Wellness is a mental state and achieving it certainly means to be mentally healthy. While nowadays mental health is still misjudged and sometimes considered a topic for psychiatrists only, the public starts to be more and more familiar with the subject.
We’ve dug a bit deeper into the topic and found out that most people are subject to mental health disorders throughout their life regardless of their gender, education level, wealth or country of residence. Through this research, we’ve e-met many experts and pioneers on the topic, but we are most honoured to have met in person for an interview the renowned Aaron Stadlin-Robbie founder of Talking Mental, a venture bridging the gap between corporates and their employee’s mental health. Simon Gomez de Kset, Director of Lookdiary, conducted the interview.
Simon Gomez de Kset: Aaron thank you very much for making time to answer our questions and enlight us with your knowledge, we are terribly honoured. Let’s dive right into it if you would start by telling us a bit more about yourself and Talking Mental?
Aaron Stadlin-Robbie: My name is Aaron Stadlin-Robbie and I am a half Kiwi, half Hong Konger that has grown up here in Hong Kong. I’ve been very fortunate to grow up in such an amazing place with my mum, dad and 2 brothers. Now life has changed a bit as I have a little 4-year-old in my life and that definitely keeps me on my toes.
Talking Mental is a digital content platform working to fill the void in resources within the realm of Mental Health. Our scope of work ranges from working with corporates to create engaging material for their employees, to creating external campaigns that can raise awareness in the Community. At the end of the day, our main goal is to create relatable content to raise awareness and increase education around Mental Health, which by nature is a difficult subject.
SGK: What triggered this venture, it takes a lot of courage to be an entrepreneur, even more in this line of business?
ASR: Seven years ago I started dealing with anxiety and panic attacks and first I went to a hospital where I was misdiagnosed. After a year or so I was introduced to a psychiatrist in Hong Kong and he told me what it was. The way that he was so calm and the fact that he told me how common it was, gave me huge relief. After a few years of understanding it and learning how to deal with it, I realised talking about it really benefited me. So, I challenged myself to do it on a public forum, do something where you have the opportunity to speak to people you wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to speak to because getting help is not easy to find and it isn’t affordable. However, what started as something to help myself, has now become a real venture to help share information with others. I’ve been witness to a lot of holes in how we deal with Mental Health and I want to create this platform to help.
SGK: That’s quite powerful as a drive! So since you started sharing information to the public, what has been your best memory so far?
ASR: It’s hard to pick out the best memory, but one that has stuck out to me was when I got a private message on Instagram from a man telling me how our content has helped him. We met up for a coffee and we ended up having a great chat and are still in touch today. The reason it was so special was that when you are creating content digitally you can sometimes feel isolated from your audience. This was just a nice reminder that there is not a better feeling in the world than having that human interaction and creating a small change in someone. That’s what it’s all about!
SGK: Compelling! Do you have competition so to say at the moment or you are the only white knight in Hong Kong in this field?
ASR: To be honest competition isn’t something I think about in this field. Getting people educated on Mental Health is the goal and the more people driving that message the better. On top of that, I’ve always just focused on myself as I believe all creative content is original. At the end of the day, Talking Mental is just my way of delivering the message and that will always be different as everyone’s thought process will be different. My only focus is, am I delivering quality value to the audience. If yes, then that’s a win!
SGK: That’s a nice approach we actually have a similar one at Lookdiary – the value your bring to your audience is what makes you unique. But back to mental health, do we have a ballpark figure to assess what part of the population in HK is suffering or will suffer from mental health disorders?
ASR: Well, statistics show that one in four of us will be affected by serious Mental Health disorders at some point in our lives, and out of that number two-third of them won’t seek help. In saying that I believe everyone is on the spectrum of Mental Health, it just depends on where on the spectrum you lie. Everyone on this planet will deal with some sort of Mental Health, the important aspect is identifying what the red flags are and what to do when one of those flags go up.
SGK: And when the red flags go up, how do you address it?
ASR: My personal belief on how to address it, is to eliminate the stigma by talking about topics in a relatable way. In my mind, it’s Mental Health is something we should be chatting about over a beer. We do that with our physical health all the time, it’s no different. After coming back from a boozy weekend away, we all know we need to come back with a bit of a detox and hit the gym. But we struggle to find the equivalent for our Mental Health and that is what we need to change and in my mind, it’s about education. So my job is to be pointing people in the right direction to get educated through relatable language. We do this through our podcast which is accessible on all platforms for anyone to reach. We also provide customised podcasts to our corporate clients that attack the topics regarding Mental Health in a way that is more engaging to their specific needs. This is a platform in which we can get in-depth with specific needs and find the right resources to tackle these topics.
SGK: And why do you think it’s a good idea to address it in a corporate environment?
ASR: Because it’s extremely important (laughs)! According to the stats provided by the World Health Organization, we spend 1/3 of our time at work and naturally the work environment has a big effect on the staff’s mental health. How much of a factor? Well economically, the estimated cost to the global economy is 1 trillion USD in lost productivity. You add in the current climate of the world right now with the COVID-19 and the topic of mental health will be more prevalent than ever.
What is important to note is that not only should companies be doing all they can to raise awareness and help employees, but also it’s important for companies to showcase the resources that are currently available to help improve their staff’s Mental Health. In fact, some companies already provide some incredible resources, we just want to make sure that staff recognize what they are and how to flip that stigma switch off so that they are used properly.
SGK: Truly inspiring Aaron thank you for sharing your perspective! How can people get in touch with you?
ASR: Ahah! I’m sure you can find a way to put the link to our website somewhere on your blog. And thanks for spreading the word Simon, any platform on the matter helps to educate the public.