"You Can't Say Anything Anymore!" by Diversifying Group

Let's talk about #MentalHealth at work with Gary Wills and Luke Davis

August 26, 2021 Diversifying.io Season 1 Episode 12
"You Can't Say Anything Anymore!" by Diversifying Group
Let's talk about #MentalHealth at work with Gary Wills and Luke Davis
Show Notes Transcript

1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental health problem each year. However during the pandemic more than 42% of people reported anxiety and depression. Podcast host Naomi sits down with Gary Wills and Luke Davis, both mental health advocates on their experiences with dealing with mental health at work. Gary gets candid about his experiences with mental health whilst on furlough and Luke talks openly about his journey to setting up the Matt Palmer Trust,  whose goal is to support the mental well-being of people of all ages in the UK and Ireland.

About our guest speaker: Gary is an experienced recruiter of over 20 years in the IT sector who found himself furloughed at the beginning of the pandemic. Gary decided to set up a non for profit initiative to improve the mental wellbeing of the job searcher and people on furlough. The project has since gone on to become recognised and awarded "The point of Light" by the Prime Minister. His non for profit FurLearn has also won prestigious awards at the Learning and Performance Institute as well as patterning with Google Digital Garage and being featured on the BBC and ITV. Gary has also gone on to set up HIS own recruitment company called Talent Today to help improve and fast track the recruitment process for the Job searcher and hiring manager.

This episode contains TW for: Mental Health, suicide, break downs, anxiety, depression,

This podcast is produced by Diversifying.io - Keep up to date on how we're changing hearts and minds on Instagram: @diversifyingio or via our website: www.diversifying.io 

Naomi:

diversifying.io presents. You can't say anything anymore. The podcast where we bring you the latest diversity news, and in depth meaningful conversations about how we can make the future. better for all. Hi everyone. Welcome to the podcast. We've got a very exciting episode this month. And we have two very special guests with us. My name is Naomi and the host of this podcast. And my two guests would like to introduce themselves, please. I will start with Luke.

Luke Davis:

Cool. Hi, everyone. So I'm Luke, I'm the co founder of Diversifying our purpose led job board. And I guess my main purpose for being here today is I'm the chair of a mental health fundraising awareness charity called the Matt Palmer Trust.

Gary Wills:

Hi, there, my name is Gary Wills. I am the founder of a not for profit charity called Furlough, which was set up to support the job searcher through the pandemic and people on furlough. And I've also gone on to launch a recruitment business called Talent Today.

Naomi:

Fantastic. Well, thank you very much for being here with me today. So let's just get straight into it. What is mental health? What a big question. Should we just start with that one? If you could just tell me a little bit more about that, please?

Gary Wills:

Sure. I'm from my personal opinion, I'm sorry if you can hear the birds in the background. But it's, everybody has mental health, not not just, you know, you, I everybody has it, and it affects us at different times different periods in our life. Sometimes it's the catalogue of events, which makes your mental health feel that little bit more difficult, shall we say? And I think it's understanding it and accepting it that it does affect everybody.

Luke Davis:

I definitely echo or Gary says, Yeah, I think just to add to I think it's almost that relationship that we have as human beings with the mental side of our being. I think there's been so much focus on physical are we fit, how do we look all the rest of it? I think it's only really now we're starting to realise that most of it is all to do with our mind and the mental state.

Naomi:

What I've been seeing in the public consciousness is that mental health is gone from this very specific thing, of being only people that are mentally unwell, for example, to people understanding it as a part of everyday life, a part of holistic living and a part that affects every aspect of our lives. We just want to talk a little bit now talking about how, how does mental health affect work, for example, you know, how does it interfere and motivate your work? I don't know, if you, you know, but you both want to share some of your experiences or talk about this?

Gary Wills:

Yeah, sure. Personally, on my, my side of it actually was, if I look back through my career, it was it was it was something that was always there when I was probably 19, 20, 21. But I was too scared to even discuss the word mental health. But now when I understand it more, it you know, it's apparent that it was always there, you know, that there was problems and actually, I would wish I would have, you know, I'd accepted it sooner that there was actually a problem otherwise, you know, when I when I had the, shall I say, a bit of the crash last March, for the first time, that was probably a buildup of my mental health deteriorating over the years because of the pressure that I was putting myself through with work with family life with pretty much everything which goes on which we all experienced at some point. And whether you want to call it burnout or what you know, it all hits us at some point where enough is enough and the coffee cup just just overflows. So I just personally myself, I wish I would have accepted it, you know, and addressed it sooner, you know, in my late You know, in my 20s in my early 30s and actually seeked help a lot lot sooner, but this is brilliant, like just talking about this now and hopefully this reaching more people that can actually think well actually maybe you know, the last few weeks I've not been feeling great actually it's not been weeks it's been months and you know why am I feeling anxious all the time. So but accepting it and that is the key for me probably in the whole of this session is accepting yourself and understanding yourself what works what doesn't work and then actually deciding to do something about it

Luke Davis:

Yeah it's really powerful Gary hearing you talk about that more while you were while you were reflecting on your own experiences it was taking taking me back I guess probably we've not had we've had our own different journeys, the working in recruitment and I was getting flashes of working in environments where mental health was definitely seen as a as a weakness. I suppose for me I had that switch where it just wasn't just wasn't a thing it wasn't spoken about and I know it was impacting relationships it was impacting how much I was drinking, how happy I was how kind of chaotic parts of my life probably were, and it was a complete and utter denial. It was just well work comes first I must perform, must be doing brilliantly everything else, was just getting pushed and pushed and pushed. And I reflect back now and I hear like people that I know, like my parents and stuff, say, Gosh, is so nice to have you back. So I think I think it interferes massively, and I think you don't, I think you don't realise when you're in the moment, you're a bit oblivious to it.

