Talking, sharing and opening up about mental health is very important to Mike Turner. Being able to understand the pressures and problems that other people have with their mental health is key, he believes, to helping anyone, anywhere cope a little better with any issues they may be having. Which is why he is delighted, and honoured, to be asked to join a panel with the drinks charity, The Benevolent, to discuss how the drinks industry is handling mental health at next month’s London Wine Fair.
Last summer’s frank and open article by Mike Turner on mental health was one of the most read and shared articles The Buyer has published. Here he explains why he is so pleased to have the chance to share his experiences with the rest of the wine trade at next month’s London Wine Fair.
It’s been a few days since I wrote anything on the blog or for The Buyer. A cheeky holiday to recharge the batteries and get my head straight was just what the psychotherapist doctor ordered. I don’t think carrying a few mental scars from over the winter makes me any different to any other bugger, but it was still nice to take a bit of time and get myself ready for the spring and summer and all those countless wine tours that are clearly going to get booked very soon.
When I was out there I made a conscious effort to only check my emails once every couple of days for an hour a pop. Apologies to anyone who bore the brunt of my tardiness in replying to anything, but it’s an important thing, for me at least, and I’d recommend to anyone when you’re on holiday. Don’t look at your emails, and chill out on social media. Ignore the world for a bit. It’ll keep revolving, don’t worry!
On one of these occasions I got an email from Ale at The Benevolent, the charity set up to look after the drinks industry in the UK. A few months ago they rolled out a mental health helpline. It’s 24/7, freephone, and is completely anonymous. In our fast paced, American work culture, Instagram-loving society, we’re a ticking time bomb of mental health problems. Unless we address them early enough, realise it’s an illness that has cures and preventative measures, and we don’t just normalize it. The Benevolent’s hotline isn’t the first industry hotline to do this kind of thing, but it’s one of the first, and they deserve HUGE credit for setting it up.
Whenever Ale asks anything of me in terms in help I can never say no. I still owe The Benevolent big time. Ale and the then (now retired) head of the charity, David Cox, kindly agreed to an interview a few months back when they were launching the hotline. Down I went, iPhone and stand in hand, and filmed a great chat with David about the importance of this helpline, and their reasons for setting it up. Then when I came to edit it for YouTube the bugger had a gremlin in it and I’d lost all the video. The feeling of wasting David’s time was not a nice one, and although he’s left, I feel doubly enthused to help The Benevolent at any opportunity.
So back to this email. She was putting together a panel discussion for the Wednesday at the London Wine Fair. Chris Porter, the new head of the charity will be talking through some findings of a recent study they’ve done into the scale of the problem across the drinks industry, and then she needed a few volunteers to sit on the panel for a discussion afterwards. Would I fancy it? Well, how can you say no to that eh? My absolute honour.
Within a couple of days of Ale sending it out I’d had a couple of journos from drinks mags chatting to me on LinkedIn and Facebook to ask if they could ring to see what it was going to be about. I think they were a bit disappointed when I said I had no clue. I haven’t seen the report, and I don’t know what Chris is going to say yet. I can guess, and that’s why being a part of it is such a privilege, but I can’t give them the facts and figures or ought like that.
My role is to do what I do. Talk openly about mental health. Bore the shit out of people who don’t really care, and to hopefully be a small voice for anyone suffering in silence. The charity’s new hashtag for the helpline is #NotAlone. You’re not alone. You’re never alone. So that’s that really in a nutshell. That’s what I’ll be saying. But knowing me, probably not as succinctinly as all that.
But never fear. It’s not just me mumbling at myself. There are some other great people on the panel:
- Chris Porter, head of The Benevolent
- Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association
- Christo Eliott Lockhart, sales manager at Hallgarten Druitt
- Kat Hounsell, founder of Everyday People
- Yours Truly…still not sure what I do.
The chat’s at 12.30pm on Wednesday May 23 at the London Wine Fair. It’s free, but I think they’re encouraging everyone to book a place, so follow the link here and make sure you’re there…
- You can read more about The Benevolent’s #NotAlone campaign and the help it can offer here.
- Photograph of Mike Turner by Andy Barnham