One of the most exciting aspects of planning TCH is meeting some of the world’s most inspirational mental health activists. There are so many heroes out there, doing incredible things to raise awareness. One such hero is bi-polar sufferer Rob Stephenson. Rob is a dad, a husband, a chartered accountant and founder of MindCycle and InsideOut – a social enterprise with a mission of ending the stigma of mental ill-health in the workplace. The MindCycle tour is a mental health awareness-raising campaign and charity fundraiser, inspired by the Tour de France and takes place this July.
Rob has released a MindCycle promotional film which will inspired you to ask those around you ‘how are you?’ and to help everyone understand that those with mental health problems are not alone.
You can watch the film here and read what Rob had to say when he spoke to us about his pioneering project.
Q. What was your inspiration for MindCycle?
A. I supported Dean Stott during a 10 hour ride he was doing in the Altitude Centre (where they suck out 25% of the Oxygen making it much harder to exercise). Dean was preparing for a world record attempt to ride the Pan American Highway, raising £1m for the Heads Together Campaign. Dean is a friend of Prince Harry (and yes was at the wedding) and is ex-special forces. The cool thing about that day in the altitude chamber was that I filled the other bikes up with people who did their own smaller challenges but this sparked off lots of conversation about mental health.
I was also inspired by the work of DJ Greg James and Zoe Ball with their respective cycling challenges to raise awareness of mental health.
Q. How do you intend to bring a physical sporting challenge to a corporate audience?
A. I will be taking a roadshow of stationary trainers, bikes, TVs and fans directly into our workplaces with the opportunity for people to ride with me for a short amount of time, undertaking their own fun challenge. I will be riding the whole Tour de France route on one of these trainers (both distance and the elevation). I plan to be in places like the o2, the Prudential RideLondon Exhibition, Broadgate Estates amongst others.
Q. Have you found a connection between mental health and physical wellbeing?
A. Personally – yes, absolutely. Physical wellbeing is both preventative and I am less likely to have an episode of depression if I ride my bike regularly. It can also help me get out of a hole when I am in a low period. If I can get out on my bike, then this can be the start of recovery from that episode. There is also a huge amount of research connecting our physical and mental health.
Q. Do you feel UK workplaces are doing enough to tackle mental health issues within their staff?
A. I think that UK workplaces are starting to talk about the mental health of their staff more. Some workplaces are doing good work and leading the way but, personally I feel that we are just scratching the surface. Breaking the stigma is part of it to allow people to talk about their mental health. This is why I formed InsideOut. However, I think there is much more that we can do to look after the mental wellbeing of everybody.
Q. How could we be doing more?
A. There is lots here but let me give you a couple of ideas:
I had an interesting conversation with the Managing Partner of one of the large accounting firms. He talked a lot about culture change that we need to change the cultures of our workplaces to allow people to prioritise their wellbeing. Culture change needs to be driven from the top with engagement at all levels.
Technology has a role to play. One of the big issues facing a business is where to direct their wellbeing budget. I think that there is some cool innovation going on at the moment to help business understand what their employees (in different parts of a business) might need.
Q. What does the future hold for those 1 in 4 who suffer from mental ill-health at work?
A. I think that the future is bright for the 1 in 4. Stigma will be smashed and people will be able to be more open at work and seek the help that they need. For the 1 in 1 of us who have Mental Health the future is also bright as employers will priorities the wellbeing of the people that work in their organisations. There remains much work to do though…