Gary Wills:

Yeah, especially, like us in recruitment, you know, you're always chasing, you know, the next thing. And, you know, it's relentless. You know, and I really do, and I'm sure it's something which we'll touch on in a bit, but I really do hope that recruitment businesses and, you know, other businesses in general do more positive sort of movements to actually maybe identify when somebody is maybe struggling or trying to prevent it, you know, try and prevent it as best as possible so you don't get where I got to, where I'm sat in the office, the pressure in my head is on fire, my shoulders are feeling like, you know, insane, I'm constantly feeling anxious, I can't get the words out of my mouth, my words are slurring, my memory is shot, you know, all of these telltale signs for a long period of time, you're constantly exhausted. I wouldn't want anybody joining my business to feel like that, because it's a very dark and lonely place.

Naomi:

Absolutely. I think you really paint such a physical picture of how this was affecting you. And yet, there's so much more going on inside, you know, these are just the effects of the the pressure that's that's weighing down on you. And like you said, You both mentioned about the recruitment industry. To put it lightly, I guess, you know, reputation of a cutthroat industry to say the least.

Gary Wills:

I was quite lucky, I've always worked for really nice recruitment companies that really looked after me. But it was probably my own, doing where I was always putting myself into such pressure to always go, I was kind of known at one point as Mr. consistent. Because it was always that somehow I just find a way of hitting the target. I don't, you know, that's not please don't think that's me being big headed or anything like that. But it was just, it just kind of, it just kind of happened, it was just got into a routine, but the amount of pressure that I put myself under to get to, you know, just about hitting the target, you know, it was insane that you got to the point where I actually didn't really start celebrating the wins, you know, I forgot about it. And it just became a vicious sort of roller coaster of, you know, just go into the next to the next to the next to the next, you know, constantly and it was just a treadmill. So, now I realise when there is a win to be had, oh my god, do I celebrate it? You know? Yeah, you know, and sometimes it might involve a little bit of alcohol, I will be honest. But I do you know, it's important to celebrate with people who are really important to you, special to you, friends, family, and celebrate your wins. And actually pat yourself on the back sometimes when when you know you've done good, you know, and also do the same for people that you've seen out there that are doing great things, you know, like what you're doing with this this podcast, this is absolutely fantastic, you know, so you should be after this massively patting yourself on the back.

Luke Davis:

I love that, Gary, that whole kind of like taking time to celebrate the here and now and so much of what you said resonated because it, Yes, the environments clearly try and set you targets you to achieve things. But I agree like I never felt there was pressure that was unfair, it was all just it was pressure on Hey, if you do this, you'll get this. And it was definitely the pressure that you put on yourself more than anything. And I think that's probably the, the learning that I've got is that, And then exactly what Gary was saying was like, I just genuinely got to the point where the successes were the baseline like I was just, I'm functioning. And these would be like, things that would be involving trips to Vegas and all expenses paid this and huge bonuses and all the rest of it. There just wasn't meaning anything. And it definitely didn't give anything towards kind of happiness or satisfaction and all the rest of it. So I think it's an important point is there's not just about I suppose the industry is such being cutthroat. I think it's a performance based industry, but I think it's certain individuals probably put themselves under huge pressure to perform in that in that industry, I think.

Gary Wills:

Yeah, and it's, it's just highly competitive, isn't it? You know, and, you know, I think when we grew up, you know, we were in that environment where it was like your colleagues or almost your competitors, that where I work that kind of dried out, that didn't happen in my last organisation. But, you know, it was a mentality almost of other 90s that, you know, it was a very internal competition and stuff like that. And like teams, this would be Team A and Team B. And you know, actually like challenging not only your, the recruitment companies out there, but people within the team and the mind games and stuff like that it just used to get insane. So, God almighty I hope that never ever, I hope that doesn't happen too much currently, but I'm sure it does. And I'd love to see that being removed, where it's actually, let's just all champion each other. And, you know, I think if we all work closer together, we can actually make more profitable business and more better wins and look after each other along the journey, you'll have more longevity of that recruiter in the, in the working environment as well.

Naomi:

Yeah, I think that's such a really good point, it's a lot more nuanced, you say, then just cut through or the industry is bad. The end. Like you said, Gary about, it's not just the industry, it's about the timeframe that, you know, when this is set, you know, is it about people being competitive, and then that kind of mentality drying out, but it still stays with you. And then when you are forcing yourself to be this, Mr. predictable, Mr. Reliable, this success is my baseline, you're removing all of your agency and vulnerability for yourself, you know, it's, it's a, it's easy to see how it can become so vapid in that sense. So if we just want to move on a little bit, the moment to talk about, so all of these kind of pressures and challenges on them? What do you think, are the most common barriers to seeking treatment? You know, if we're getting these people that are potentially hitting rock bottom for months, without realising it, you know, what are the barriers that are stopping them from getting the help that they need?

Gary Wills:

Denial. You know, for years, I, I felt, you know, I just denied the fact that there was, there was something wrong, you know, you know, in my mindset, you know, it was I just put it to the back of my mind and just kept, kept moving forward. And, you know, denying that I needed any help or anything like that, you know, the, the best decision that I made was, was going to the doctors and actually accepting that there was a problem and actually take, you know, I went to the doctors, probably two years before that, and just almost batted it off that. No, it's not, there's no problem here is not and then it was very clear, you know, a couple of years later, I came back to the same doctor, and he gave me a little wry smile. And, you know, and that was probably the hardest experience was, you know, breaking down in front of a doctor, a male doctor, and accepting, you know, but that was probably, also when I look back, probably the best moment as well, because I was at rock bottom then. So it can only get better, you know, with treatment with medication, with counselling with, you know, support, with admitting, you know, admitting it to friends, family, and actually hearing from them as well that, you know what Gary, I've not told you this before, but I've struggled, you know, and it was good for them to actually get it off their chest to tell me, but you know, what, maybe you should try this, or you should try that this will maybe help you. And you just didn't feel as alone, you know, and just taking time out to, to really care for yourself again.

