#48 Why is your mental health important? with James Routledge

James Routledge


James Routledge, founder of Sanctus showed up on MeetMyPotential podcast. The mission of Sanctus is to change the perception of mental health, and James is here to talk about this mission. He shares his experiences with mental health and how Sanctus has improved workplaces.

What is mental health?

It’s your state of being; not just your state of well-being. Your emotions, feelings, thoughts, and identity are all wrapped up in mental health.

People’s perceived definition of mental health is that it just means mental illness or mental health issues, and I don’t believe that’s the case. Mental health is all-encompassing the full range of mental health, just like physical health isn’t about disease and illness, it’s about fitness and strength.

There is a stigma in talking about Mental Health at work, what challenges do you face when talking about mental health in organizations?

Stigma in Latin means scars. The stigma around mental health is people’s individual fear, reticence and uncertainty of talking about it. This culture is changing, but it’s still the case in many workplaces.

A healthy, functional workplace isn’t created by oversharing. However, trust in functional teams is created by a certain level of vulnerability.

What made you personally interested in this space?

Five years ago, James never really used the words “trust,” or “vulnerability,” or “connection.” James left university and went directly into the high-pressure world of start-ups, which caused him to feel anxiety towards all the uncertainty in the business. James thought that as a leader, you shouldn’t show any emotion and you are a rock for everybody else.

Eventually, the business shut down. He felt lost, and this was when he was hit by all the feelings that he had suppressed for a long time.

Eventually, James ended up coming out about his anxiety. He wrote a blog post and shared it with the world. This was the start of a period of change and transformation. It gave birth to Sanctus.

What has been the highest point for you at Sanctus and having mental health conversations in organizations?

Sanctus coaches are placed into the workplace to create a safe space where employees can talk to someone impartial and confidential about mental health. In many businesses that Sanctus has worked with, the perception of mental health has changed. The conversation around mental health has become normalized.

The highlight is seeing the change in the perception of mental health. I feel like we’re at the forefront of that and we’re one of the protagonists leading it.

Can you give an example of what mental health conversations brings to people at work?

In one technology business Sanctus worked with, one of their senior engineers came to HR and said that he had planned to leave, and if it wasn’t for his Sanctus sessions at work, he probably would have.

The value to the business is creating an environment where people feel like they can be their whole self. Then, they will feel:

  • Like they belong
  • That they want to work
  • Cared for
  • Less likely to leave
  • Motivated
  • More trust and connections within teams

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen with my customers is that “We don’t have any time.” How have you managed to get around that?

The most important set of people to make any change in an organization is the leadership team. If the leadership team have bought in the idea and they want to make something happen, they will find the time. It has to start at the top; they will set the tone.

What’s one TIP that people can implement to feel healthier and have more healthy conversations?

The best advice is to start where you are. Just follow your intuition. That’s quite vague, but three practical things that people can do are:

  1. Have an open conversation with someone about your mental health
  2. Meditating – it’s a way to raise your own awareness of how you feel.
  3. Journaling – taking the time to connect with your thoughts and feelings by writing them down.

Every single one of us has mental health, and that is the perception that needs to change.

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