The Buyer
Why mental health and wine can be awkward bedfellows

Why mental health and wine can be awkward bedfellows

The wine industry is a tough one for those suffering from mental health issues – it features long and irregular hours, average wages and…. lots of alcohol. In his typically honest manner, Mike Turner talks frankly about his own mental health condition and how a change in perspective has helped him live with it – primarily by being open and talking to people about it.

Mike Turner
11th August 2017by Mike Turner
posted in Opinion,

Opening up to people about a mental health condition can be as awkward as asking them to check out a “nasty wart on your penis” but that doesn’t stop it being the most effective start to learning how to live with the problem.

Wine blogger and importer Mike Turner

This could be a very boring piece of writing for a lot of you. I fully expect a lot of eye-rolling and scepticism. But you know what? I couldn’t give a shit. I want to write this piece for everyone out there who is suffering from a mental health condition.

Whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, whether anyone else knows or they don’t, it’s invariably a very normal reaction to a very abnormal situation, and you’re not and will never be alone. And the wine industry, for all its glorious luxuries, is just a rife as anywhere else.

I decided to write this piece a couple of weeks ago. A family member was sacked by her employer because she took a few sick days in a short space of time. The employer accused her of not showing enough commitment to the company and to her team. Of course, what better way to convey this message than over email on a day she was off sick? Genius, eh? Well, when I also add that this person has a diagnosed mental health disorder and was in a really low ‘black dog’ period, hence the days off work?

I’m still struggling to believe it now.

I was fuming. But was rightly corrected on Facebook (of all places), that I needed to do something positive rather than have a rant at this particular employer. So I thought writing this might help people out there in the wine world that are secretly struggling to know that you’re not going mad, we’re all here for you.

As someone who left their old career due to mental health issues, I’ll do everything and anything I can to help anyone around me. I was lucky, I had private healthcare as part of my contract, so the four years of psychotherapy, at £200 an hour, in Harley Street was gobbled up by them. But waiting for help on the NHS? I’ve heard of waiting times of up to 18 months to receive therapy. We have to help each other as best we can.

For starters, I can’t begin to tell you how much of a weight it is off your shoulders when you open up and talk to people about it.

Stephen Fry famously talks of his struggles to open up to his friends about his mental health disorder. He likens it to something so unbelievably awkward it’s the equivalent of asking your friends to check out a “nasty wart on your penis.” I can completely appreciate where he’s coming from there. You know, the mental health bit, not the warty knob. But thankfully that was then and this is now.

The wine industry is not easy. The most natural cures for avoiding mental issues, is to sleep regularly, exercise regularly, and keep the booze down. I think we’re all starting to see the issues here. This industry is almost designed to put the more sensitive flowers of the world (myself very much included) on a crash course to ‘burn out’ if not checked early enough.

From the outside looking in, this is an industry that everyone should be falling all over themselves to be in. Access to amazing wines, lovely food, the occasional trip out to some glorious vineyard? Sounds alright! But then no-one really looks at the long hours, the fact that you’re not exactly paid a fortune, and you live with some really messed up routines. It’s not easy.

I love this industry, and it is a huge amount of fun. But I can only appreciate it now because of what I went through in the past. It’s not just a change in industry, it was a change in my perspective that’s allowed me to enjoy things these days. So, you’re not weird if you’re ever struggling. Just don’t suffer in silence, talk to friends, talk to your doctor, and you’ll be amazed at the lift. It will get better, trust me.

But if you have got any weird growths on your bits, I don’t need to see that thanks.


For a list of the types of support offered by The Benevolent, the UK drinks industry charity click here

Wine Trade Sports Club Foundation Walk in memory of Ben Campbell-Johnston

Saturday 9th September 2017

Ben Campbell-Johnston

This year the Wine Trade Sports Club Foundation charity walk will be for the memory of Ben Campbell-Johnston, who tragically died in October 2016.

Ben was well known across the wine industry as a fortified wine expert and also as co-founder of the Big Fortified Tasting and more recently Fizz. His death at the end of October due to mental health issues came totally out of the blue to everyone who knew him.

The WTSC walk is to raise essential funds for The Benevolent to support the launch of their nationwide Mental Health Awareness campaign within the drinks industry. At the same time 20% of all funds raised will be donated directly to Mind, who provide essential support for those suffering from mental health issues.

To register, please contact Christo Eliott Lockhart by phone 07950 701049 or email

Set up your own fundraising page with Virgin Money Giving ­here

To donate direct click –

Follow all the updates on Facebook, Wine Trade Sports Club and Twitter @WTSC_UK