Luke Davis:

So powerful. I think it's um, you know the denial bit, it's almost like, we've got this vulnerability or weakness that we have to protect at all costs. And we develop these coping mechanisms that you kind of add to and add to and add to and by the time you're in, like, really, really bad sport, your coping mechanisms are so well trained, whether that's putting on a fake smile, or going out to go to a party to kind of make yourself feel a little better for a short period of time, or getting drunk or whatever it might be. I think just you, you're always running away from that kind of really uncomfortable truth that's there and lurking but I guess it doesn't go away, and I think it will rear its head at some point, I think. So I think it's that Yeah, denial bit like avoid avoiding denial. And if you can, if you can break past that and show some weakness to someone, it probably then all unravels in a good way. But most of us are hiding it so much. I know kind of the struggles that I've had. And my friend, Matt had them and he hid it by being a joker. He was the literally the life and soul who founded the charity. He was a life and soul of the party and nobody had no idea at all because he was the giver of so much love and positivity, but that was clearly his way of masking, feeling deeply, deeply unhappy inside.

Gary Wills:

Yeah, and that's the I think that one of the key bits is it being able to identify when I'm sure this is something Luke that you've probably become more sort of emotionally intelligent about maybe that you can see it in people that are upbeat and Mr. Positive or, or Mrs. Positive, you know, it's not this is all male thing right, and you actually think, but they're really high at the minute. They must have load at some point, they can't keep them endorphin levels up all the time. And let's be honest, there's some really high, there's always a low, there's got to be, you know, you can't always be up there. So it's actually identifying with them people that are always constantly hyper, shall we say, upbeat, postive, and checking in on them, asking, how are you? And asking it again, no come on, how are you? Are you alright, you sure, you good? And you know what, we've been this, this, this journey that we've been on over the last sort of 20 years, whatever it is, within, the more and more you hear about sort of mental health and stuff like that, it is so apparent that we, everybody, you know, everybody at some point is going to struggle, you know, or, you know, is going to experience something in their life, which is going to challenge them so yeah, you know, don't don't for one minute think that Mr. or Mrs. Positive is is always a okay, because it just doesn't roll out that.

Luke Davis:

I'm smiling and laughing to myself because I think once you train yourself to start to recognise the signs and there are so many signs, it can be as you say, that kind of, if someone's too manic all the time, or you can sometimes see in some people's eyes when they're like really busy, like uncomfortably busy, or they can't focus on any one thing, or they can't sit still or in my in my friends case, Matt, when I look back on some of the signs that he had is like he did when he was sleeping, which I think is often a telltale sign for someone is I was sleeping really uncomfortably he was clearly like unhappy in sleeping and everything that's kind of slightly odd. They must have these night terrors and stuff. So I think if you've got people around you who there's signals that you kind of just think that doesn't look quite right, you're probably you're probably right, I think it's not not ignoring those signs because i think i think they're, there. As you say Gary doing something to like, step in, like don't don't just go I wonder how they are like, I noticed the other day there was a child in my kid's playground who has been unhappy for a few days, and I'm, I'm on it now. I'm like asking lots of questions and checking in and seeing what's going on around everyone else's, like, Oh, I'm sure just the parents hold them up in the morning, I'm sure. I've seen that over a couple of weeks now. So it's like something something else going on?

Gary Wills:

Well, that is a whole new thing now as well, where kids have been locked away for a long period of time and are slowly trying to get used to actually interacting again and it must be so difficult for the children you know, this 100% you know, affects children, you know, be massively so I think I wanted to go girls at the age of wanting to girls at the age of 13 to 15 and are struggling with mental health problems. You know, it's it's extremely, extremely worrying.

Luke Davis:

Scary, isn't it? I've got I've got a seven year old daughter and I'm trying so hard to make sure that she develops emotional resilience now because it's kind of like you know, what's what's what's coming and I already already see the the comparison that the if it was always like this, or this like need to compare each other like that one's got this or that one's got that or that one's prettier or that one's hair, it's like really really intense and I know I find Gary to stop myself comparing myself to others because that never ends never ends well, never makes me feel good. There's always someone who's probably more successful better looking, younger, take your pick really it's not a not a good way to look at the world.

Gary Wills:

Yeah, no, that's cool. I might be I haven't actually. It sounds like obviously your friend bless him who passed away a while back my one of my really good mates is what I'm talking about here is He's Mr. Positive Mr. Bubbly but his best mate committed suicide and yeah, I'm now seeing you know, you can just see he's not, you know, Mr. Positive all the time. It's, you know, there's so much actually that goes on in here that you just, yeah, that's why they say that comedians, really struggle, you know.

Luke Davis:

I can see why I can really see why. And I think it's also because they've got I think they give so much of themselves to others as well. I think there's a bit of that too. It's like constantly giving that laughter. What a gift to give but it doesn't it depleats people too doesn't it.

Gary Wills:

Yeah, and I imagine as well when they come home to their wife and the wife goes. Oh, **** I wish you'd make me laugh. You miserable. Sitting there drinking.

Naomi:

I liked the thread about you talking about children, as in like, it starts really early on. That was good point.

Gary Wills:

Yeah you definitely do start, you know, early on and this pandemic will be unfortunately, it's going to be the next wave and we may not see it now. But we're certainly going to see it in the future where there's going to be the children that this will have affected children. So making sure you know that the scores that the love the the empathy, the understanding is shown to the children and just making making sure they have fun, you know, and feel comfortable and safe, I think is going to be massively massively key and just, you know, identifying when maybe they don't want to interact with people, or maybe it's okay that they're wrong, you know, they want to be on their own. But, yeah, at this minute, I just think there's got to be so much love given to just help the children through this real sort of uncertain time that we've been going through.

