Stigma is the scariest part of Live National TV #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Sometimes I wonder if I should hide my identity. If employers and local gossipers google my name and become frightened of the monster I must be. It's a corner of my psyche I fight with every day like the anxiety of the withheld caller on your mobile phone. It can be really hard. Sometimes I apply stigma to myself through this fear.

I imagine going on Live TV is really hard but its even harder when you tell the world, with your face and name forever seen, that you tried to take your own life. I was asked to go on Victoria Derbyshire's show. I was overwhelmed. Going to the BBC and being on TV is an awesome level of epic. Plus I have been a shortlister for the Mind Media Awards for the past two years and have been very impressed with the shows efforts to talk about mental health. Using the recent storyline in Coronation Street, where the main character has been suffering suicidal thoughts for several months culminating in taking his own life, the show wanted to discuss whether openly talking about suicide using soaps is right and the way Coronation Street handled it.
"Just because it's hard to talk about, doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it."
I was nervous. As we all would be. But this is putting my face on national TV. Not everyone reads the newspapers or listens to the radio but everyone would see this. What if I freeze? What if I'm stupid? What if no one cares?


I made sure to get into Central London really early and my faithful Bluted helped keep me calm. I'd rehearsed in a mirror some of the key points I'd wanted to make but also an idea of what answers I would give to each question. The other guests and everyone on the production team were amazing. I felt put at ease. The makeup lady was lovely and engaging and the people on the floor cracked a few jokes to help us feel at home. I met my fellow guests, one from the Samaritans and one from the RadioTimes. The massive studio is much smaller in real life. Suddenly video clips from the soap are being played and Victoria is introducing herself to me.

Then it clicked. Everything fell into place. I didn't completely forget there were cameras but the years of amdram and being the pantomime dame paid off. I said what I felt and mixed in the phrases I had rehearsed with my reflection. Before I knew it, I was off. We spoke how respectful the show was and how fantastic and level the actors were. I was astounded by how this soap wasn't an over the top stereotypical soap - which is a difficult thing to do. The full video is below.

I have fond memories of "Mark Fowler" from BBC's EastEnders and I remember how he thrived, not just survived, with HIV. His story was hopeful, even with the traditional heightened drama of the soap world. We've seen the main character take his own life, now I want a character like Mark Fowler to give mental health the approachable and thriving view.

As quick as we started, it was done. Our mic packs were off and we were making our way out of the building. I had to get the tube straight back to Uxbridge and get to work!

I was buzzing. Maybe it was the tinted moisturiser but it wasn't until I was sat on the tube that the sweat started pouring.


I checked my social media. What did the world think?
The tweets were lovely. New followers proud that I have spoken so well. People sharing pictures of their TVs with my face on their Facebook walls. This is including people I had and had not prewarned to watch BBC2. For the next few days, I was on top of the world. I had spoken eloquently, made the points I'd wanted and no one hated me. In fact, people I barely knew or didn't know at all were sharing my tweets and video clips.

That feeling last two days. Maybe I'm sad but I had started to investigate who had posted or 'liked' my posts and tweets - or even those posted by others. The same few names were missing. From every post their names were not there. Names I felt should have been liking and sharing. Names I felt should have been shouting from the rooftops. Names, that if our places were swapped, I would have been sharing and liking their posts and even dropping them a text message of "well done". These were names I wanted to be proud of me. Yet one of them "hadn't had the time" to watch any of my live TV debuts.

I launched a poll on twitter asking if I'm an embarrassment. That's the only possibility, right? Why else would you ignore such an achievement? Unless I'm not special or important to those few names. They had the effort and time to post about other things.  Things I consider them not as important as the male suicide crisis let alone moi on live national news TV. It really hurt me.

Therapy from years ago tells me to confront it. I think my life experience and maybe a bit of "Eureka from RuPaul's Drag Race" tells me to focus my mind and energy on things I can control. Why waste your energy on toxic feelings or people? I can learn not to expect this kind of interaction from those names and they won't hurt me again. I am learning that if those names are embarrassed by my life and triumphs, then maybe they don't need to be in my life. You have the power to choose who is in your life.

My future is strong. My fiancee and I get married in April next year. Those who support us and love us, who celebrate us; they are our true family.

I won't let those names hurt me anymore.

But it goes to show, the worst part of Live TV or even talking about your experience of mental health, is that there are some people who care more about fear, discrimination and stigma.
Maybe more than they care for you.




Excellence and 3x the Profit? How can #MentalHealth mean success for every business?





Just over two years ago I worked at the UK and Eire HQ for a large multi-national manufacturer. After five years with the company, I was forced to leave – after I tried to kill myself. So how can Mental Health save businesses £9b per year, deliver excellence in products and service and therefore up to 3x the profit?


