Tell us a little about your background and about InsideOut
InsideOut is a social enterprise I founded almost three years ago, as a vehicle to help smash the stigma of mental ill-health in the workplace. I experience bipolar disorder and for many years I learnt to manage my condition – but did so under the radar because of a fear of how I’d be perceived by friends, by colleagues, by clients. That was the stigma of mental illness.
In 2017 I saw that people were being more open about their mental health challenges – Princes William and Harry were speaking out about it, which really started to catalyse mental health on the workplace agenda. I thought, why am I hiding my psychotherapy in my diary every time to go and see my therapist, when I’ve got a team that I respect and love?
I shared my story and the reaction I got back from that was overwhelmingly positive. People were not only empathising and showing support, but they were sharing their experiences back. It got me thinking about how stigmatised mental ill-health is and how many people suffer in silence – and I thought, I’m going to get involved.
So, I looked around, I listened, and I spoke to anyone who’d speak to me on the scene. I kept hearing the same message; that we don’t have enough senior business leaders as role models, who are willing to open up about the challenges of mental illness. We’ve got Ruby Wax, Alastair Campbell, a few sports professionals… but we don’t have enough senior business leaders.
I founded InsideOut (which is a not-for-profit) with the mission to smash the stigma by showcasing senior business leaders who are open about the fact that they have a challenge. It’s CEO’s, Partners, MD’s – people who are in a position of leadership and are prepared to say that they experience a mental health challenge. When a leader speaks out, it facilitates a change of culture.
I’m now taking this concept globally, and my mission is to normalise the conversation in the workplace. The leadership element is super-important because it does facilitate change.