Luke Davis:

Yeah, I completely agree as a, as a parent, myself of a seven year old, I fear a lot around, I think about my child at the age of seven or eight, my biggest worry was probably has my football team won, when can I go and play, you know, play play in the garden with my mates, why have I got to go to bed at 730, it's still, it's still light outside where as I think children now have been watching the news relentlessly. They're kind of aware of, they've got this fear of the world and things they don't know or understand. And I think that's going to, that's going to really stick with people. We think about our formative years, and what we pick up and absorb and clearly... and I really love what Gary said about the empathy bit. And I hope that, particularly schooling, they don't focus too much on catching up and the curriculum and everything and focus more on just making sure that the kids are alright. And as you say, they're happy. And they're, they're playing when they want or not playing when they don't want to play either. And it's not forced fun and everything like that. But yeah, it starts so early. And I hope that's the one if we can have a bit of an optimist and look for a positive is that maybe that empathy bit? That's the thing that stays through all this as make sure everybody's being thought of and cared for first, and everything else comes second, hopefully?

Gary Wills:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's the, I think, is one of the one of the key things that we are seeing that has come out of the pandemic is, there has been more and more sort of the community feel that people are coming together to be more kind, and stuff, and they have more time for each other. You know, the, I think the days of, you know, running past somebody on the escalator, if they trip, and just being tunnel vision, I really hope them days are gone. You know, and somebody actually takes a moment to actually, you know, help that person up, you know, actually check in on them, or, you know, whatever, okay. And just look into the whites of the eyes of somebody actually give them that that time that maybe that person really sort of needs to just check that just general random stranger is okay.

Luke Davis:

Yeah, I hope I hope so. I hope so. I think I think it will Gary, i think i think i feel like i'm seeing that. I went to London yesterday. And it was a very different atmosphere and vibe. And people were looking at each other and smiling and it was a very different, different world of the one we left. So yeah, I hope so. That would be nice.

Naomi:

When I was thinking about this question, actually, I was thinking back to sort of my experiences as well and my school for example. One of the punishments one of the you could you could receive was like a form of house arrest. Like maybe kind of like pandemic. This was this was a time I went to boarding school but, just exposing my my history, but then this was this was one of the punishments is if you if you disobey the rules, they could they could you have to stay inside the house all week, like you couldn't leave. Well, you had you could only go out to go to lessons and dinner and things but you couldn't, you couldn't leave to go socialise, you couldn't like just go for a walk. And, and I was just thinking back about this about how, obviously, this was quite a while ago now, but how I'm sure this punishment still goes on, actually. But how how damaging that would be for a child's mental health to be stuck inside. And how obviously now that everyone has lived that and now that everybody knows the damaging effects that it can have on people, but to be enforcing that as a form of punishment is I think, I don't know, just kind of, especially since it was always a punishment, really stupid things like ordering a pizza or something. It didn't quite fit the crime. Luke: Like a prison

sentence. Naomi:

It is and that was that that was an accepted punishment. And it was it was sort of like, do something out of the rules and we'll damage your mental health. Gary: I'd have been banged up all the time. Throw away the key! The

naughty schoolboy 100%. Naomi:

I don't know it's a funny one. And you know, is it hopefully that people are being more considerate and thinking more about how these affect people because I think for for a long time people people assume that, I guess the old view about midlife crisis that's a 40 year old person thing. Until then your life is carefree. And you know if anybody who's having a breakdown is obviously a weirdo and um, and you know, it doesn't affect children or anybody under 50, who didn't buy a new sports car.

Gary Wills:

I think one of the things, the key things is is is that, you know, I mentioned it earlier is that I probably masked it, you know, and was, maybe the just wasn't key life experiences like that were happening, there were maybe a few happening here and there, but you know, an early age, you don't really come into maybe loss quite generally, you know, well, I know that it can happen, but, you know, key sort of moments like deaths, like, funerals, or whatever it is, right. Okay. And, or illnesses, whatever. And, and I just think the, you kind of just get through them in your 20s. But the older you get, and the more of these things you start seeing, it's, you know, it just becomes too much, you know, and like I say that coffee cup just sort of overflows. But it was still there in your 20s, it just wasn't happening, maybe as much as what it does, it may be in your 30s and 40s. And 50s, I can imagine it gets very difficult. But these, you know, identify when these when these moments are actually happening in your life and actually caring for yourself, you know, as early as you possibly can. Because when it does happen in your teens and your your 20s, like, there was a big moment in my life was, which felt, which was probably my first experience with mental health problems. And I just batted it off was my hair was falling out when I was in my early 20s. And it was horrendous, you know, and I was so anxious. I was I was getting to the point that I was literally pulling that the last remaining hairs out of my head and I was doing a Ron Atkinson comb over like to try and save it. And I can always remember going into this nightclub. And I thought tonight I'm going to ask just random strangers, whether they you know, I needed to try and get a confidence boost. Should I keep my hair or should I shave it? And I asked some random girls, and it killed me because this some of the girls like yeah, you know, just telling me what I wanted to hear, Yeah, keep it. Yeah, it looks fine. It looks fine. And then this one girl just told me the truth. And she just went, it looks horrendous! Like, get rid of it. It's a joke. I was like, I was mortified. Absolutely mortified. But the next morning, I accepted it, and I shaved my hair off. And the relief because I accepted it. You know, and I did something about it. I acted on it. I felt so much better. But for years, I was in such a bad place. Like, you know, because of my hair, just my hair, you know, something so, just hair was falling out, but a young man to experience that when your mates are all going around Baldy Garibaldi, and you're like, Oh my god, you know, just just bury me now. This is this is literally killing me. And, you know, you go for a client meeting and then you can feel the sweat coming down. You go, Oh, god, no. Are they looking at that? And all these little things. I was experiencing massive mental health problems then. But I was just, you know, having to bat it off as almost banter. But it was, you know, in my early 20s, that was extremely tough.

Luke Davis:

Yeah, Gary And, gosh that whole banter bit. Because I do look back and reflect on that quite a lot. I think it was kind of normal wasn't around like you just, you had a couple of things about your mates that you'd kind of like would be the things that you jokingly took the Mick out of, but they were probably the things that are the most personal to you. Do you think that had an impact too, as well Gary, kind of in terms of the banter bit?

