Written by Greg Bridgen-Hammer, Key Account Manager, Novia Financial
As someone who has experienced mental health challenges in the past, I’m a huge believer in the need to look after your mental health, or mental fitness as I like to call it. As the saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’ and that applies equally to your physical and mental wellbeing.
Having worked in financial services for more than a decade, I’ve noticed that men often don’t have a space to talk to each other. Other than work conversations or a bit of banter, it rarely goes beyond that.
Outside of work, men may not have family or friends to talk to about, or want to burden them with, their problems. I’ve been lucky to benefit from therapy in the past and something I’ve learnt from that experience, and from seeing friends struggle, is that having someone to talk to can make a significant difference to your mental health. It can also help people identify when they need to seek professional help rather than have their mental health deteriorate with sometimes tragic consequences.
Here at Novia we’ve already got some great support in place, including our employee assistance programme (EAP) and access to mental health professionals, but I thought about how we could do something slightly different. Inspired by Talk Club – a talking and listening club for men – and with support from them and our People and Culture team, Novia’s ‘Mens Minds Matter’ group was created.
The aim of ‘Mens Minds Matter’ is simply to provide an opportunity for men to get together on a regular basis to talk. It’s not about giving advice; it’s about providing space to be listened to, recognising that there can be great benefits in feeling included in something and simply heard.
At meetings we use a simple, yet effective four questions structure, taken from Talk Club, to help people start talking about how they’re feeling:
1. Start by checking in. How are you? How would you score how you’re feeling today out of 10 and can you explain why this is your number today?
2. What are you happy about at the moment? What are you grateful for? What are the positives in your life? This could be anything from quality time with your loved ones, enjoying your work, booking a trip away etc.
3. What are you doing this week to improve or maintain your mental fitness? Walking the dog, exercising, reading etc?
4. When checking out at the end of the meeting go round the group again and ask…how are you feeling? Has your score changed?
Conversations in our group have included bereavement and loss, self-harm attempts, anxiety, and depression. Anxiety in particular can be difficult to talk about as it’s often used in a derogatory way and is more often associated with women whereas men can suffer just as much.
It can be a tricky to explain the need for male-only spaces given that female-only spaces originated due to men being dominant in public and private spaces. This is changing, but we’re still in a society where gender stereotypes prevail and talking about emotions is seen as something that men generally don’t do.
I’d encourage anyone looking at setting up something similar to go ahead and try it. Try to keep it really simple and don’t expect everyone to get onboard straight away, as one of the biggest challenges is getting people to attend for the first time and to feel comfortable sharing their experiences but stick with it as creating that consistency and reliability can be a draw for people to attend. People may be worried that when they admit to having any kind of mental health issue that it might be used against them in future, so you need to build that trust over time.
My advice to anyone setting up a group is to start purely with a social gathering where people can get to know each other before trying more structured meetings. Our first meeting ended up just being a few of us down the pub and it’s flourished from here. More information can be found at Talk Club