The power of checking in on yourself and others with Chris Hayward – The NABS Podcast
Hosted by Louise Scodie
Louise Scodie – NABS
Welcome, Chris, how are you?
Very well thanks Louise and yourself?
Louise Scodie – NABS
I’m very good. Thank you. And I know that you’re a big believer in the power of asking you that question, how are you and really, really meaning it. That’s something I know that we’ll come on to in our conversation. Let’s crack on with the first thing to think about, mental wellness. What does mental wellness look like to you?
Well, mental wellness, to me at the moment, is a question of me keeping as healthy as I can, both physically mentally, and part of my regime, because of the accident, is that I try to maintain a good physical level of, well, wellness, I also try to make sure that I engage with people, I’m not becoming isolated. And generally I’m trying to keep things in balance. That’s what it looks like to me. So I am healthy, both mentally and physically. Because I do think that both those things are intertwined. And I have a good level of contact with people. I’m sure we’ll touch on this later. But one of the things of COVID is, unconsciously, we became a little bit more isolated than we perhaps previously were. So it’s all about keeping things in balance, and not try and trying not to let things get out of step out of phase.
Louise Scodie – NABS
That notion of keeping in touch with people is really important at NABS, we talk a lot about the power of community. So how do you go about making sure you keeping in contact with people? Is that regular phone calls? Do you arrange meetups? How would you like to do it?
I’m very keen on maintaining mental and physical wellness. I go cycling several times a week, I go old man roaming a couple of times, and I also do some supervised sessions with a trainer, specifically because of my knee injuries. that’s one of the ways in which I do it. I’m also, quite heavily involved with people who like football. And I have other groups as well, that I tried to keep in contact with regularly. I think that one of the things that has emanated from lockdown is that, somehow unconsciously we stayed inside our houses.
So one of the things I’m trying to do now is go out and see people face to face. I think that’s really important. Zoom, and Teams, definitely add a purpose. But I don’t think anything can replace seeing, seeing people face to face, or having a proper chat, even if it’s via phone – texting doesn’t do for me. So some form of all communication. Verbal communication, I think, is really important in order to kind of maintain that balance that I’ve just talked about.
Louise Scodie – NABS
Yeah, a common thread coming through with all the conversations we’re having with people at the moment. Now, you are an absolute mental health champion, you really do extol the benefits of talking about mental health and you’ve been searingly open about your own journey, we’ve done work with you before people can read your collaborations with us in campaign and other trade titles. Over the past few years, we’ve talked about your experience.
But despite you and some other people as well, in the industry, talking about their experience of mental health challenges, there’s still a really big taboo around the subject. So how have you found the ability and the strength to talk about your mental health so openly? And what’s your advice for other people who might want to talk but because of the stigma or anything else, they feel as though they just can’t do it?
It is a really important question from my own point of view, I’ve never had a problem where there,I will keep emphasising from my point of view, because my mental condition is just part of me like the fact that I don’t have any tendons in my knees. that’s really part of me. And I think because of my previous work, people are aware of my openness. And I’ve actually been quite surprised in a positive way that people want to engage me and talk about their friend – their friend obviously being about yourselves. Friends. I think the taboo thing, it does exist. But I think once the taboo is broken, the people are much more open than you’d ever believe. And my experience has been that nobody’s ever looked at me askance or anything like that. They might, I don’t know, I’m not aware that they then have a lesser regard for me because of my mental condition.
But I think the important thing is to start that engagement, I’ve never ceased to be surprised that I’ve had 10-minute conversations with people that I would never expected to have had and I think that that’s a good thing, because one of the reasons I’m doing this, this podcast is because I hope that people, because of my frankness, and because of the fact that I’ve had personal experience, will resonate with some of the things that I’m saying. But that first step is definitely to talk. I think that can be easier said than done, but you’re going to ask, I assume, about what people can do to help.
Louise Scodie – NABS
I’m going to ask, especially…
I’m in the very fortunate position that, I’ve now gone through cognitive behaviour therapy, I can deal with the symptoms, when I’m heading towards a moment of depression, whereas other people may not be able to recognise it. What people can do is… going back and it’s interesting, the reason this mental health awareness, we have watched a few pieces on BBC programmes about mental health and stuff, and the one thing that really comes through those two things, it’s talk and support. So it’s easier said than done, I know what to talk to somebody. And if you are struggling, and if I talk about some of the symptoms and people recognise it, you’ve got the NABS helpline and other helplines out there.