Gary Wills:

Yeah. Fortunately, I've got like, really cool mates who like they generally, you know, I knew it was just sort of banter but it's on your mind all the time you know, if somebody mentions it, It used to be you know, on your mind and, and stuff like that. But generally, I didn't have a cruel friends or I haven't got cruel friends or anything like that. And they were they were always really supportive. But it was more on the football pitch. You know, you're playing against other teams and they'd absolutely ridicule me and stuff like that. And, you know, lads in the office, the banter when the competition was rife and stuff like that, you know, they're trying to get one up on you. It was. Yeah, yeah. Them moments in in that was that that was probably the first time I really started to see anxiety, which then brought on maybe, I started worrying about being in closed spaces and stuff like that. So I didn't like being you know, if I was if I went into a bar, I'd be like, Oh, my God, I need to get to the front of the bar so I can get the drink and then I can go sit down, and I'd be panicky, like, really panicky and mates would say, Just calm down Gary, just calm down. Now I understand it, you know, generally now when I go into a bar, I'm pretty relaxed, it's pretty chilled. But I will if I feel like that i think you know what, I'm just gonna go sit down and let somebody else order it. Well now you have to just do App Service anyway. So it's like, you can't get to the bar. So it's absolutely a win winner for me.

Naomi:

Thank you for sharing that about your hair, I think it's something that really isn't talked about enough about people losing their hair, because this happens to everybody, right? Not just not just men, women as well just accept it as a fact of life. Oh, that's how it is when you gain up. But no, it's a completely distressing thing. And, you know, it happens to, you know, it could be anything, any of those things, and they all, it is not talked enough about how this can really affect your self confidence and just your daily life, you know, going outside thinking, Oh, God, is everybody looking at the fact that my hair, you know, does it look alright, bla bla bla and feeling conscious, oh, I don't want a picture taken, you know, maybe someone can see it. And just, you know, being taunted, Kind of. That's just how it is that just life you're just getting old, or you're just a man, or you know, or just unlucky or something like that. Yeah, it's something that is, is very much just accepted that you just have to get on with it, and that they wouldn't cause any distress at all. But I think anybody who would be going through that would be experienced any kind of distress, or any kind of, you know, discomfort about that, really. But and you know, even just the banter, comments as well. I don't know, if you. So you mentioned that you had your friends who were very kind and supportive, has there been any other sort of support that you've used, that's been helpful in coping with mental health at all?

Gary Wills:

Yeah, so when I obviously was off work, I started I started doing counselling, so calls with a counsellor, which really helped me through the procedure, I, through the process, I had decided to take Citalopram to help alleviate the anxiety that I was feeling. And I've got to say, that has been really helped me, you know, I've got to December of last year, and I thought I was fixed. You know, I thought it was done. And, you know, I've only been on them last six months, six, seven months. But clearly, you know, that wasn't to be and i had somebody actually warn me that, you know, I think this is a bit too soon, just are you sure. And, you know, within about four or five weeks, I put myself back onto them because the anxiety levels were just creeping back in go launching a new recruitment business and, you know, the pressures of lockdown three and everything like that, it just became, again a bit too much. So accepting it again, and just, you know, what, this is just a part of my life at the moment, you know, continuing to talk to people like setting up this furlough charity was was absolutely great. And, you know, we have like a buddy, almost like a buddying system where if anybody is feeling low, we have we have a pact within our community that we tell each other. So one of the one of the one I've been struggling a little bit lately with this a couple of things which are going on in my life at the moment, which are quite stressful. You know, I had to tell the group, you know, guys girls on I am struggling at the moment, but me actually saying that to the community to the group actually helped me, you know, because, again, I'm getting it off my chest and all of these lovely people with who were the volunteers, actually were, you know, checking in on me all the time, are you okay? You know, fancy a walk and talk? And, you know, just getting me out of getting me out of bed again, you know, and actually just walking around the block, talking to somebody that you trust, you know, just supporting me, you know, was absolutely, like, crucial, vital, because I had that support layer, which now, you know, at the start of this call, I said this morning, when we go on this, I felt like about a six and a half, you know, just talking about this now, I'm like a seven and a half, eight, I feel I feel so much more upbeat and positive. Because, you know, I know there's two people I'm talking to here, we're like, super positive, you've got my back, you know, and it's almost like a little mini counselling session in itself, talking about, you know, the journey that it's been on, you know, so talking certainly helps.

Luke Davis:

Yeah it does doesn't it. I think it's so powerful you said there about the support community that you've built for yourself and I think it's almost like that the acceptance that there isn't a destination with this isn't it. I think when we when when you have a struggle when you suddenly feel a bit better, it's kind of like okay, cool, I'm back or whatever back means. I think that's the dangerous bit where you can then like relapse really fast because you go back to the old habits or the old things. And I think the more and more you start to realise, Oh, is it just an ongoing thing that I need to like, keep a check on and actually having good people around me that have got my back, as you say, Gary, is really, really important to that. And that's the thing that I've found since kind of by being more open about being vulnerable is, wow, gosh, like you show some vulnerability, the help and love that you get back is kind of like, well, what were you What were you so scared of? It's that fear of the fear or the fear of the fear of, and if you can break that cycle, just go OK I'm feeling vulnerable, Very rarely, or if you if you do get bad response, you're around the wrong people. But I think almost invariably, you're going to get an amazing response aren't you , people are going to be there for you.

Gary Wills:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, and it's not to be ashamed of, you know, allowing you letting your guard down, you know. Actually, I find it is more of a, you know, a strength, that gives me fuel to be able to kick on further, you know, that I'm not hiding that emotion, you know, that I'm tackling it head on, it's more I look at it as an act of bravery that, you know, yeah, I'm not okay. But if I, if I can talk about it, if I can, maybe help somebody else along the way, if somebody can maybe help me, because I know, maybe I'm not quite right, you know, that suffering that I'm going through, will probably get shortened. Because you're suffering in silence, will just linger. Will just linger and linger and linger. Whereas if you just tackle it head on, and you can talk to people, and they can support you, you can support them, you know, it will fast track your recovery.

