Mental Health & Me - Shaun's Story

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At Hutch, the mental health and happiness of our staff always comes first. We offer a therapy service to Hutchies which allows them to access counsellors via a platform on Slack. We also have 9 Mental Health First Aiders to offer support wherever they can. Their role is to be a point of contact in the studio for those who are experiencing a mental health issue.

And of course, we recently introduced a 4 Day Week, which has been a huge factor in helping staff feel happier and healthier. Our CEO, Shaun has always been an ambassador for openness around mental health and he’s really steered the way for the importance placed on mental health at Hutch. So, to mark Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, we asked Shaun to share what mental wellness means to him. Over to Shaun!

What do you do to maintain your mental health? 

I exercise twice a week and I walk my dogs a lot. I think moving is really important for mental health. It was actually one of the reasons I recently got dogs - to get myself out and about. Exercise and movement is such a simple thing to do, but it really makes a difference. I notice the difference in my mood if I’m sedentary all day. 

I see a therapist every week and have also done some hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy doesn’t work for everyone but has been powerful for me - it’s helped me move on from things and feel lighter. 

I also find reading and listening to podcasts really good for my mental health. Recently I’ve been listening to The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett. Hearing people talk about different ways of looking at things is really interesting to me. It helps me to work on myself and acquire new skills that benefit my mental health. I like hearing about how you can see the world, and potentially see yourself differently. 

What does mental wellness mean to you?

For me it’s an awareness that mental health should be given the same importance as physical health when it comes to looking after yourself. I think it’s important to recognise that you’re not always going to be physically or mentally well because of certain pressures - and that’s okay. It’s about having enough tools on your workbench that you can use to help yourself feel in a better place mentally. 

When I first started doing therapy I felt a bit embarrassed by it - I didn’t want people to find out that I was ‘broken’ and thought that people wouldn’t want me to work for them. But actually it’s just a really important thing to do - as humans we have so much potential, but because we’re often caught up with thinking about the past and the future it comes with mental challenges, and therapy can really help with that.

Any tips on how to look after your mental health in the workplace?

For me, I find that I can stress out at work as a result of reacting too quickly. If something is anxiety-inducing, it’s easy to respond really quickly (and before you have the full picture). I learnt a good little process recently from a friend: Stimulate, Pause, Response. This basically means when your anxiety is stimulated by something, pause before you respond. That small pause can stop you from reacting to something before you have the facts. And it helps me to recognise that my feelings are often different from the facts!

When you know the full picture, your feelings towards a difficult situation usually change. Having empathy for others helps with this too - if you can understand where somebody is coming from, it makes communication a hundred times easier. Of course I don’t always get it right, but I can always go back and learn from my mistakes and revisit helpful models / mantras like Stimulate, Pause, Response.

Another thing I think is really important in the workplace is to clear up anything awkward so that you don’t have sleepless nights where you think someone thinks badly of you and actually they don’t! I work with a lot of people who are not in the office and because contact is mainly online, things can be easily misconstrued or you can read between the lines incorrectly. And if that allows the voice of self hate to pipe up, I find it’s best to nip it in the bud by calmly approaching the person, explaining how you feel and then listening to their response. From this, you can grow and learn. I call it ‘clear and close’ - clearing the air of a potential issue and closing it down so that it’s no longer a distraction.

How does Hutch support your mental health?

The company is immensely busy and stimulating and there have been times in the past when I’ve had to take time off for my mental health. During those times everyone has always been really supportive. I thought the team would be disappointed since I’m a leader, but that wasn’t the case at all. And I’ve found that being open about my own struggles means that others feel comfortable doing the same. 

Other members of the team will speak to me about their own mental health journeys and there’s this general openness in the company that is great to see. The rest of the  team have taken up the baton and that’s what’s really cool. Of course people don’t have to be open if they don’t want to be, but hopefully knowing that as a company, we are supportive, they have that option should they need it. Having someone to talk to when you’re struggling mentally can really help make you feel better in tough times. 

We are a games company, but I don’t believe we work in a factory. I think some companies expect you to always be up and productive and that leads to burnout and people end up leaving. Here at Hutch we acknowledge that people will always have their ups and downs - when we’re up, we do great work, and when we’re down, we need to be supported. Our culture at Hutch supports the ups AND downs, and as a leader and a team member, that’s really important to me. 

Useful links:

If you’re struggling with your mental health:

How to help others:

The power of mindfulness:

Mental health related games and apps:

Wellness at Work:

Mental Health Awareness Week:

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