Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

#StressAwarenessDay: I Am a Cisco Mental Health First Aider

November 7, 2018

It all started a 6 years ago with a regular meeting one to one with my manager.

“There is nothing more I can do with you. I have taught you all the skills you need and there is something else inside you that is stopping you being as successful as you can be,” she gently said.

She asked me about my mental well-being and got me asking some questions of myself. She recommended I contact the employee assistance programme (EAP). The thing was, I knew she was right and I wasn’t happy inside. I just didn’t know why.

This was a ground-breaking moment for me.

It does take courage to look at yourself and say “I am not happy, I want to feel better and I am going to do something about it”. So, after discussions with my wife and writing a list of examples of why I wasn’t happy. I made one of the hardest phone calls in my life to the Cisco’s EAP.

This is when my life started to change forever.

I started counselling each week for eight weeks. My manager was there for me every step of the way. Once a week we would catch up for a coffee and just talk about how my counselling was going and she would not even ask about work.

Now that it has been a few years would I say I am the picture of mental health and well-being? I would say no, I am not.

What I can say is that I now know why I used to feel unhappy which is a big thing. To fully understand myself and know that there is a Justin inside of me who can be sad, unhappy, or frightened  sometimes, and that’s OK. Now I know how to help myself, to reassure myself, and get myself back to being happy..

I take this experience with me every day. I am a Mental Health First Aider in Cisco. This enables me to help staff get access to the mental health support that they may need.

As a leader I take my experience from my previous manager and apply that to my team. I lead by example. When I don’t feel at my best, I share how I’m feeling which lets my team know it’s ok. I believe it is a responsibility of every leader to care for their team’s mental well-being. This doesn’t mean that every manager should be a counsellor. It means that we should make it safe and OK to talk about our mental well-being. When with a member of your team ask “how are you feeling now” not “How are you?”

I hope sharing my story helps others share theirs.

I have loved technology all my life which came from my dad who was a radio engineer. I have taken that love into the roles I have done from the military to being at Cisco today. Curiosity is at the heart of what I do. learning how great teams work and leading them to success, how technology works and the benefits it can bring and wanting to understand my own mental health better.

Which has driven me through counselling to a place where I want to share my experience and help others. To relax my wife and I love to travel and have just invested in a RV. To keep active and to satisfy my love for sport I can be found most weekends being a rugby referee

Leave a comment