Luke Davis:

I love that you said act of bravery. I think that's such an important way of um, I think particularly for men, this kind of notion of masculinity and showing weakness, I think is kind of like can be can feel so alien, but actually, like an act of bravery right, saying I'm not okay, that's a brave so brave thing to do.

Gary Wills:

Yeah, you know, please don't think that's me being saying I'm brave or anything like that. Or arrogant, you know, this is, you know, this is just, I think sometimes when you can sort of step back and think, you know, what, I am going to allow people to see a part of my vulnerable side, to actually make me stronger. Yeah, that can go a long, long way.

Naomi:

Exactly. I mean, nobody wants to be friends with somebody who's perfect all the time. And there's no in a world. That's how we fall in love with these, these, these characters or these people. live with me. Right, let's get out now. You know, non romantic platonically. You know, that's how we, we connect with other people is when they show us their vulnerable side, you know, we feel so much more warm to people. I think that, you know, for a lot of poeple our natural altruism kicks in, you know, we want to help and we want to listen to people on when they when they come to us and things. So that's, you know, it's very good point about vulnerability and bravery. And it just opens that avenue with other people. And, you know, maybe you never know, maybe even allows them to talk about things that they've been through that you don't know about as well. And on that note, I think it's now a good time to take a break. So we'll speak to you listeners right after the break.

Unknown:

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Naomi:

So we've just talked a lot about support. And really getting that, you know, the hardest thing is getting to talk about it. What role can these employers play, for example, in talking about this, because this, we're talking a lot about sort of more intimate spheres, so friends, sort of peer to peer colleagues and even family but how can employers influence this, this fear that helping the can get to helping people?

Gary Wills:

Personally, I think every single company should have a Mental Health First Aider I'd love to see it become, you know, a regulation that you have to have somebody on site. I nearly set up a recruitment business to be for placing Mental Health First Aiders into into companies. But I just think it was maybe a little bit too soon, although I think somebody is going to do that. And maybe I will do that at some point. Because I see there'll be a massive shortage in the demand for decent qualified mental health counsellors First Aiders. I would love to see businesses not just having a Mental Health First Aider but actually, you know, who is an employee who is actually maybe the HR manager or whatever it is, I would actually look to see somebody who is designated that is their job, they are paid 60,000 pounds a year or whatever it is okay to actually be the mental health consultant for the company where anybody can lean on that person. And maybe, you know, when I say one person, depending on, you know, how many employees you have, maybe that be a team of people that, you know, there is activities, which are created by this mental health expert, or experts, and there's check ins, and there's counselling available. So you've actually got somebody on site, or on zoom, or wherever you want, wherever you need it, you can book time in and actually have designated time. So, you know, that, for me, is the most powerful way of actually how can we safeguard our employees, when you've actually got presence on site, and it's not outsourced. You know, through a mental health platform, which just don't get me wrong, they're great. They're a good start. But I think if somebody knew who you were, like, knew what makes you tick, like, What does what what makes Luke tick? When, when, when should I see the signs that, you know, when should I check in with him, or I haven't spoken to him for a little while. You know, it's mandatory, you know, almost that you have these, these check ins to check that you're okay. And the employee can feel the love, they can feel that actually that their company does care, they're investing in me. They're investing in, you know, my safety. You know, I really hope that one day and I think in 10 years time, we will be at that point. And, you know, there'll be recruitment businesses all over the country specialising in that. I can see it happening,

Luke Davis:

I love that vision of the future, Gary and I 100% support that. I think I think I can definitely see there's been a huge shift. If I think back to kind of how employers would treat mental health issues 20 years ago, it was definitely when I first started working, it was definitely weakness. And there was this notion of, you shouldn't be bringing baggage to work like that was like a, you know, used to hear people say that, or HR would say that, it's like, oh, well, then they're not really cut out for this because they can't separate their life from from work. And I think, I think we've realised now or I hope companies have realised now is like, you're employing a person, like that person comes with whatever that person is coming with. And it's going to be loads of good stuff, which is amazing for the job. And then there's going to be the real life stuff that comes with that, too. So I think Mental Health First Aid, I'm a huge, huge supporter of and I think is brilliant first step, and actually the charity Matt Palmer Trust I'm involved with, we do a lot of , where we pay for people to get Mental Health First Aid trained. And it's always a bit of a dilemma that I've got, because obviously, a lot of these companies could afford to train their own people to be Mental Health First Aid trained, but the way I see it is, is that sometimes they kind of need to see what the future looks like to actually move forward. So having some other employees albeit paid for by a charity, that then go back to the company, you're actually being supportive, and companies can see the positive outcomes from from being supportive, I think is is really, really important. And I think also just like, make it like make it okay, like make having a mental health issue as normal as I've got a bad cold. I'm not coming in today. And I think we're doing your best to remove that stigma. I think we are goes will go really, really, really, really long way. And I think I think it involves bravery on the part of the companies. I think some companies are just too scared to open the Pandora's box of Oh, gosh, I wonder how many people in our company are struggling? Well, guess what they are. They're struggling already. So you might as well open up the Pandora's box and deal with it, rather than running away from it, I think.

