‘Some thrive under pressure, others crumble’

We look at why The Benevolent’s new CEO is on a drive to help members of the drinks industry talk more openly about mental health within the workplace.

While The Benevolent has always offered support to those in the alcoholic drinks industry who are suffering a range of difficulties, at the start of this year – coinciding with the arrival of Chris Porter as new CEO of the charity – a new mental health awareness campaign was launched.

Called #NotAlone, the campaign has been designed by The Benevolent to encourage people to speak freely about issues ranging from depression, severe stress and anxiety, and runs in partnership with a new area of the charity’s website devoted to mental health.

It also follows the installation of a helpline last September, providing a centralised source of support run by trained professionals from 8am to 8pm.

Porter, who sat down with the drinks business earlier this year, said that the phone service had already received almost 70 calls before the close of 2017, and that this number was in addition to the existing beneficiaries of the charity, who are looked after by welfare officers.

And, while the need for mental health support among the drinks trade is high now, it will only get higher, according to Porter.

“With austerity measures and cost-cutting within companies we are seeing more pressure on individuals, and some thrive under it, others crumble,” he explained.

“We need to help identify where the crumbling is happening, and that is where the hashtag Not Alone comes in,” he continued, adding that work-life pressures are particularly acute among younger people as staff numbers fall.

In general, Porter observes that the drinks industry is an area where the demands are high, but picked out certain areas where it’s becoming apparent that the strains are extreme. These include the production and logistics side of the business, as well as the hospitality sector.

Chris Porter became CEO of The Benevolent on 2 January this year following the retirement of David Cox

And, should staff be lost due to stress and anxiety, it will negatively affect a business, while placing even higher levels of pressure on the remaining staff.

It is the high incidence of mental health issues within the trade, and the damage this can cause to a business, that, believes Porter, should provide a further motivation for the drinks industry to really get behind The Benevolent.

Indeed, he is on a drive to raise awareness for the charity and its range of support mechanisms for those who need help, while at the same time boosting its profile among the business community to encourage more fundraising efforts and financial contributions.

All he needs, he told db, is at least half the people employed in the drinks industry to give a tiny amount to achieve his targets.

However, this will require a lot of work, he admitted.

“We have good support, but it could be better, because the awareness isn’t there,” he said, using the charity’s profile in the north of England by way of example – an area of the UK where there is a lot of depravation in the drinks trade, primarily due to pub closures.

Indeed, he says that around 40% of Benevolent beneficiaries are former pub landlords, although only 10% of the charity’s ‘partners’ are brewers.

Consequently, he said, “So my agenda is to get to as many people as I can, and to say to them, ‘this is who we are, this is how we support people, this is how the money is spent and this is how it affects them’… because we put people back on their feet.”

For Porter, face-to-face meetings are the best way to spread such a message.

“I have quite an old fashioned approach, because I will go to ends of the earth to make sure we get our message across, and if that means seeing someone in person then I will, and a large part of our campaign can only be done by sitting in front of people,” he says.

As a result, Porter has been crossing the country in an effort to raise awareness for The Benevolent using his persuasive but charming approach.

And his motivation for chairing the charity and expanding its reach is clear.

“We want as many as possible to understand what we do and engage with us; and it really doesn’t cost very much when you consider what’s at stake: sometimes it is a matter of life and death for those people on the receiving end of what we provide.”

How can you help The Benevolent:

Attend a Benevolent Event – Each year, The Benevolent runs a variety of events to suit every taste and budget.

Fundraise for us – Organise a fundraising event at your workplace. Whether it is a bake-off, quiz night or ‘Fancy Dress Friday’ there is an activity to suit every workplace.

Become a Benevolent Ambassador – As well as promoting engagement and fundraising activities within their organisations Benevolent Ambassadors participate in the decision making process relating to fundamental aspects of the trade charity’s operations including communications, events and charitable impact.

Host us at your tasting – By allowing us to have a table or display area at your trade tasting your visitors can get to know more about who we are, understand how to access support and encourage those in need to apply for support.

To find out more about opportunities to get involved and support colleagues in need please contact email alessandra.brugola@thebenevolent.org.uk or call 0207 089 3888.

How you can financially support The Benevolent:

Individual Membership –  By donating as little as £3 per month you could vastly improve the quality of life for someone from the drinks industry facing serious medical, social or financial hardship.

Leave a Legacy – Leaving The Benevolent a gift in your will is one of the most appreciated and enduring ways you can support people from the drinks industry facing hardship.

Payroll Giving – Payroll Giving is a flexible scheme which allows anyone who pays UK income tax to give regularly and on a tax free basis to the charity of their choice.

Donate Now – Your donation, how ever big or small, can help us change the life of someone facing serious medical or financial hardship today.

To find out more about how you can support The Benevolent please email Chris Baker, partnership development manager at chris.baker@thebenevolent.org.uk or call 0207 089 3888.

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