Mental Health Deserves Our Attention

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‘Mental Health’ is a conversation with somewhat bad connotations, often misinterpreted to only focus on the negative issues, has nevertheless become one of the most talked about topics across the world, especially in the UK. The stats and figures alone are powerful – with suicide being the leading killer in men.

But it doesn’t always have to focus on the downside, together we can raise awareness of how we can support each other to kick the stigma and bring light to what it takes to better our mental health.

It’s not until recent years that our society has really taken Mental Health issues seriously – from what once was a ‘taboo’ subject, is quickly becoming an everyday conversation amongst friend groups, families, and colleagues.

We all have a responsibility to support one another, and the best leaders take their leadership outside of the workplace – there is a constant responsibility to support your team, and this year, many corporations have done exactly that.

It felt right that we give praise to some of the exceptional campaigns. To no surprise, a huge focus this year is the sports industry.

It can be argued that high profile sports teams can have the biggest impact on people – whether it be bringing joy from a win, anger from a loss or an escape from personal stresses. Within the UK, football brings many people together. Last year Norwich FC stood out with an incredibly powerful video on mental health and this year their impact continued as it led to more football clubs using their presence for a worthy cause. Some standouts were Wolves, Chelsea, and West Ham.

Premier League side, Wolves constructed a 10-minute video for Mental Health Awareness:

‘There’s always somebody that will listen’.

The video was such a simple idea, with an enormous impact. Rapper, ‘Reepa’ led the campaign and stood outside the Molineux Stadium, blindfolded with a sign that read:

The stats are powerful, but the offer of a simple hug is what stood out even more for people. Within seconds of the video there were people of every background, gender and age stopping to discuss Mental Health. Maybe the idea of talking to someone blindfolded eased the anxiety of being judged – which is a bad habit for many of us to move on from, to never judge the person across from us.

Not only were Wolves fans involved, but that day they faced Luton Town, and even their fans put aside the idea of opposition rivalry to show compassion and share a mutual respect for what the club were doing. Those with very personal stories were also supported immediately by Wolves’ mental health professionals.

Wolves have done an incredible job at supporting the wider community – it’s easy for teams to focus on their own people who sit close to the top, but their focus has gone to the people who support them and keep them going. It’s the perfect example of inclusive leadership – they have made sure to use their power for the good of their people, and at such a crucial time.

West Ham United also took the initiative – last year they were awarded the Premier League’s Equality Standard Advanced Level – to recognize their dedication to diversity and inclusion. With this in mind, it was no shock they too utilised their platform for a compelling cause.

Former boxing champion, Frank Bruno, was interviewed by West Ham’s media team to briefly talk about mental health and his own struggles. The video is quite different from Wolves, but the impact can be just the same. Communities were able to see such a powerful, inspiring, and ‘tough’ man show vulnerability. For somebody like Frank Bruno, in the industry he is part of, to bring eyes to Mental Health shows just how serious we should be taking the discussions around Mental Health. Sometimes all it takes is one person to start the conversation for millions.

It’s a great show of courageous leadership from both Frank Bruno and the West Ham team.

Chelsea FC launched ‘Talk More than Football’. The idea was to urge players, fans and all those involved in football to talk about more than what’s in front of them on the television screen or in the stadium. Their powerful advert once again included someone considered to be a ‘tough’ character, Vinnie Jones, urging current players to open up and not feel ashamed when times get tough. The initiative was not only powerful, but inspiring.

It demonstrated that Mental Health isn’t always just about if you feel okay, but if people around you do too. The conversations should always welcome others, and we should be encouraging, not shaming those suffering, to speak up and out – sometimes it just requires us to listen.

I’ll move away from sports to focus on one of the biggest names in the world – Prince Harry. The Duke of Sussex has launched a non-profit organization, BetterUp focusing on mental wellbeing, individual and team resilience – with a heavy focus on inclusive leadership. What a time to do so – as we often discuss, there seems to be a lack of empathetic leadership today, but with all the achievements and unfortunate circumstances Prince Harry has had, he continues to be a man of the people. Delivering a project focusing on people’s personal and professional lives is rare to find, and the Duke of Sussex has taken the challenge on beautifully.

With Mental Health Awareness week being over, it can be amazingly easy for us to forget about the initiatives – in fact, it can be easy for us to not focus our attention on mental health at all. The topic never goes away, and everybody has a responsibility.

No matter what day it is, always make sure to check in on others – show compassion and genuine interest in those around you. It’s so important that we no longer see mental health as a ‘touchy subject,’ but actually to encourage others to speak up.

We all have a song, but it’s so much more powerful when we sing together.



Thought of the week:

The best leaders look to serve everyone but themselves

Tips for becoming an A player:

  • It costs nothing to be kind
  • In the dark times, it’s important to show others the light
  • Everybody should have a passion for inclusion
  • Embrace this new and different generation
  • Treat others the way you wish to be treated



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