Straight-talking Derby entrepreneur wants to become the 'Martin Lewis of mental health experts'

Gary Parsons is an inspirational Derby based entrepreneur and keen mental health advocate. He has launched a podcast hosting conversations with Derby leaders exploring the integration of mental health and leadership | Photo Gary ParsonsGary Parsons is an inspirational Derby based entrepreneur and keen mental health advocate. He has launched a podcast hosting conversations with Derby leaders exploring the integration of mental health and leadership | Photo Gary Parsons
Gary Parsons is an inspirational Derby based entrepreneur and keen mental health advocate. He has launched a podcast hosting conversations with Derby leaders exploring the integration of mental health and leadership | Photo Gary Parsons
Gary wants to help businesses break the barrier when it comes to talking about mental health with staff and colleagues

A Derby entrepreneur whose award-winning work has seen his business double in size, is embarking on a new journey into the world of mental health.

Gary Parsons is co-founder of Talk Staff, an acclaimed consultancy based in Derby.

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Gary may be best known for helping companies with their HR and wider people consultancy needs, however, his new role sees him go beyond his usual remit and help leaders with mental health.

Gary announced the move into the leadership mental health advocacy field, during Mental Health Awareness Week.

This is especially fitting as the theme this year is ‘moving more for our mental health’ which can also be construed as pivoting into a new field of work.

He is now a non-executive director at Talk Staff where he will continue providing guidance and strategy.

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Not one to do things by halves, Gary has also created a podcast and is an inspirational speaker too.

Speaking to DerbyWorld about the motivation behind the move, Gary said: “We started the company 15 years’ ago when the country was in recession.

“I’ve been on a rollercoaster of growing the business and in all that time, I have always been passionate about people.

“We were growing 200% year on year, which was crazy and amazing at the same time.

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“I have been struggling with my own mental health and wellbeing, but as entrepreneurs we get so absorbed by our business, we forget we are individuals.

“We do too many hours, we experience highs and lows and carry the weight of responsibility that comes with being a business owner.”

The move from HR to mental health advocate for leaders, is a strategic pivot, in part, inspired by Gary’s personal mental health journey following a diagnosis of Bell's Palsy at age 18.

Gary made the move from Chester to Derby and since 2009, has been working hard to provide acclaimed people consultancy services to businesses in the regionGary made the move from Chester to Derby and since 2009, has been working hard to provide acclaimed people consultancy services to businesses in the region
Gary made the move from Chester to Derby and since 2009, has been working hard to provide acclaimed people consultancy services to businesses in the region

It was a challenge he navigated in private over the last two decades while propelling his business to the forefront of the industry.

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Speaking about what prompted him to seek help, the frank-talking entrepreneur said: “I found myself saying, ‘Gary, you’re not looking after yourself.’

“I remember going to my doctor and when asked, ‘How are you?’ I burst into tears.

“I realised I needed help. I had severe depression, I had therapy, and when I looked forward, I wanted to facilitate an open conversation about people’s mental health and wellbeing.”

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Talk Staff is one of the region’s leading consultancies and winner of the prestigious East Midlands Chamber of Commerce Commitment to People Award in 2017.

Gary recollects his feelings about the night of the award which saw his company’s success be celebrated by hundreds at a glittering gala dinner.

He said: “I remember standing on stage in 2017 being handed the award.

“What people didn’t realise was that I was really struggling inside. I was battling burnout and negative thoughts. I had to do something about it.

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“I sat down and decided that I didn’t need to be at the forefront of the [Talk Staff] business every day. I wanted to go out and make a difference.

“Mental health is a topic that is really personal to me and statistics show that work needs to be done in this area.

“According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to 48% of non-entrepreneurs.

“Bosses are talking about wellbeing and mental health for their employees, but no one is talking about leaders’ mental health.

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“Company owners are exploring how to improve their employees’ mental health, but no one is asking ‘What about you?’

“I believe mental health and wellbeing starts top down. If we get people at the top of a company invested, that will develop a positive culture for the business.

“I am on a mission to break stigma for mental health for leaders, and it is working.

“I have started to normalise conversations, I have so many people approaching me about this.

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“I am hoping with the podcast, that will spread my passion for advocacy in this field even more.

“I want to be the Martin Lewis, the expert of mental health and wellbeing for leaders.”

Through public speaking and his podcast Leaders In Disguise, Gary is dedicated to reshaping the narrative around leadership mental health and wellbeing.

For more information about Gary visit his website by clicking here.

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