Gary Wills:

Yeah, talking about the we've completely changing as well. So we talked about like the cold aspects, right? So I watched the video that me and my friend cut. We made about five years ago, right? And this is where the mentality or hope continues to change about, you know, it changes to the mental health side of it, because it's certainly changing. If anybody has a cold now, they won't come into the office, right? You know, whereas five years ago, I cut a video, we made a video, and I'm on the on the phone to a florist, because my friend was called Gary Breeze, right? Lovely, lovely bloke, but he had a cold. We were taking the Mickey out of him because I know it is harsh. We were taking the Mickey out of him. And we sent him some flowers. And we addressed it, we addressed it to to Gary Sneeze, you know, and you look back on that. And I think you know, at the time I found it funny, you know, and don't get me wrong, it was quite funny. We sent him some flowers to his house now because he had a cold whereas now you know, if you've got a cold you do not go in the office, it is accepted that you don't and the same should apply about you know, I'm not saying you know you shouldn't go into the office if you're having mental health problems, right. Okay, but I'm saying is is that we should address it and we should acknowledge it. You know, that it's not a it's not a Mickey take anymore. You know, this is this is serious. This is you know this there is key things going on in people's in people's life. So I really hope that you You know, this pandemic does You know, as much as we've changed now that if somebody's ill has a snivel has a cold as a cough, they don't come into the office. What do you know? What if somebody is not feeling great, What are we doing about that person? You know, who is mentally not not in a good place? How can we help them and not just go Oh, you'll be alright. You'll be fine. You know, come on, crack on. That has to change that has to change.

Luke Davis:

Yeah, absolutely. It does doesn't it. it's because you can barely get there by yourself. Right? You need you need somebody and I think employers probably see the person I mean, think about how much time we spend at work or doing work you're spending more time there than you probably are with your families and your your friends and everything. So actually have having that spotter system at work where it's totally okay, you I'm sure I'm sure you'll spot stuff, particularly, particularly I think, work and trigger like when you're under stress that you probably see the see that stuff more, it's probably harder to, to hide, so yeah, I'm with you, Gary, I hope employers aren't scared of it they see it as a great thing. And I actually think hopefully, it becomes like a an incentive to go and work in environments where you know, your company's got your back, like, cares, cares about you as a human being not just as somebody that does work.

Naomi:

It's very important. That's what we're all about here. As people, rather than just okay, well, thank you very much for saying and then now we're just gonna move on to everyone's favourite reoccurring segments on this podcast, which is the misconceptions bit. So we've got a long list here of a few misconceptions, just common misconceptions that I found about mental health, and we're just going to discuss them, and really discuss about why these are misconceptions. So we've touched on that a bit in the podcast, about mental health being a sign, well problems with mental health being a sign of weakness, if we just want to dive a little bit into that.

Gary Wills:

we kind of addressed it a bit earlier, didn't we, that, you know, I now look at it as as a bit of my strength. You know, again, it's the acceptance, you know, it's not a sign of weakness, you know, this is something which affects everybody. And it's going to challenge somebody, or you or whoever, at some point in your life or, or throughout the whole of your life or just in certain segments. So it is not a sign of weakness at all. 100%. And it's just, I think you just got to get your head around it, you know, that, you know, sometimes when you are going through tough times admitting to yourself, that you're not okay.

Luke Davis:

Categorically, we all have mental health problems, even the most successful people in the world, probably, they have as many if not more than a lot of people because they're trying to maintain success. So yes, not a weakness. It's a positive.

Naomi:

Fantastic. Okay, so the next one is, is a really well, ironic favourite of mine, which is only people without friends that need therapists. And when I think about this one is, you know, it's very cliche, but I think about this episode of sex and the city, which probably ended in about 1997, or whatever it was, and it is episode I don't know if you've ever seen this, but the main character basically just become so obsessed with talking about their experiences with with relationships, and their friends are just absolutely sick of them. And they say that you need to go to a therapist, you know, and then this person says, you know, Sarah Jessica Parker's character says, I don't need to go to a therapists, I just need better friends. I don't if that would go down well, now, and of course, you know, sitcom-style, she only goes to tries therapy one time then quits, because I think she says it's not for her. So yeah, if we just want to discuss this statement,

Luke Davis:

I think I think it's the stigma around therapy, for some reason that like it's because you're broken or you you're lonely or isolated or whatever. I mean, I, I've seen a therapist and a number of occasions in my life, and I now make sure I have access to one even when I don't necessarily need one. Even just like the knowing that I'm just a phone call away from somebody who can not judge me in any way shape or form. Just because they're, there nothing other than to listen, I think is like really critical and actually, I think is much easier talking to a therapist and his friends because friends, like you have other relationships with them. They're not there just to cope with your problems. I think I think it's a beautiful thing to have a therapist.

Gary Wills:

Yeah. Exactly. with you on that your friends can help guide you along the way and support you and, you know, tackle moments that you're going through there and then and give you advice, but, you know, talking to an unknown, somebody that you probably, you know, never meet again, and just getting it off your chest. It really does sort of help. It certainly does help me. You know, when there's challenges that I'm going through, yeah. 100% you know, Definitely say, friends or no friends, you know, if you can gather some support 100%, go and get it.

Naomi:

And then you can leave the friend section part of having fun or doing other things or creating meaningful conversations. But other things, but I think that, you know, both he touched on the fact that having a professional there who is impartial outside of the situation, who might be able to give you a total perspective, because obviously, all your friends they have certain life experiences, certain biases, certain viewpoints about things that might also work for you, or might also be the most helpful. And all they can do is just support and guide you towards help. But having having a therapist is not a replacement of friends and friends are not a replacement for therapy. And it's a very different functions. Here we are, here's a good one. Yeah, you're either really mentally healthy, or mentally unhealthy. So problems. So a little bit, a little bit of a dichotomy here, between one or the other.

Gary Wills:

And, well, it depends how you look at it, to be fair, cuz I've, I've realised that you know, I am mentally healthier, when I am fitter as a person. So it's like a healthy heart means a healthy head. That's the way I kind of look at it. So trying to, you know, I've noticed that exercising really does improve my morale, my, my mental strength, my resilience. When I'm when I'm most active, you know, when I'm most you know, fit, when I maybe got a goal or a target like a half, you know, whether it's a 5k 10k, half, marathon marathon, whatever it is, when you're trying to sort of focus on something and you're really in the zone on your exercise, or whatever it is yoga, whether it's the hit sessions, you know, you're in that sort of that three, four days a week, when you just smashing it. Nine times out of 10 you're gonna you're gonna be feeling a lot better because your heart is healthier, which means your head is going to be healthier as well.

