The Ministry of Equality’s second event to mark International Men’s Day attracted a full audience on Tuesday night. The event, which was a fireside chat and was held at the Mayor’s Parlour, aimed to break the stigma around men’s mental health and well-being.
Minister for Equality, the Hon Christian Santos GMD, MP, opened the event focusing on the importance of addressing the mental health and well-being needs of boys and men and the need to eradicate any barriers that may prevent them from seeking help, advice, and support.
Moderator and facilitator for the event, Sean Keating, Senior Well-Being Officer for HMGoG and lead for ‘Walking Together’, a support group for those bereaved by suicide, skilfully led the panel discussion which featured Navin Mayani, founder of Cye-Cyl, Alfred Rovegno, Firefighter and Wellbeing Officer and Counsellor for Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Service and Wayne Tunbridge, former police Superintendent at the Royal Gibraltar Police.
In a very frank and open discussion the panelists shared several of their personal experiences including navigating their own mental health challenges, lessons learned from that and supporting others experiencing similar issues in a professional context.
Sean Keating explained his rationale for participating in the event: “My decision to take part in the panel was based on how many people I am supporting due to the number of men we have lost to suicide as well as my own lived experiences/ struggles and exposure to mental health in my family. Also, of course in my role as Senior Wellbeing Support officer where I am supporting an increasing number of men with mental health challenges. I believe we need to break the stigma of men talking openly about mental health, we can only do that by opening up ourselves however vulnerable that might make us.”
Wayne Tunbridge said, “Mental Health issues are real and can affect everyone, as it will never discriminate against age, gender or race. Admitting you need help is not a sign of weakness, in fact it shows great strength, courage and being brutally honest to yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself how proud you are of what you've achieved, you are trying your best. Remember, on our journeys there is only forward, always forward.”
Navin Mayani added, "Our mind is a powerful tool that generates more than 60,000 thoughts a day. We can choose to have thoughts that self-sabotage, or ones that uplift our spirits. Either way, we have a choice. If we feel we aren't able to shift negative or challenging thoughts that trigger anxiety, sadness or worry, it is important to talk to someone. This can be a therapist, a friend or someone we trust. Feeling heard, valued and understood can be transformative in our journey to heal.”
Alfred Rovegno said, “It is important to be aware of those around us, and know how to help them when we ask them, ‘Are you okay?’ particularly when we see they are not coping with their daily routines. Listening to someone and showing empathy goes a long way.”
The Minister for Equality, the Hon Christian Santos GMD MP said, “It’s been a real privilege to hear directly from the moderator and panelists today. I would like to thank them for sharing their lived experiences with a live audience, which is never an easy task, not least when the focus of the discussion centres on very personal information. This bears testimony to the panelists’ and moderator’s courage and concerted and altruistic efforts to support others. I am hugely indebted to them all for taking part in this initiative to mark International Men’s Day, which I know has been deeply meaningful and inspiring for all attendees. I hope that this event will encourage others to reach out for the help they may need and that mental health issues will no longer carry the stigma of the past.”