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The Benevolent: Mental health ‘need no longer be taboo’

UK drinks trade charity The Benevolent continued in its mission to remove the stigma surrounding mental health in the drinks trade yesterday with a powerful seminar encouraging members to speak out about their experiences and be proactive in their support of colleagues.

(L-R) Mike Turner, freelance writer and founder of Please Bring Me My Wine; Christo Eliott Lockhart, sales manager at Hallgarten & Novum Wines; Chris Porter, chief executive of The Benevolent; Kat Hounsell, founder of Everyday People and Mental Health First Aid Trainer; Miles Beale, chief executive of WSTA

“Recently the awareness of mental health is increasing, and charities now have a much higher national profile to discuss about mental health,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of WSTA, one of four panellists to take part in the seminar hosted by The Benevolent at the London Wine Fair yesterday.

“I don’t think that our industry is any more or less prone to mental health, but we as an industry have a responsibility to look after our own trade. Most of the time when mental health issues arise we found ourselves to be reacting to those, however we should also be proactive about mental health difficulties, such as getting the conversation well upstream and make sure everyone know what to do in case of need. We should challenge ourselves on making the conversation about mental health a daily experience instead of an intervention to a problem.”

During the seminar, The Benevolent’s CEO Chris Porter presented the key findings of a mental health report commissioned by the charity to outline the difficulties experienced by members of the drinks trade.


The charity found that one in three respondents had experienced high levels of stress, anxiety and fatigue over the past year.

Overall, 49% of respondents believe that their company has no mental health support mechanism in place, or none that they are aware of. However, 50% of managers are aware of the existence of these polices, and of these a 1/3 believe that employees are not aware of them, highlighting a disconnect in the communication of services available to staff.

Four of 10 respondents said they had never spoken to anyone at work about their mental health issues, with a strong perception that the topic is taboo still prevalent. 

The main barrier that 48% of respondents said would stop them from disclosing their mental health difficulties is the potential harm to career prospects.

Freelance writer Mike Turner, and founder of Please Bring Me My Wine, openly addressed the issue of mental health during the seminar, sharing his own personal story.

“When I started talking about mental health it was because I was running out of energy of hiding it,” he told attendees. “My body doesn’t produce serotonin, like diabetics don’t produce enough insulin. Why should I be ashamed about that?”

Referring to an opinion piece on mental health published by The Buyer, Turner added: “It has been incredible how people have reacted when the article was published. In talking about my mental health difficulties many were encouraged to open up and discuss about their own difficulties.”

Managers also have a key role to play in the identification and support of staff that may experience mental health difficulties, said Christo Eliott Lockhart, sales manager at Hallgarten & Novum Wines, and highlighted the need to be proactive rather than reactive.

“As a manager of a team is much harder to spot difficulties as you might not spend much time with them, especially if they work from home,” he said. “However, it is more than worthwhile to bring up the conversation about how are they feeling, rather than just talking about business all the time. Ultimately you will gain the loyalty and trust from your team that allows them to open up about their mental health issues.”

The Benevolent CEO Chris Porter


The seminar followed the launch of an award-winning campaign by The Benevolent to bring issues surrounding mental health to the forefront of the drinks trade, a campaign that on Tuesday won the Best Trade Campaign award at The Drinks Business Awards 2018.

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.

“We are humbled that so many have spoken so openly about their experiences and that alone proves the need is there and that the subject need no longer be taboo,” added The Benevolent’s CEO Chris Porter.

“There is still a long way to go. I would like to extend our sincere and grateful thanks to all our panellists who took part in our debate and to London Wine Fair for providing us the chance to get the conversation started. It is only the beginning of our ongoing mission to widen it further”.

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 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 or call 0207 089 3888.

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