I heard an interview on the radio last week.
It was the middle of the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and they were talking to Danny Rose, the England and Tottenham defender.
(I’m a Leeds fan, by the way. So it definitely wasn’t a good week for me to be talking about football.)
In that interview, Rose revealed that last year he’d been in discussions with another club to look at the possibility of joining them. During those discussions, a representative from the club had said this:
‘The club would like to meet you, just to check that you’re not crazy.’
I couldn’t believe it.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Rose was widely praised last year after going public about his battles with depression while suffering through a season of injuries and family tragedy – openly and honestly discussing his diagnosis and how it led to him seeing a psychologist.
And what was the result of this transparency and honesty?
His next employer suggested that he needs to prove he’s ‘not crazy’.
This isn’t right – and it screams of a cultural problem within football.
I keep hearing about how important it is for celebs and sports stars to talk about their mental health issues. And of course it’s helpful to see people like Prince Harry and Prince William speaking openly about the problems their mother dealt with.
But in my opinion, a controversial issue isn’t truly destigmatised until everyone feels able to talk about their troubles.
We need ‘normal’ people – not just the rich and famous – to be comfortable and willing to speak out about the challenges they face. Because when wealthy royals and cherished sports stars talk about mental health, there’ll always be someone who says this:
‘What’s he got to be depressed about?’
But that’s just not how things work.
Mental health issues can affect anyone at any time – regardless of their social status or their success in their career. And it’s vital that you and I are able to put up a hand at a time when we might be struggling.
I’ve had a few bouts of depression throughout my life. I’ve had to take some antidepressants, and I had to have some counselling. And I’ve experienced the stigma that comes along with that.
As a young man, I was working in a sports shop as a sales assistant. One day, the assistant manager came up to me and said:
‘So, which of your personalities am I talking to today, then?’
Naturally, I complained to the management. They escalated the problem up to the regional manager, and he gave me his formal and professional response:
‘He was just joking with you. Suck it up.’
I refused to work with that assistant manager, and a few days later, my P45 dropped through the door. No reason given. No thanks or apology.
I always assumed it was just easier to get rid of me than to get rid of the assistant manager. But that company went out of business years ago, so I’ll never know for sure.
To be fair, that was around twenty years ago – and I’m sure (and I hope) the landscape has changed since then. But since that day, I resolved that I’d always be available to my colleagues, and give them the support they need when they need it.
That’s why at Coolr, we ask our people how they’re doing.
My CEO makes himself available for chats to every single person in the company. We run a bot that anonymously asks colleagues how they’re feeling, and then alerts our senior management if there’s a dip in any area of the business.
We have nights out for team bonding. And if someone doesn’t want to go, we don’t say ‘Stop being boring’. We say ‘Is there any reason why you don’t want to come out?’.
Poor mental health costs UK businesses £35 billion each year. And while I want my guys to work really hard for the company, I won’t let them work more than a few extra shifts.
If someone needs to be flogged to meet a deadline, that means something went wrong. It means I didn’t size the work correctly, someone cocked up in the delivery stage, or the sales team overpromised on what we’d do.
I love the fact that my team will pull together to fight a fire. But if it happens too often, or for too long, then that becomes detrimental to their well-being – and it’s masking an underlying issue that I should be looking to fix.
I’ve spoken previously about how Workplace and Coolr have enhanced my life and made it possible for me to be near my family while still delivering for my clients.
And if you ask me, there’s nothing that will move a business forward faster than taking care of its people.