8 May 2017

Lawrence JonesHow are you? It’s a question we ask all of the time but it is not really accepted to say anything other than ‘great thanks, how are you?’. And according to statistics, us men are the worst at opening up. So it was refreshing to see Princes William and Harry speaking out last month, discussing their mental health struggles following the death of their mother, Lady Diana.

The Princes’ launch of the Heads Together campaign ahead of the London Marathon sparked a wave of celebrities and sports stars including Rio Ferdinand, Stormzy and Freddie Flintoff to speak out and share the pressures that they have experienced on their own mental health.

Unfortunately, Piers Morgan reared his head once again; sharing an opinion that no-one wants to hear, saying: “I’m not convinced by this new trend of male public soul-bearing. Time for our gender to get a grip, methinks. Life’s tough – man up.”  In my opinion, real strength comes from opening up. It is this male bravado attitude that shields real, true inner feelings. I would argue that Piers has some serious hang-ups of his own, but is easier to shield them by attacking others.

It’s one thing being controversial to increase your own profile, but promoting the stigma of mental health issues in men is incredibly damaging. More than 1,300 19-35 year-old men take their own lives every year in England alone. Suicide is a bigger killer of young men than road accidents. Encouraging people to speak out if they are struggling is extraordinarily important.

I was proud to see Sam Jones, MD of fast-growing Manchester agency Tunafish Media, speak out about his struggles with anxiety in a recent interview with BusinessCloud. Stepping up and starting the conversation is the only way we can change attitudes like Piers’ and help people to understand that it is ok to talk about how you feel when you’re struggling. Speaking out about mental health issues does not bring masculinity into question.

I myself have had struggles over the years, which I will be sharing in my book (if I ever complete it!) and some of the podcasts that are due to come out, and it is to be expected. Growing a fast-paced business it is never going to be plain sailing all of the time and over the years we’ve come up with a formula that has helped us keep our head above water.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and it is all about raising awareness and letting everyone know that it is ok to talk about mental health. I applaud Sam for kick-starting that conversation in the Manchester business arena.

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