Reaching out

05
Oct

John Boyd

To mark Mental Health Awareness Day on 10 October, BaseballSoftballUK CEO John Boyd writes about why everyday awareness of mental health is so important.


“Oh my gosh, how did you break your arm?”  This is a question we routinely ask of someone in a cast.  But do we do the same for someone who has mental health problems?  Not usually.

Mental health issues still come with a stigma, and I should know.  My extended family has had way more than their fair share.  I was brought up surrounded by a devout Catholic clan of cousins, aunts, uncles who viewed mental problems as a personal failing.  Over the years, many family members suffered alone as a result of this attitude.  My own mother’s life might have been quite different if we had been able to recognise her issues, rather than dismissing them as ‘madness’.

My family is not unusual.  One in four adults will suffer from mental health problems this year.  So why do we push this area to the back of our social awareness?  Why can’t mental health problems be seen as the illness they are and treated openly and with the same concern we would show for a broken bone?

As an employer of a small staff, I see the need for a mature and sensible approach to health problems of the mind, just as much as for physical problems.  Over the years, I’ve dealt with a few staff suffering from depression – and those are the ones that I know about.  It’s such a difficult thing to come to your boss and share what you’re going through, and I’m sure some staff haven’t felt able to.  BaseballSoftballUK has always tried to be an empathetic employer, balancing the challenges of work with those things that make you feel good.  I remember very early on our former CEO telling me that work should never get in the way of playing.

What I’ve seen in my personal life, with colleagues and through the eyes of others, is that those suffering from depression often feel alone and shamed by their illness.  When you are suffering, you feel all the more guilty about how you are letting your colleagues down – and the company, and yourself.  Just as when you are unable to leave the sofa with a bug, depression can debilitate with the same feelings of frustration and guilt.

I’m no expert in mental health.  I’ve been very lucky to be mentally healthy.  But it is clear to me that empathy can go a long way to giving those who are suffering the time, space and support to recover.

Today, 10 October, is Mental Health Awareness Day.  Today, we have a chance to raise awareness that mental health, like physical health, is something we can talk about openly.  To help with this process, a whole range of resource have been produced by the Time for Change team at Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.  The In Your Corner campaign they have created is designed to set out a range of things that we can do to be there for those who need us.

Unlike the countless other charity days that happen throughout the year, the donation being asked for in support of this great cause is not money, but adding your voice to the campaign.  It should be easy for you to use your social media, email, work intranets or connections with others to put out a powerful message.  Mental health problems are very personal – but if we take the chance to let others know that we understand and are willing to listen, maybe we can make a very personal difference.

Mental health problems can affect anyone, but some people are more susceptible than others.  We haven’t collected any data to see whether baseball and softball participants are more or less likely to suffer -- maybe we should. 

What we do know, however, is that social team sports like ours have a lot to offer.  Belonging to a team fosters inclusion, friendship and many other good things.  But this will only have an effect if we choose to make a difference and to be there for our teammates.  We can all reach out and spread a positive message of support.

That’s why BaseballSoftballUK has signed up to the Mental Health in Sport Charter and why we have made such a big deal about today.  I hope you will join us in promoting this campaign.

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About John Boyd

John Boyd

John joined BaseballSoftballUK as one of its inaugural employees in January 2000 after a brief stint with the Major League Baseball office in London, where his last project was concerned with bringing British baseball and softball together into the joint venture that emerged as BSUK.  After seven years heading Operations at BSUK, he moved into heading up Development, where he oversaw the writing of three Whole Sport Plans and the delivery of BSUK’s 2011-17 Facilities Strategy. After serving as Joint-CEO for a number of years, John became BSUK’s sole CEO in April 2017.

John is also a member of the WBSC Development Commissions, a strategic aide to the Confederation of European Baseball and serves on the joint ESF/CEB Commissiosn for marketing and development.

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