Today is International Men’s Day, a day to recognise the male role models in our lives, but to also encourage open and honest conversations around mental health.
Suicide rates have rapidly increased over the last decade and it’s sadly, the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
1 in 4 of us experience mental health problems each year, so you are not alone in your worries. With the current climate and restrictions, the support we are used to having may feel absent. So it’s important that we speak up about how we are feeling and support those close to us.
With this year’s theme being ‘Men Leading by Example’ we wanted to share insight and experience from one of our senior leaders within Virgin Media, Rob Evans, Managing Director of Network Expansion.
Here’s what Rob had to say…
2020 has been a difficult year for us all, what steps are you taking to stay connected with your friends and family during lockdown?
What I have realised that is really important during the difficult lock down process is not to become isolated and I make a very conscious effort to maintain close contact with friends, family and my neighbours on a regular and ad-hoc basis – even have my 85 year old Dad using Whatsapp. I use all the usual tools such as Zoom video connections for chatting but more recently we have migrated to doing on line games together via new apps to have a bit more fun whilst we check in with each other. I am often chatting to my neighbours online and catching up on broader community issues to find out what is going on locally and to be able to offer help to those who need it.
What does wellbeing mean to you?
Mental Health and Wellbeing is a subject that is very personal for me having lost a member of my family to mental ill health and it is something I pay close attention to, not just for myself but those around me such as my family, friends and colleagues. Wellbeing for me is about feeling, being and maintaining your best self – which is a tagline that resonates with me and is used on our internal ‘Thrive’ website and provides a great source of information on key wellbeing issues.
How do you take care of your mental and physical wellbeing?
I have always been into physical sports from a young age. My Dad swears to this day I was only brought into this world to play rugby for Wales so that he could get free tickets to the games! I pay particular attention to my physical health (exercise and diet) but also because of the corresponding benefits it has on my mental health. I have changed my diet during the lockdown (no more caffeine and less meat ☹) and I ensure that I do some form of exercise every day whether simple walks in the open air at lunchtime or something more vigorous such as online boot camp exercises in the evening and it always makes me feel good afterwards.
Everyone can find time for a break (take advantage of the 12-1pm lunchtime no email slot, or ensure you incorporate a break within your day) and simply go for a walk and vary it by taking different routes on different days to discover more about your local area.
In terms of mental health, I pay close attention to how I am feeling and do use various tools and techniques such as the Unmind app and Mindfulness as a technique to reduce anxiety when I find myself stressing on a particular issue that I cannot immediately resolve.
There’s a lot of stigma around talking about mental health, what advice would you give to encourage more men to open up about their mental wellbeing?
I think the good news, in my experience at least, is that more and more men are comfortable talking about how they feel. The advice I often give is that you are not alone, there are many others who may be feeling the same way as you on occasion and you will be pleasantly surprised with the help you will receive if you reach out needing support. I don’t mind admitting that I have needed help.
I was not brought up in a particularly close family, my Dad was taught to be a tough cookie and it was not the done thing to talk about feelings as a man or even ask for help at any time as I had to be resilient and support the family. However, more recently, I found myself in some personal difficulty whilst in a challenging relationship with a partner who suffered from a mental health illness.
I did not know where to turn or where to go to ask for help. Ultimately, I decided to call BUPA healthy minds and they were fantastic and recommended that I go for counselling to help me through the personal challenges I faced and deal with the mental health issues I was feeling. This is where I was introduced to various techniques such as Mindfulness and I feel a much stronger person as a result of this experience.
As a leader within Virgin Media, how do you find balance between your busy professional life and home life?
I am very disciplined in the time I assign to work and the time for home life. It is common to find that your home and work life become blended with our current way of working at home and it’s not a healthy situation. I make sure that I go through the usual work process and start at the same time each day, take regular breaks and use my 12-1pm slot for lunch, no email and quick bit of exercise and then set myself a clear time to finish in the evening to have dinner and do my evening exercise class or watch a new box set. I have to have down time in the evening to give my brain a rest and not make it feel like I am stuck in a continuous process of work, work, work.
***Are you in need of support? Please seek the guidance you need, there are a variety of helplines available here.***