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Mental Health – A personal journey – learning to be honest and communicate

I walked blindly into my own crisis.  I thought I was invincible, strong, in control and unbreakable. And then it hit me.  I inadvertently broke myself without any warning.   In all this time I never told anyone I was struggling, and nobody on the outside noticed it either, or did they?


On 15th January 2016 it all changed. Picture the scene, I’m in America (Washington DC) Friday afternoon, just after lunch at 2pm.  My boss asks me “can I borrow you for a minute”, nothing untoward or to worry about, a normal request, but then things change.  I am taken into a meeting room and asked to wait there. In walks two people from human resources.  “We are terminating your employment with immediate effect”- the words that send my world spiralling to the floor.  Over 20 years of professional employment and growth, and now I have nothing, no career, and no future prospect for this middle aged man.  I was broken.


To say I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself was an understatement.  I pretended like nothing was wrong.  I couldn’t even tell those closest to me the truth for a very long-time.  Who could I share my personal failings and disappointments with? Nobody, not even my closest family or friends.


Through the grieving process for the life I once had, I needed to make a decision, get up, or give up.   I went through the classic grieving process, denial (nothing is wrong) to anger (wanting to take out my rage on those who had done me hard, but never acted on this), to the depression.  After a few weeks I decided to ‘get up’.  In time I wanted to share my personal experiences with the world, but I just didn’t know how.


When I started to build my company Simpila I did so on the basis of two guiding thoughts, 1) never work for anyone ever again, and 2) whatever I create has to help others never get to where I got to.   I began to learn through my networks and connections, and I created a world where it had become safe to speak openly and honestly about who we are, and when we are struggling.


Over the years I have used my voice and my story to help connect others to these important conversations.  Providing me with the tools to help not only support my clients, but also my closest family and friends who have struggled.  I helped to launch Happiful Magazine with friends on 20th March 2017 (International Day of Happiness), I have trained thousands of people in programmes from Mental Health First Aid, Neurodiversity and all topics of wellbeing, delivered a TEDx talk in October 2019 on the topic of being 24 Hour Human, and launched a podcast in November 2020 – Matt Holman Talks Mental Health, providing a platform for amazing normal everyday humans to share their stories and journey with mental health, to date recording over 180 episodes.  I have also been a listening volunteer with Samaritans for almost 10 years.


My new life since 2016 has given me a the opportunity to change and grow, and most importantly to help as many people as possible through this journey of life. I have the pleasure to work with amazing humans, and to have conversations of every topic, it’s my world and my work.  No conversation is off limits in my world, and nobody is judged for the experiences that they have been through in their lives.  I have created a world where communication is at the heart of behaviours.


I look forward to sharing more of my journey, insights and thoughts at the Loddon Conference.


Matthew Holman