I’ve always talked about the fact of, that what I call the work, the walls are full of depression of negativity. I start off with little, little things. And over the course of a few days, in my case, I’m then responsible for every catastrophe in the world. And yet another, an overwhelming sense of me being useless. So I can I recognise that and my family now are very good in terms of the support my wife, quite often says, have you been out for fresh air, which currently is a way of saying, you’re a bit down in the dumps recently.
I also get very tired so I can recognise those things, but from people’s own point of view, I think it can be difficult for them to recognise that developing in themselves. However, if we go to some advice that I would give, if you make that phone call to somebody you think that has been isolated. Make the phone call. I’m not going give advice to do things that are really complicated. Do simple things, make the phone call, arrange for a cup of coffee, if that that person about whom you have some concerns, they like walking or they’re like a bike ride, like going to the cinema, suggest some joint venture there, and I think to introduce the notion – are you feeling sound mentally, it is difficult because that’s not a natural progression of a conversation out loud.
What you can say is things along the line of what was the last film that you saw, then you can see if they’ve gone into that period of isolation. You can ask certain questions which you will get a sense of how they’re communicating with people. By asking those types of questions and making some analysis, you can judge the degree of involvement that is necessary. I do simple things. How are you? How long has it been? Would you like to come out with me? They’re not difficult things to try and put into practice.
Louise Scodie – NABS
So, there’s some really simple ways that you can initiate the conversation if you feel that someone around you may be struggling with their mental health. And equally, if you want to start talking about your own mental health, but you don’t have someone around or you’re worried about their reaction, then an independent helpline, calling NABS, for example, or one of the other organisations out there might be helpful as well.
So if we’ve got managers specifically listening to this, how can they support the mental wellness of their teams? We know that that’s one of the biggest concerns for managers now, since the pandemic, that teams want more and more emotional support from their managers. And not everybody feels understandably equipped to deal with that responsibility and isn’t sure what to do. Again, for you, is that as simple as just checking in with your team members for a cup of coffee and having a conversation? Or are there some other techniques that you think should come into play here?
Well, I actually think that everything comes down to talk and support at the end of it, at the end of the day, with the reference to managers, obviously, there’s a greater these days need for a sense of a greater responsibility.
Now, Alex George, the doctor who’s on Love Island, I’ve been reading some stuff by him. He quotes that there’s no doubt that lockdown played its part in an increase their evidence of depression. An 2022 study by experts at Nottingham University into mental health and wellbeing in young people in the UK, during lockdown. The authors conclude the evidence suggests that lockdown has caused a wellbeing crisis in young people.
Therefore, there’s a responsibility, but we’re not psychologists. I don’t expect managers to be psychologists, but what they can do is that they can own a relationship with half a dozen people. I mean, I’m not expecting a CEO to then have an involvement with 60, 100, 200 people, that’s just not going to happen. But what they can do is the following. They can make sure that they do have a proper conversation with that group of six. And then you have a proper conversation.
Now, again, it doesn’t have to be something as blunt as ‘how are you’? ‘Are you feeling mentally balanced?’ It doesn’t have to be like that. But when you when people say, ‘how was your weekend?’ And then they say, ‘oh, did you get that presentation written?’ Well, kind of, they’re not really interested in now, your weekend world, we’re going to enquire about people, so make sure you do it in such a way that it manifests a genuine interest.
So, ‘what did you do during the weekend?’ Hopefully you know them well enough to know that they do like the cinema or they do like going out cycling or, or whatever, you can have a conversation that specifically relates to them and they feel involved and do properly ask the question. And now you can then say to that to that team of six people or whatever, make sure that permeates down, and then they are taking a proper responsibility.
There were a couple of other things I did see as well, related to the BBC coverage of this topic and I felt because I knew this was common or is there anything there that I could have taken, or spread it wider. Now, the bigger firms will be having mental health illness, mental health, wellness days and all that kind of stuff. Whilst I think that’s really really good and that concentrates, the problem is that mental health is for 365 days a year. That’s not one day. So I don’t think people do it in any malicious way. But are we covered mental health because we had the day’s conference for it or whatever?
I saw something last night, which I thought was quite surprising, really good. So there are construction workers whoreally suffer from the sense of isolation. One of the suppliers to the construction workers, put on kind of a casual day, which people could attend and talk about the fact that they were overwhelmed, all as they talk to people about how they’re feeling and all this type of stuff. But moreover, they can have a coffee in a relaxed way, they did have information about information lines and help lines and all that kind of stuff. But he didn’t have the formality of a preset day. And also, it looked to me as if it was something that took place more than once a year.
