quite reactionary. It got me thinking about how we can help people who are in the moment before they get to that moment. Therefore, we worked with a psychologist from Perth WA, Peta Slocombe and we created One Million Lives. We called it so because almost 1 million people lose their life to suicide every single year. 


One Million Lives


OML is not used to diagnose, it is to put a spotlight on some of the things that you need to do to improve or maintain good mental health. We use what healthcare professionals would use to measure your level of depression, anxiety, resilience, etc. The questions we ask are “How does social media make you feel? How much sleep have you got?  How much exercise?”  to give you a detailed report on your health and wellbeing. There's also a question about suicidal thoughts. What we want to do is have people use this as an indicator of where they are at the moment and actually put a plan for improvement. Then perhaps they could address anxiety which leads to depression, which is the leading cause of suicides. We think if we can address it at the early stage we may prevent someone from getting into that anxiety/depression loop. On average, 13 men take their life by suicide each day in the UK.

We do mental health talks every few weeks, the last one was about suicide prevention with 4000 people dialling in. We are currently planning our next one around fatigue and how it impacts mental health.


Let's talk about men’s health

One of the real surprising yet positive factors of running the One Million Lives campaign is that it indicates that males are more likely to engage with a digital tool from a mental health perspective, as it guarantees anonymity. 


One Million Lives Campaign


I'm a typical man. I've been through some mental health challenges in my life where I've just not felt like talking to anybody about them, thinking they'll feel embarrassed or I'd be seen as weak. This tool helps people while maintaining their privacy. I think it helps when feeling a certain emotion to actually put a label on it. You may be going through something or feeling overwhelmed and by doing a simple check-in you are able to put a label on what was making you feel like that. You can then take the results to the GP and it makes the conversation easier.

The reluctance to visit GPs has also escalated due to COVID and I worry about what the future looks like. We need to keep talking about the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. This extends to all health matters. We do a lot of campaigns around various health topics at Jacobs. We run campaigns on long term illnesses, like diabetes, and our mental health programme promotes the five ways to wellbeing, a big part of which is about being active. I think the biggest issue for men's health is not talking and not doing something about it. I lost count of the stories I have read about men ignoring signs of illness. If you've got a lump or a bump or something not regular, pause and do something about it. 


Celebrating Movember

It is good to see initiatives like Movember growing and becoming more popular. We truly need to spread awareness. You see all the guys growing moustaches as a statement, but personally, I'll promote it by keeping the conversation alive and donating to the cause. As an organisation, we are showing our support by sponsoring Men’s Health Month on Vercida

Everybody's job can be stressful and can really sap your energy levels if you can't find that balance. Our Executive Vice President Patrick Hill said “Look, we understand the challenges of being a professional services organisation. We don't want you to work longer. We just want you to work smarter. We want you to look after your health and wellbeing.” That was a great message to get out there because that work-life balance is really difficult. I can be out walking my dog at 6 AM and trying to listen to some music, yet constantly looking at my watch with thoughts about all the stuff I need to do. I need to remind myself to wait and live in the moment. Instead, we all fall easily into this trap of rushing to the next thing. It’s the kind of load you put on yourself which makes getting that work-life balance is a big issue. It is something that we’re trying to address at Jacobs through offering flexible working. We have 55,000 people across the globe working in different sectors and we are doing all we can to guarantee that they are well looked after.


Paul Hendry


Learn more about One Million Lives mental health assessment tool.

Read more about how One Million Lives helped a colleague at Jacobs

Find out about the latest career opportunities at Jacobs

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