Rich caught up with inspirational Sanctus founder James Routledge to talk about his mission to change the perception of mental health.
So James, tell us about Sanctus’s mission…
Of course, our mission is to change the perception of mental health and put the world’s first mental health gym on the high street. We see a world where people treat their mental health like their physical health. As you can probably tell, it’s not the first time I’ve said that!
What first prompted you to start Sanctus?
My own experiences with mental health. I started feeling “weird” a couple of years ago and had no idea what was going on, I eventually clocked that it could be my mental health, but it took me a long time to come to terms with my anxiety and I had a few scary experiences of panic attacks too. I didn’t know much about my mental health and I didn’t feel like I could talk about it either. I wanted to be able to talk more openly and allow other people to do so as well, hence Sanctus and this wider movement we’re on.
It sounds like you had a rocky journey in the early stages, how did you overcome this?
I wouldn’t say I was at rock bottom, but I was definitely having a good old look at the rocks, if I’m honest I started Sanctus because it was the product and brand I felt like I needed in the world, plus I believed it could impact others too. Sanctus coaching has genuinely been what’s improved my own mental health which is why I’m so passionate about taking it to the world.
The responsibility of managing a business can often be overwhelming. How do you find the balance between freedom and responsibility?
It’s not necessarily the responsibility that I find overwhelming although sometimes the sheer volume of tasks can feel daunting. I find the responsibility of creating something new sometimes hard, staring at a blank page thinking “what the f*ck should I do today” can be overwhelming for me.
James talks to BBC news;
What advice would you give to young people with mental health problems that are perhaps looking to invest in a start-up?
Like with any big career or life decision I’d definitely encourage people to spend a lot time reflecting on the decision and where they believe the root of it is. Like if you wanna join a start-up to get rich or because you think it will make you feel good or look good – then that might not be the right reason for you long term. Think about the implications of a career choice on your mental health.
Headspace and Calm are arguably key players in the mental health space. Do you think their success has paved the way for more mental health start-ups?
Big time. Personally, they’ve been a big inspiration for me – they’ve made meditation accessible to the masses with slick products and great brands – big love.
What small changes do you think employers could be making to encourage open conversations in the workplace?
Have open conversations..! It has to start with leadership – people at the top with power and influence have to start the conversation to give people in their team permission to open up too.
You’ve interviewed big stars such as Will Young. What role do you think celebrities have to play in breaking the mental health stigma?
Like employers I believe they have a big role and responsibility. Celebrities are looked up to like role models, so in my opinion it’s important they use their platform to lead by example and make it ok for mental health to be talked about openly.
Do you meditate?
No, I don’t have a consistent practice, but have done in the past and it was part of a big period of personal growth for me.
How do you think we can encourage more guys with mental health problems to try meditation?
Erm, I don’t think meditation is a silver bullet tbh so I wouldn’t want to only encourage people to meditate. For me it’s about getting people to engage with mental health before a problem, let’s engage with mental health now, today, before we’re at a point where we are suffering – just like we do with our fitness.
What’s next for Sanctus?
More sustainable growth, more people getting access to Sanctus coaching and continuing this wider movement to change the perception of mental health.