INclusiverse is Brand Partnership Group’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) program aimed at driving a truly inclusive and supportive culture.

This is a space where our employees get to share their personal experiences and thoughts on ED&I. By providing a platform for our team members to voice their perspectives without judgment, we can educate and better understand each other to create a more inclusive work environment for everyone.

In this blog post, we’ll be hearing from Steven Wright, one of Blue Square’s Samsung E-Promoter Supervisors. As someone who’s struggled with depression for many years, Steven is a passionate advocate for Men’s Mental Health Awareness. Steven hopes that by sharing his story and methods of managing his mental health, he can help someone who is or knows someone struggling.

Could you share your personal journey with anxiety & depression? How did these conditions first manifest in your life?

I recall intense feelings of low mood during my mid-teenage years, but I was not medically diagnosed with Depression until my time at university back in 2013 – that was really the beginning of my journey in managing my own mental illness and now I am advocating for better Men’s Mental Health Awareness in all areas of our working & personal lives.

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders, affecting around 1 in 6 adults in the UK. It is also associated with other mental health issues, such as anxiety, stress and loneliness.

Across the UK, rates of depression are still significantly higher than prior to the pandemic.

Around 17% of adults in the UK experienced some form of depression in summer 2021, compared to just 10% before the pandemic.

I find myself in 2023, managing my mental illness to much better results; no doubt being aided by my focus on maintaining regular contact with my doctor, friends & family. This support network is key in overcoming some of those darker days where it can be almost impossible to get out of bed.

What were some of the challenges you faced in recognising and acknowledging your mental health issues as a man?

I have been very blessed to have such a supportive network of family & friends around me that nurture a comfortable environment where the topic of mental health has never been taboo.

Despite this, the feelings of impostor syndrome, anxiety and depression remain. A personal challenge I can still find myself facing is to say everything is okay because in my mind I recognise that everyone else has their own struggles too and I would never wish to weigh anyone else down. It’s not surprising then to read that this is the case for most other sufferers of depression.

This is why communication is so important when talking about mental health – not just for men. If we internalise our negative thoughts & feelings, we can fall into a painful spiral of depression that can feel impossible to escape from.

The best thing I ever did was take that first step to speak to someone about the feelings I was experiencing. My quality of life was being affected and by reaching out for help, I was choosing to fight the battle for the life I deserve!

How have you managed your mental health conditions? Have you ever felt excluded from any areas of life because of them?

Managing depression has been an ongoing journey for me for over a decade. Therapy has provided a safe space to express my feelings and learn coping strategies. Medication, under doctors’ guidance, has stabilised my mood. Self-care, including sleep, diet, and exercise, plays a pivotal role in managing physical symptoms. My support network of understanding friends and family offers invaluable emotional support. Mindfulness practices and setting realistic goals help me stay grounded.

Regarding exclusion, depression has affected my social life, causing isolation. Relationships can be strained due to the difficulty of understanding depression. Stigma and misunderstandings about mental health can have their own obvious issues too.

I am feeling positive that society is becoming increasingly more mindful and aware of the topic of mental health and wellbeing. It really is down to each and every one of us to educate ourselves and refrain from being ignorant on the subject.

Despite these challenges, I’m committed to managing my mental health. Seeking professional help and leaning on my support network has helped me overcome feelings of exclusion. I am thankful for my line Manager & HR who have also been a pivotal part of managing my mental health and work to proven success. My journey with depression has taught me resilience, and I’m working towards a brighter future.

Can you provide examples of how your mental health conditions have affected your daily life and relationships? How did you navigate these impacts?

Depression is rarely just a one-off experience, and it can, for a lot of people, be a daily struggle to varying degrees.

Personally, I have dealt with intense low mood and lack of motivation that often left me struggling to get up in the morning and face the day. In terms of relationships, open communication with my loved ones has been vital – going back to the importance of a support network – no judgment and instead a feeling of love and care for my wellbeing.

It is not easy nor is dealing with depression (or any other mental health condition for that matter) an overnight “fix” – navigating the impacts of depression requires self-awareness, open dialogue, and, when necessary, seeking professional help.

Therapy has been instrumental in improving my communication skills and offering coping mechanisms, and educating my social circle about depression has fostered empathy and support in my relationships.

Websites such as the NHS, Mind, WHO and many more are great resources to educate yourself on your own mental health or that of a loved one or colleague.

What actions can colleagues and leaders in the workplace take to ensure men suffering from poor mental health are more included?

I think it is vital to first recognise the scale at which mental health conditions affect people in the UK workplace. Then zoom in on those facts and relate them to your workplace – how do those studies apply to your friend at work, the new starter, the big boss or the person who has “been with us forever”?

Mental health is a pressing issue in the UK workplace, affecting millions of individuals. Here’s a snapshot of the statistics that highlight the urgency of addressing this challenge and creating an inclusive environment, particularly for men:

To address these challenges and promote inclusivity, workplaces must prioritise open communication, reduce stigma, and provide tailored support. Creating an environment where employees feel included, their voices heard and treated with integrity everyday.

EAP, Mental Health First Aiders and our wellbeing resources at Blue Square are a great place to start but we can always do more!

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