Boys should cry was the resounding takeaway message from a week of events highlighting men’s mental health at our Manchester office.

With suicide now the biggest killer of men under the age of 40 and a large number of men in that demographic working across the business, our Mental Health Committee set out to encourage our male colleagues to open up about how they’re feeling.

The ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ week was anchored around two punchy presentations that offered different perspectives on the topic.

The first of these was introduced by our COO Paul Cooper, who took the opportunity to share his own personal experiences with those in attendance. His participation was something that Mental Health Committee leader, Julia Shepherd, felt was crucial to set the tone for the week:

“We were delighted that Paul wanted to be involved in the event. It’s important that we lead from the top in embedding our ‘people first’ culture and Paul’s talk, telling people that ‘sometimes it’s OK not to be OK’ really resonated with people who may be struggling with their mental health”.

Paul’s opening thoughts pitched perfectly the opening talk by Steve Picken, an ITV Mental Health Advocate, who movingly shared his experience of anxiety in the workplace and the challenges that has caused for him.

Steve’s brutally honest and uplifting story saw him lift the lid on his own mental health journey, including the support he received from colleagues and how he has gone on to help others who may be suffering in silence.

His experiences really resonated with some of our colleagues who later told us they thought it was the Mental Health Committee’s best event to date.

The week’s other speaker was Andrew Brown from CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a charity set up to fight against suicide and support positive men’s mental health.

Andrew showcased some of the amazing work that the organisation has produced to both support and raise awareness around the issue. He talked about CALM’s work to normalise mental health for men and their efforts to make it as common to talk about depression as it is to talk about a headache.

His insights were also a real eye-opener from a marketing and campaigning point of view as he shared the story behind some of their hugely successful campaigns including the Project 84 initiative with ITV.

The two talks, that were attended by over 100 of the MediaCom North Group team, were complemented with other activities around the building, something that Julia feels were critical to the week’s success:

“We didn’t want this week to be about getting members of staff to go and sit in a room for hours on end. We wanted to do things around the building that would encourage people to stop and think about the subject of men’s mental health.”

Posters dotted around the floors challenged the Manchester team with the type of unsupportive comments traditionally directed at men such as ‘Man Up’ and ‘Grow some balls’.

Meanwhile, on the ground floor, 94 pairs of shoes (kindly donated by men across the agency) brought to life the shocking statistic that an estimated 94 men commit suicide in the UK every week.

While the event focussed on men’s mental health, it was also important to talk about the role that women can play in supporting their male colleagues and partners, as Julia explains:

“The idea was that while the activities would primarily be targeted at men they would also encourage women to look out for the men around them. In particular, the personal stories that some of our colleagues shared via email were told from the perspective of both the man and the woman who supported him. It’s really important for us to encourage women who work in the business to think, ‘Is he alright?’ and ‘Is he displaying signs that he needs to talk to somebody?’. We want to also help women to help men.”

Our Mental Health Committee supports colleagues all year round with the mental health allies’ scheme, with many more events running into next year. Anyone interested in getting involved should get in touch with Julia or any other members of the committee for more information.

If you would like to talk to someone about your mental health, there are details below of some of the organisations you can get in touch with.

The Employee Assistance Programme provides emotional support and counselling.
Call 0800 048 2702

External organisations

Samaritans: www.samaritans.org/

CALM: www.thecalmzone.net/

Shout: www.giveusashout.org/