Matt Streuli's TV Interview with Sky News - August 2017


The Heath and Safety Act treats mental and physical health equally, however, the real world has been slow to catch up. In my situation, I was taking on extra work and new roles to ‘help’ the company keep in profit. Yet new independent research by Soma shows that companies that record and track Mental Health make up to
3x the profit.[1]


I did everything my HR said, however, they didn’t do ¾ of the ‘reasonable adjustments’ suggested by their own Occupational Health Doctor. When I returned to the office with my final sick note from my GP, feeling duty bound to turn my out of office on and beg for my colleagues to cover my urgent duties, I was called in to see a senior manager. When I explained the situation and handed him my sick note he replied: “No one else had a problem”.
"In classrooms, in workplaces, around the dinner table, between friends even between strangers. People are now really talking about their own wellbeing and looking to help those around them. And while just talking doesn’t cure all ills, we are now shattering the silence that was a real barrier to progress. ”
– Prince Harry, Mind Media Awards 2017
The problem is that everyone does have this problem. The biggest killer of men and young men is not cancer, drugs or car crashes. The biggest killer of men in our country is suicide. In fact 75% of all suicides are male. Research released in August 2017 by Mind, the Mental Health Charity in England and Wales, show that men are twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues. Why does this matter to HR and CEOs? Research announced by one of Prince Charles’ charities in October 2017 showed that Work and the Workplace was the cause of 60% of mental health issues as surveyed by YouGov – regardless of gender.[2]

At a basic level, however, the solution is simple. Companies want to generate profit. This is done by creating a product or service and then nurturing its growth until it reaches the pinnacle of what it can achieve. We should be doing the same with our staff. As humans, we want what is best for ourselves, our families and each other. Big businesses are starting to realise that by nurturing and supporting their staff, they can mould their employees into what is best for the individual and the company; flexibility, compassion and ambition is a two-way avenue. 
"In the sphere of mental health alone I have found it to be quite extraordinarily supportive. What you do for yourselves and your friends and strangers can not be overstated."
@stephenfry , Mind Media Awards 2017
Stress and other mental health problems are the second biggest cause of sickness absence, accounting for 70 million lost working days every year.[3] This sick leave plus the staff turnover costs £26 billion every year[4]. It is cheaper to support and nurture your staff and in turn you will harvest up to 3x the profits. 

How can a driver get to the podium if the pit crew can’t face another day? 

Studies also show that simply spending 80p on health promotion and intervention saves £4 in costs due to absenteeism, temporary staff and presenteeism[5]. In my case, it would have also saved the cost of expensive Solicitors and a payout – let alone the Employer's embarrassment with Staff and Customers

The Centre for Mental Health has proven that simple steps to improve the prevention and early identification of issues should enable UK organisations to save 30% or more of current mental health and stress-related costs, a potential saving of £9 billion per year.[4] 
If you want to your products and service to bloom with excellence, that has to start with your foundations. That excellence can only be delivered by staff who are nurtured and flourishing themselves.

Search Matt Streuli on HuffPost to read my articles
 How can Customer Service deliver excellence when they live in a "toxic dump" or an "atmosphere of fear"?

Since leaving my ‘hurtful’ employer I have focused on my recovery and returning to work. Aside from my new career in Education and in the Voluntary Sector (for Mind, Time to Change and the Iver Heath Drama Club) I have been working as an advocate. This involves public speaking and representing the struggling, scared, silent workforce - including interviews with LBC, The Guardian, BBC Newsbeat, Paul Ross on TalkRadio and, most recently, Sky News. Compared to that ‘hurtful’ job, I am struggling to make ends meets but: I am healthy, happily engaged to a wonderful woman and I am Alive.

The reason I am writing to you is that YOU and the staff who directly report to you have the power to change your company and save lives. I would like to offer my services to you and your HR team. I would like to work WITH you in helping improve the mindset of your company and management structure to one that wants the best and what is best from and for everyone whether this is through public speaking at your meetings and conferences or on an individual basis. I would also like to support you in working toward an industry standard such as:
> The Mindful Accreditation (a NHS recognised Charter signed by over 1700 companies)
OR
> Joining Mind’s Wellbeing Index (run by the charity Mind, signatures include PepsiCo, Jaguar Land Rover and the Environment Agency)
OR
> signing the Time To Change Pledge (funded by Department for Health and Comic Relief, run by Mind and Rethink. It has over 500 signatures including Three, Thales, Aviva and Heineken.) 
1 in 4 of us will suffer with mental health[6] at any one time, it can affect anyone at any time and 60% of those are ignited by employers hurting us; not getting the best from us.

The question is no longer if you can risk the Employment Tribunal or if you can afford the ‘Reasonable Adjustments’. The question now is that with your competition taking on this mental health battle in search of a healthier workforce and 3x the profits, can you really afford not to?

If you would like to read more I would ask you have a look at the links referenced and at the Mental Health at Work Report Business in the Community (sponsored by Mercer with support from Royal Mail & Heathrow). If you already have Wellbeing and Mental Health First Aid in place, I would love to hear your success stories so I could ‘sing your praises’ elsewhere.