Luke Davis:

Yeah, there's a big physical connection isn't there with mental health and anxiety. Before we started this, I was saying I was an eight out of 10. Today, I was probably a six when I started the morning, but I went and forced myself to have a 5k run and that's what got me to the to the 8 out of 10. So I 100% agree with that. I think the only thing I think you're saying Naomi about the dichotomy of it is that I think it's unhelpful to look at it in those binary terms. Because I think sometimes like, trying to measure anxiety with stress with confidence with esteem, like these are all different things, like we whack it all in a big pot and say, I'm either feeling overall good about that or overall bad about that. I just think I just think it's just not how it really works and there's just so much going on all the time. I think if you think about it is it's just health and I do things to support the health of it or when I'm not feeling so good, I'm aware of it and I can do things to try and feel more healthy. I think that would be better because I think we're we're so binary and everything these days is like good or bad healthy unhealthy, you know, slow or fast or it's just it's just not real.

Naomi:

Absolutely but acceptance of the complexity of life and like you said that you can be feeling really good about one area of your life or one particular facet and then another area not so much and you know if we say it's just good or bad we're kind of reducing those struggles in betwee. This one we touched on a little bit earlier it's about children don't experience mental health problems.

Luke Davis:

I wish that was true. I mean, you only got to look at a child there you can you can see you can see they got all all sorts going on worries fears will they be liked? Do my parents love me? When's my next meal next meal coming from? They have they have the same mental health challenges that everybody has. In my opinion.

Gary Wills:

Yeah, and more so because when we when, when we were growing up, we didn't have the element of social media and stuff like that. So the personal pressure that the children put themselves under now with blooming TikTok, YouTube, YouTubers, and everything like that, that this looks like the amazing world and everything like that, and how many likes Can I get and all that jazz. And yeah, I really hope that changes soon that it isn't based on you know, how you look and stuff like that, you know, it's the softer things is more of more of importance.

Naomi:

Yeah, absolutely. Children face, you know, just so many pressures and in a way that they are more vulnerable because they cannot express their own feelings yet. And they can't express their their needs very clearly in a lot of cases. So, you know, there's much more difficulties there with dealing with mental health and with understanding their own emotions. You know, I feel happy today or I think my mom loves my brother more than me or any of those things. It can be very difficult to voice as a child and to even understand what you're what you're feeling. And I said direct instruction for parents. Here we go this last one, which is, I can't do anything for a person with a mental health problem.

Gary Wills:

No, it's nonsense. There's so much you can do. And just being there for them is probably the most powerful thing, you know, just offering them support. Just randomly turning up at their door, just knocking on the door and just just, you know, just saying, Can I go, let's go for a walk, let's just go for a walk around the block, you know, and just being there for that person. my mates have been absolutely amazing, you know. Incredible, you know, keeping in touch with me lately, just making sure that that I'm okay with what's going on and everything like that in my life. So it certainly helped me. So that's just, It's a given really, isn't it? Let's be honest. You know, it's, yeah, you've got to be there for one another.

Luke Davis:

Yeah there's so much you can do. And I guess kind of expanding on that train of thought a little bit. There's something I'm really liking, which I'm seeing people talk about more and more is that thinking about your friendships like it's okay that they show up when they're able to show up. And I think this is such an important part, I think can go can go wrong. For people, as I went, a friend starts to struggle, they're not the same, they kind of start saying no to going out with you. And it just starts to become a bit more, you know a bit more of an introvert a bit more introspective. And actually, I think being a real friend or being a true friend is like don't judge them for that. I don't take that personally, I think about that's unusual. Wonder why I wonder why they're doing that. And like, just just be positive, just be there. And like, don't don't expect them to do everything on your terms. And I think that that's the thing I'd say that you can do for somebody. Yeah, definitely.

Naomi:

Yeah, I agree. Absolutely. You know, we've all learned well, we've all been in conversation about being there for somebody doesn't actually mean, being there, 24 seven, give you give as much yourself that you can't give but you've got to, you've got to keep some for yourself. You can't pour from an empty glass and supporting somebody depends on how you can support and how they want to be supported. And I think the, the root of the misconception with this one is the fact that people think that helping somebody will be removing the problem. That's not really the point. The point is supporting somebody to the point where they you know, and helping them feel comfortable that they can deal with the problem themselves. It's not, you know, removing it for them, per se.

Luke:

But you're not a fixer are you No. Naomi: Definitely not. Yeah, so that I think that's the end of the misconceptions bit. I just want to thank you both so much for coming on speaking today. You shared a lot of stories, a lot of heart. And, yeah, I really want to say thank you very much for taking the time out. Where can we find both of you? And you know, how can people follow you or get in touch at all?

Gary Wills:

Personally, you can find me on LinkedIn, if you look for the bald recruiter Gary wills. There's a couple of recruiters out there with my name actually, but if you look for the bald guy, that's me. Yeah, I run a business called Talent today, which is a recruitment company, which is specialising in placing IT basically delivering IT projects, so anything project managers, programme managers, business analysts, so if you're kicking off an IT project, I would love to hear from you if you're hiring. On the flip side, if you need some mental health support through your job search, check out Ferlan.com, which is obviously the non for profit charity that we set up through the pandemic, which is yes, still in play.

Luke Davis:

Awesome. What an amazing thing to set up during the during the pandemic and I'm from from my side, please feel free to check out the Matt Palmer Trust that's matt Palmer trust.org.uk. We're currently looking for volunteers who are keen to become Mental Health First Aiders. And I guess the only commitment really is to two days that you can take out of your work it's all done virtually. And then commit to supporting wherever it is that you work in, in providing mental health support. So anyone who wants to be funded, please please check it out and all the details are there.

Naomi:

Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for both being brave, as just talking about and talking about these issues today. Thank you to everyone who's listening at the moment. And will you'll hear from us all in the next podcast. Gary:

Thanks, Naomi. Naomi:

Thank you.

Bame Recruitment:

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