As part of our Calling Out the Men campaign, I wanted to give you some insight into real life stories around emotional wellbeing for men in business.
I’d like to thank my client for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk about his challenges and experiences.
What is it about the Calling Out the Men campaign that you’re drawn to?
Personally, depression hasn’t happened to me, but as a father of teenage boys it does concern me. Men tend to bottle things up. There are times when your confidence is high, there are times when it’s low, but you keep it inside. It’s just how my generation did things. I’ll talk to my boys about the importance of accepting and talking about their emotions, but they’ve never seen me cry. It isn’t right. But it’s how it is. It’s the world I grew up in. It’s the same world where my Nan would talk about people of colour in a way that would be abhorrent to us today. It doesn’t make it right. We all have to somehow challenge this ingrained culture about how ‘real’ men should be and not let these things continue. The same way we challenge prejudice that shouldn’t continue.
What experiences have you (or any other men you know) had around emotional wellbeing challenges? How have you/they managed?
I have been in many situations where support has been required inside and outside of the workplace. The interesting thing in the workplace is that there are so many people hiding away their true feelings and are really struggling.
In my career I have had a team member suffering from depression, trying to cover it up and get through it. As his line manager I saw it and made sure he got the help he needed from the employee support scheme. I think supportive leadership is extremely important; to be able to confide in your line manager about how you’re really feeling, otherwise there’s a big problem. A problem shared is a problem halved.
We both no longer work for the same company but I’ve had messages from him on LinkedIn, thanking me for my support during that dark time. He had a period of absence, got help and he is now a successful sales leader.
Outside of work I had a pretty life changing experience. I met someone and the first words they said to me were ‘I want to die’. On a family drive I saw the van in front of me swerve to avoid a woman that had jumped in front of it. At first my wife and I thought it was a pedestrian having a near miss, but as I looked in my rear view mirror I could see she was distressed. I quickly parked the car and put myself between her and the traffic until the police came. I had always considered suicide a coward’s way out. But I saw then that this person had lost all rationality. Something like that changes your perceptions on mental health and well being.
What do you think needs to happen next? And how can this campaign help?
I listen to Freddie Flintoff’s podcast. With his guests he talks a lot about emotions and feelings and he doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s had his own battles with depression. Do I think he’s any less of a man? Of course not! He drinks pints and has played exceptional cricket for England! It’s often seen as a non-male trait to ‘open up’ but we need to get more people in the public eye doing it.
I do believe it’s getting better and my son’s generation are more open than we were. Their generation are talking about all kinds of issues that affect mental health like sexuality and gender identification, much more openly than we ever did, which can only be a good thing.
We all go through times when we’re strong and times when we’re low. When we’re strong we should help, when we’re not, we should be able to lean on people for support. Teamwork and a shared approach is definitely the way to go forward.
We need to help more people see that they’re not alone. The more people talk about mental health, the more the ripples will be felt. Somebody somewhere might hear something that resonates with them, tap someone on the shoulder and ask for help.
The reason I wanted to get involved with the campaign is because somebody, somewhere might see this and it may give him or her a nudge to tap somebody on the shoulder.