PLEASE send to your HR team and DARE them to take part in this momentum of change.

Read more of my story at: https://mattstreuli.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/BacktoBlog.html

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/10/10/profits-rack-ftse-100-firms-eye-mental-health-study-finds/
[2] http://news.sky.com/story/work-causes-mental-health-issues-in-60-of-employees-11066428
[3] https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/workplace-wellbeing-index/index-201617-findings/
[4] https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/employment-the-economic-case
[5] http://www.mindfulemployer.net/business/cost-business-benefits/
[6] https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/about-mental-health


If you need help finding support, call the Mind Infoline between 9am and 6pm Monday to Friday on 0300 123 3393 or visit mind.org.uk If you want to talk to someone right now, Samaritans provide a listening ear on 116 123




Employers are 'harming' male mental health!

Disposable Workforce? - Pinterest/John Holcroft
Research released today by Mind, the Mental Health Charity in England and Wales, show that men are twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues caused by their job than women. If you've been reading my blog for while, this will resonate with my story. My previous job caused my mental health to diminish until in 2015 when I tried to kill myself.

I asked for help several times and was signed off work more than once. When I went to the office with the 'latest' sick note and told my senior manager I had been signed off due to stress he replied "No one else has a problem." He even tried to convince me to resign. Despite the reports and advice from the company's appointed Doctor and the evidence from my NHS psychologist and GP, they simply didn't care enough to make minor and cheap changes. I felt disposable. I had been injured, my mental health had been made worse to the point of suicide and yet I was made to feel it was my fault. How can it be my fault for hitting targets, asking for help and reasonable adjustments while trying to keep on ever increasing piles of work?

And yet, as shocking as my story might be, it is not a one-off. Stress and other mental health problems are the second biggest cause of sickness absence, accounting for 70 million lost working days every year.

 In 2016 the family of Dr Rose Polge, 25, called for action to halt the "crisis" affecting trainee doctors after she went missing and took her own life. According to the BBC she is one of three Junior Doctors to go missing or take their own lives related to their employment. One anesthetist wrote on the British Medical Journal website that "Just as safety is everyone's business, so is safeguarding friends & colleagues." 

Meanwhile, a Psychiatrist from Wales wrote:"Every suicide is a potentially preventable tragedy. Each one of my medical school reunions is marked by ...  our fellow med students who are no longer with us - we have lost more to suicide than for any other reason"

My story is just one of the 15,000 in this research that show this 'disposable' use of humans isn't limited to the medical profession or to office workers; it's an epidemic.
The research, which comes from a survey of 15,000 employees across 30 organisations, is released as Mind urges employers to sign up to the Workplace Wellbeing Index 2017/18. 
The new data from Mind also shows that men are less prepared to seek help and take time off than women. Alarmingly it suggests that although men are more likely to have mental health problems because of their job, women are more likely to open up and seek support from their line manager or employer.
 

In the end, I took the company to employment tribunal through ACAS but settled before the first hearing. By this point, it was months after ending up on long-term sick and having my pay cut off, I needed the money. Yet all of this, including my ongoing mental health issues, could have been prevented if the adjustments recommended by the company's Doctor weren't ignored or if the ideas in the Workplace Wellbeing Index were adopted.
(Workplace Wellbeing Index) is a benchmark of best policy and practice when it comes to staff mental health, designed to celebrate the good work employers are doing and to provide key recommendations on the specific areas where there is room to improve.

How can forcing Male staff to suicide make business sense when mental health costs employers £30billion PER YEAR?
For every 80p spent on Mental Health promotion, it has been shown to save £4 on costs (sick pay, tribunals, HR interventions, lost business). According to Mind's 2016/2017 Index, 10% of employees rated their current mental health as currently poor or very poor. Over a quarter said this was due to problems at work, not home.

Thirty organisations have joined the previous Index including the Environment Agency, Jaguar Land Rover, PepsiCo, Deloitte and Barnardo’s. Mind is now calling on forward thinking employers who want a thriving workforce rather than a barely surviving one to sign up and join these companies in the 2017/2018 Index.

If you are an unconvinced Manager or without-heart in HR, then look at the figures - can you afford not to join the Index?
Employers can find out more at www.mind.org.uk/workplace

Matt Streuli is blogger and Actor based in Iver Heath, on the edge of West London. Read more of his story and what happened next by clicking here.




 with thanks to Claire Bennett at Mind's media team. 
For interviews with Mind or myself, please contact the Mind Media Team on 0208 522 1743 or email media@mind.org.uk

  • Mind, the mental health charity, provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. They won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect. www.mind.org.uk I'm proud to be a member.
  • Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am - 6pm, Monday – Friday)
  • In a crisis: Samaritans are open 24/7. Call free from any phone on 116 123