Neil, having been in a position when you approached a stranger on a bridge who wanted to take their own life, what advice would you give to people who are scared of starting these conversations with colleagues?
It can be daunting to bring up subjects of mental health with colleagues. What I have learned is that even a small gesture can have a very powerful impact on people’s lives. The best way to allow people to open up is if they know that you support the subject of managing mental health in your workplace. You could start by being an advocate for any mental health initiative that exists in your company and showing that to speak with you will not hold any shame or stigma.
But do have that conversation if you think it’s important. Remember, you don’t need to have the answers, all you are doing is being able to listen – that alone can save someone’s life!
You have been doing a lot of work with corporates recently. Are you beginning to see more conversations opening and less stigma attached to mental health?
I certainly see a lot of interest in companies and the staff who work there to share stories about their metal health. Stigma still exists. It shouldn’t need to and if employees show their employers that this is something that matters to them, then change will happen and stigma will break down.
We are being contacted by different company’s to engage their staff will mental health on almost a daily basis – this shows how attitudes are really changing at all levels.
As a mental health campaigner, what are your plans for the coming months?
Myself and my campaigning partner Jonny Benjamin are running the London Marathon to raise £100,000 for ‘Heads Together’ charity on April 23rd this year. So I am training for that and fundraising every day!
I speak at many corporate events to raise awareness around key issues and have events booked each week.
Also I work alongside a lot of mental health charities, NHS trusts, universities and also with people who suffer with their mental health to help connect and facilitate relationships. This is really fulfilling and worthwhile.
There is something big in my world that is happening almost every week that I try to make the most impact with.
Picture – Neil Laybourn with Jonny Benjamin who received his MBE on 29th February 2017