“Back in 2007, I was probably one of the last people you would have thought that would be talking about mental health. My career was on track, I’d been promoted quickly and I was settled in London.
“When the opportunity came to move to Hong Kong with work, I jumped at the chance. So, I packed my bags and I left my partner behind, to start I job I’d never done before in a place I hadn’t even visited.
“Within a month or so, I realised I’d made a mistake and the long-distance relationship was not working. I wasn’t settling into the work environment and I struggled with the Hong Kong version of ex-pat life. The reality was that I was desperately lonely.
“That went on for about a year. And at the end of it I was taking days off sick because I just couldn’t face going into the office.
“I came home for my annual visit. On the last day I went to the office to see the Partner (Anne) and told her I was finding it hard. Because in all honesty, I just couldn’t face getting back on the plane.
“What I realised is what Anne had actually done for me. She’d listened to me. She’d given me permission to talk about anything. I can tell you the relief of it just being out there was huge.
“Over the next few months I got myself a support network, I started being honest with people and in fact, by the end of the second year, I was extended for my third.
“And that prompted me to become a Samaritan and learn to do what Anne had done for me and support people in a crisis or distress.
“When the opportunity came up to work with Samaritans, and bring Samaritans’ skills into the workplace, I jumped at the chance.
“Last year, 80,000 of our people worldwide voted that care should be one of our guiding values. And Samaritans has shown us how to demonstrate that we care. Because the reality is, we all do.
“What we got is a new way of developing skills, focused entirely on people and their stories and we’ve learnt a huge amount from Samaritans by actually doing that. It really has been money well spent.
“What you have with Wellbeing in the City is the results of that work. We acted as the pilot. Before the training, over 70% of our people said they’d experienced a situation where they’d had to approach the subject of mental health.
“Wellbeing in the City gave 92% of those people more confidence to identify the signs of someone in distress. And 100% said they’d be able to approach a conversation with someone in distress.
“But it wasn’t just about being able to spot the signs and speak to that person. They also told us that 100% felt more comfortable to talk about their own mental health. And that’s huge because that’s how we break down the stigma, by getting people to talk.
“And I can tell you we didn’t have to force people to do this. As soon as they heard about it they wanted to take part, even the most sceptical.
“What I like most about it is it’s simple and it’s practical. We found that there’s lots out there to deal with the theory of mental illness, but this is something that shows practically, how anyone can help and start those conversations. It shows you how to listen. And it’s for everyone as it’s about human beings. It’s not about being a manager, leaders or people in supervisor roles it’s just about being human beings.”