Time to Talk: Mental health awareness

Talking is a big step. Talking helps. Talking saves lives.

Rob Shenton knows first-hand the devastation of a mental health crisis, and the importance opening up can have on the road to recovery. He has been determined to spread the message, that it is Time to Talk.

The Head of Stakeholder Management for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and suicide survivor is open about his struggles with mental health; he works to break down taboos around the subject.

Rob, an army veteran who was discharged in 2016 with PTSD and recurrent depression, believes there are a lot of parallels between the maritime industry and the military.

Rob uses physical activity as an important tool in managing his mental health. After being selected to carry the Queen's Baton Relay for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022, he then attended the event as a spectator

“A lot has changed in the perception of veterans and some of the taboos have been broken down” he said. “It’s increasingly accepted some veterans may need some help when they leave the military, but it’s a tough industry on ships as well with a lot of the same issues – you are far from home, isolated, working long hours.

“And it is also an industry that has a reputation for being macho and that’s not the sort of culture that is conducive to talking through your problems.

“I’ve ended up speaking to a lot of people who just won’t talk about their mental health, even when they are clearly struggling, and we need to change this.

“There’s such a taboo about it, but you wouldn’t break a bone and just quietly limp about, you would get it fixed and you would ask for the time off work to do it, so why should it be different with your brain.”

Rob has given more than 200 presentations to various organisations about the need to open up as a first step to resolving problems as well as telling his story. He describes himself as a survivor and is happy to tell his story in the hope it can help anyone close to a crisis.

“Talking about it is the way to go,” he said. “It’s amazing how often you can make something seem so big in your head and just saying it out loud, sharing it with someone else immediately lessens the problem.

“But I would also recommend that anyone concerned about someone look into suicide prevention training, I think we all need to work on more awareness and be brave to break those taboos and start the difficult conversations.”

Rob’s plea to talk about mental health follows Maritime Operations Officer Alex Hill speaking out last year about dealing with suicidal 999 calls.

If you are struggling, please talk to someone.

Visit: https://www.samaritans.org/ or dial: 116 123

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