Well, from an unexpected source, I actually think that was quite a brilliant idea – something quite soft, but actually quite hard. Because people know that specifically the idea of the day there is talk about how they’re feeling generally mentally. So that’s a taboo in a way, if you’re, if you’re within the grounds there, and I haven’t a coffee in that setting, you’ve already accepted that that’s going to be a subject that you’re going talk about, but in a much softer way. And as I say, it kind of felt to me that it’s something that would continue much more than a specific day.
Louise Scodie – NABS
I mean, it’s it is an ongoing process, the support of your own mental wellness and that of those people around you. You’re absolutely right. So how do you keep yourself on track with day to day, let’s say it’s a day where you haven’t got a cycle ride plans, or you’re not going to see football mates? What is the thing that you might do on that kind of day, just to make sure you’re okay to check in with yourself and to top yourself up if you need to?
Well, the reality. What I find is, it’s something that grows over a few days, and I’ve got a good support team around me, my wife is particularly acute to when I’m not quite in a happy mode. But what I do is, let’s say, every three days or so, I ask, ‘how long is it since you,listened in to some of your favourite music? How long do you feel like doing any exercise?’ Usually, if I’m in a negative phase, then it will be no, I’m too tired. And what I then try to do is kind of ease myself away from that saying, okay, give yourself a day, give yourself a day or two off. On the third day, I’m gonna make a phone call and email.
I’m real believer in, going back to basics, Louise, I’m going to go and do 15 minutes of exercise and the next time it will be 50 minutes of exercise. Plus, I’m going to listen to three of my favourite songs while I’m doing that exercise. I think that if you do come to an awareness of the fact that you’re not on top form, you need to be kind to yourself whilst recognising that it’s time to reach out. You need to speak somebody, or whatever.
Don’t be doing, ‘you’re useless, you’re worthless’ and all that kind of stuff. You end up in a waterfall of negativity. The weather’s bad, so you’re useless. I think really important, if you are in a position where you recognise that you are in a low moment, that you are talking to people. You will find people much more receptive than ever you thought you will be. But there are things I’ve developed for myself, which bring yourself out, because that whole thing towards, thinking you’re useless and all that kind of stuff that is part of the process of isolating yourself, but not doing it deliberately, unconsciously.
Louise Scodie – NABS 20:37
Yeah, and there’s something in there about treating what might seem like a small win, like going for a 15-minute walk instead of your regular one-hour cardio session. Actually, that’s a really big win. Because if you’re not in a great space, and you’ve managed a 15-minute walk around the block, then you’ve done something amazing for yourself. So being able to celebrate that in any way, even if you’re not feeling particularly celebratory that day, and there’s more power in that than getting into the negative waterfall, that you are so accurately describing there. What do you think is one thing that we could all day to support our mental wellness this week? I have a feeling it’s going to be something where I’m meeting up with a mate.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I can’t change all the general wisdom around mental wellness, but it is, I mean, the way that I’m going to do this. So, I know that I’ve targeted a person to contact that I know that’s not had a happy time recently, and rather than say, I’m going to do it, I will do it, I’m actually made sure that contact is reinvigorated. And we set up a session, and I’ll go out for a drink or whatever. That will be something which I think is really important. Because I’m aware of people going through difficult times.
Louise Scodie – NABS
And so many people are at the moment as well. And with the cost of living crisis and other financial worries, meeting up with a mate doesn’t have to be an expensive thing does it? You could just go for a walk, if you don’t want to shell out for dinner.
Again, Louise, probably the odd political statement I’ll make today is I find the cost of rail travel, a real problem in this country. And it’d be one of those things which may be inhibit people from going back to work five days a week, if they want to, for that more regular contact. And yet also, I think that going back to coming up with a very easy, very doable solutions is something that we should give more thought to. It doesn’t sound much going for a walk or meeting up or going for a coffee. I would just advise people to keep it as simple as possible. In order that, whatever they think about doing, they can actually put into practice. If you give yourself a list of six things to do, and five of them are really difficult. I will suggest even the easy one won’t get done because it’s just all too difficult.
