The HBAA held a mental health awareness event at the UK’s Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum, 15 May.
The event saw a number of speakers touch on topics surrounding mental health, and what the events and hospitality industries can do to collectively improve ours. It was part of Mental Health Awareness Week, which ran from 13-17 May.
It was mentioned that events have been voted the fifth most stressful job, behind those such as firefighter or paramedic. Host Leigh Cowlishaw, Managing Partner from Winning Edges, also told us that a survey found 1 in 3 people working in hospitality suffered from poor mental health.
Fran Knight, director of Pinpoint Events, asked us to recognise some of the signs of stress in our daily lives, such as trouble sleeping, anxiety, aching joints and chronic pain. She also suggested some small changes that can make a big difference, such as breathing exercises, bedtime routines and regulating our caffeine intake.
Paul Hussey (pictured above), who works with Samaritans, then told us about some of the organisation’s work. Suicide, he said, is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK, but only roughly 1 in 5 calls to Samaritans are from men. There is a lot of work needed to challenge stigma surrounding men’s mental health, but Samaritans provide a crucial 24-hour service that can be a lifeline to those in need.
After a healthy snack break, Mark Maher of Boulevard Events spoke to us about some of the science behind our mental health. He talked about how and why the brain craves sugar for fuel, and how it cleanses itself of toxins while we sleep. Working to improve our mental health, he said, is important because the improvements and habits we develop stay with us permanently.
The final speaker of the event was Vikie Shanks, who delivered an inspiring keynote speech about the mental health struggles her and her family have faced. Shanks has seven children, six of whom are autistic, and her husband Paul committed suicide when her youngest daughter was just six years old.
The family was the subject of BAFTA-nominated Netflix documentary ‘Kingdom Of Us’, and in the wake of its release, Shanks has taken to speaking on the subject of mental health and autism around the country. She delivered a TED talk called ‘Why my autistic children don’t need a cure’ in April 2016.
The inspiring stories and practical advice delivered by all speakers were a reminder of the crucial importance of managing our mental health. The events industry is a fast-paced and volatile one, and eventprofs often feel the need to be constantly on the move, working around the clock.
But as mental health awareness week draws to a close, we could all do with taking a few moments to slow down, take some deep breaths, and ask the person next to us how they’re doing. And – be ready to properly listen, too.