“I have always worked with people. From coaching sport to volunteering at Samaritans. Helping people has always been my passion. Throughout my life I’ve learnt the importance of having strong mental health. The London Marathon last year is a good example as, although it is a fantastic achievement, it was mentally incredibly hard after. I want to continue to push the dialogue and dispel the stigma around mental wellbeing – especially in the workplace. This has changed so much even in the last few years, but there is still a long way to go and I would love to have a legacy that helps people with this.”
Chapter 1: The real world
I am Sam Harrison, in my early 30’s, born and raised in London. I have always worked with people. When I was 15-years-old, I coached sport on the weekends and after school. Later, after I missed my grades for university and took a gap year (I wasn’t always the best student) I worked as a PE teaching assistant. I eventually went to university, where between bar work, bar hopping and the odd lecture, I fell into the world of security. I worked for a company that hired students to do stewarding at major events such as Glastonbury festival, Twickenham, O2 arena and Wembley. Not a bad gig for a young person.
I graduated in 2008 and struggled to adapt back into the ‘real world’. So, after graduation, I managed to bag a role for the same security company where I stayed and ended up as part of their management team. By 2010, I wanted to move back to London was ready to settle down into more of a career. I managed to hack around five years of agency recruitment before moving over to Grant Thornton as part of their new in-house recruitment service… and then the rest is history!
I’ve now been at Grant Thornton for the past four years as part of our internal recruitment function, up until last year, when I moved into our Special Projects team to help build our interim resource offering for our clients.
'Being open about my wellbeing and talking to those around me helped, but it is only a year on from the event that I can feel genuinely proud of what I have achieved.'
Chapter 2: Wellbeing is not a sprint
I think there are many things that shape who I am — my upbringing, my schooling, my working life, my friends, my family, the places I have been and the people I have met.
One particular thing that has shaped me has been volunteering at Samaritans. I’ve been exposed to many different environments, tragic events, ways of living and emotions, including working in prisons, with homeless communities and vulnerable people. It has given me the opportunity to learn about myself, about my own emotional and mental wellbeing and a better understanding of just how complex human beings are.
If I think back to who I was five or six years ago, I am a very different person. I am proud of some of the physical challenges I have completed, which have been as much mental tests as physical ones – although I have managed to lose five stone in the process! I have managed to cycle from London to Paris and London to Amsterdam, I completed the London Classics last year – raising close to £15,000 over the past couple of years for Samaritans. I've completed triathlons and competed in events that I never ever thought I could do – proving that I have more mental strength then I ever believed.
I have been incredibly lucky to have a strong support network around me, my family, incredible friends, colleagues and my partner, so the challenges have been my own mental health and wellbeing. The London Marathon last year is a good example as, although it is a fantastic achievement, it was mentally incredibly hard after, and for various reasons I found my wellbeing at a low point for a number of weeks after. Being open about my wellbeing and talking to those around me helped, but it is only a year on from the event that I can feel genuinely proud of what I have achieved.
Chapter 3: Pushing the dialogue
We are living in rapidly changing times; attitudes are shifting and the culture of work is changing. I am really wanting to embrace that change and live my life to my values and help other people.
Being involved with Samaritans has undoubtedly left me wanting to continue to push the dialogue and dispel the stigma around mental wellbeing – especially in the workplace. This has changed so much even in the last few years, but there is still a long way to go and I would love to have a legacy that helps people with this.
For me personally, the ability to work flexibly and in an agile manner has given me the opportunity to manage my mental wellbeing more effectively than ever before. It gives me the space and time to live my life how I want to and need to, to be at my best. It allows me to maintain my commitments to Samaritans in a sustainable way, all while being successful in my career. The support and understanding that I have received from colleagues when I have needed it has been unique to me in my working career to date and a reflection of what an inclusive culture feels like.