Louise Scodie – NABS
Yeah, just don’t overwhelm yourself with it. Now you are someone who very much did reach crisis point. And again, you must watch my interview with Chris on our NABS YouTube video, we will get a really deep dive into Chris’s journey to really the tip of a mental health challenge and back again. So having been there, having been at peak crisis. What’s a really big piece of advice you could give to help people before they get to a crisis point?
It would probably be two things. I’m doing this. So whatever I say and if there are people having difficult moments, it resonates. If anything like that, if anything of what we said today is resonating, then I think the whoever’s listening whose do we have that listener it is needs to talk to somebody in the first place. And be that through the helpline or talking, say talking to a group support.
However, I reveal if there is that recognition and maybe it is really deep, I think then you’ve got to go to qualified advice because some of this is not just cheap money. A lot of it is choosable by talking and being open about it, but sometimes, therapy or medication or whatever may be needed. And I do think that at some stage, connecting with a doctor, that is really important. It certainly was massively important in helping me deal with my condition.
One of the good things about the awareness of mental health increasing discussion is that people now are much more aware of the symptoms, or, the first signs of depression, or people not being very happy. That shame, withdrawal, that voluntary isolation, that lack of, well, basically doing anything,
The first thing you can do is, is contact the person, actually do something about it. It’s up to you as to how you do it but try and getin front of them, try and meet up with them, try and have a look at them, try and put yourself in a position where you can see if oh, they just they’re a bit low or if there’s a genuine concern.
It’s quite natural not to be very happy, when it’s pouring down, you can’t go out but then it goes on to the next level of, well, that constant state, and it can get deeper and deeper. As I say, the drop of negativity can become the waterfall of negativity, without that person there directly involved being really aware of it. So there’s responsibility on both sides, but I do think if people recognise any of the things that, we’ve been talking about Louise, in people they know, then please contact them. It people are feeling in any way, or recognise any of the signs and symptoms, then I’d suggest, please talk to somebody close, but if they feel they can’t do that, get on to the NABS advice line, because I do think that once you start talking, it’s, it becomes less and less of a problem.
Louise Scodie – NABS
So it’s coming down to the last question now. And again, I have a strong feeling that I know what you’re going to say hit. What’s the lesson you’ve learned about how to support yourself? Is it that power of conversation to stop that teardrop becoming a waterfall?
It is. I can recognise the first signs of when I’m going into a bout of depression, and I now have people with whom I can talk. The first point is to tell somebody, to talk to somebody, and to start the first steps on learning how to cope with it.
I’m not… cured is not the right word here. But managing these conditions is something that is very much possible in and I think that’s really important, but, as you say, tools can support tools and support. Then, if I can go back to this, Alex George was really interested in this… it’s really a nice theory. He’s published books and he’s become a bit of a voice for the whole thing as well. And he said that he’s had random guys come up to him in the pub saying, I wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t for you, then they go back to the group of lads chatting away, and probably their friends have no idea.
So… wow, that actually was quite a powerful thing I read this morning, and I was very determined to include it in this chat… just don’t keep it to yourself. I genuinely believe that. The taboo exists for a lot of us and it is self-created. But if you do talk to people about it… I’ve never had a rejection from people don’t want to talk about that. Maybe I’ve been lucky. But I think that people are much more empathetic than then you would ever imagine.
Louise Scodie – NABS
I think they are. And certainly there’s been more and more space in the national conversation around mental health and mental wellness. So, hopefully more of us are more in tune with the subject. And you certainly are 100% in tune with the subject.
What’s really come through in today’s conversation is the power of talking and the power of just breaking the ice on that conversation. And if you don’t have someone, a close friend or relative that you feel comfortable speaking with, then find a support organisation. If you work in advertising, marketing, immediate, then give NABS a call. That is what we are here for and we will just listen, no judgement, we will just listen. And if you happen to be listening to this, and you’re not from the industry, then there are a host of other organisations that can help you and do the same thing as well. So there are definitely people out there.
And anyone that has Chris in their lives, give Chris a call as well, because he would love to connect with you and to listen to what you have to say, Chris, it’s been, as ever, an absolute pleasure speaking with you, and just so great to know that you’re still keeping yourself topped up, and you’re still being quite the ambassador for mental wellness. So thank you.
Thank you very much, Louise, thanks for the opportunity to do this podcast and I hope that it does resonate with somebody out there and with whomever it resonates, please give a helpline a call or contact a friend. Do start the conversation. Thank you.
Louise Scodie – NABS
That was great. Thank you.