Friday, November 19 marked this year’s International Men’s Day.

The organisers of the event in the UK have chosen as one of their themes: ’Making a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys’.

This brings an opportunity to highlight and open a discussion about issues including the high male suicide rate; men’s physical health and shorter life expectancy, and the challenges faced by men as parents, particularly new fathers and separated fathers.

For Gary Lamb, CEO of Manx Telecom and chairman of Strix, International Men’s Day is a bit of a conundrum as he is committed to the diversity agenda. But such days are an opportunity for men (and women) to think about their roles in society, he suggests.

’I don’t really think in terms of gender, either at work or in my personal life, so I wouldn’t say anything I do helps men any more than women, or vice versa,’ he says.

He goes on: ’But I do have a very strong sense of community and a drive to help people generally, especially with their mental health, wellbeing and career development.

’That’s not something that is unique to me. I think as you get older, your sense of responsibility to the community, as well the people you work with and who work for you, becomes stronger.

’So you want to do more whether that’s through the business and its community outreach - such as Manx Telecom helping with events like the Parish Walk and the Royal Show, sponsorships like FC Isle of Man or our charity schemes - or on a more personal level.

’I’ve worked in some great jobs with some great people and I really feel a responsibility to share those experiences and the lessons I have learned for the benefit of others. So I try to coach and guide as many people as I can.

’It’s very rewarding to know that you have helped people in any way you can to have a better life inside work or even a better life outside work.’

Mental health and well-being are two topics very close to Gary’s heart in particular.

He says: ’I have always believed that looking after your mental health is so important and I have always encouraged people to talk about it.

’Unfortunately there is still a reluctance in some quarters to do this and to seek out help.

’But to me, it’s a little like having a radio that’s a bit out of tune - a tiny adjustment to the dial can make it right again and people shouldn’t be afraid of seeking counselling or a little bit of psychiatric help to get them when they need it.’

The Covid pandemic has brought additional stress and strain for many people and while Gary considers himself pretty resilient, he acknowledges that there has been a lot of pressure for employees to keep vital services going.

’As a utility company Manx Telecom has no choice but to carry on making sure everyone stays connected and our staff have worked very hard, often with very little down time," explains Gary.

’That’s why we recently put all of our managers, around 50 people, through a mental health first aid training course so that they recognise in themselves and in others where there might be some issues with an individual’s mental health.’

It was a move that raised some eyebrows in the business.

’We did have some people asking why we were taking all the managers out of circulation for two days’ of solid training but I was convinced it was the right thing to do and the reaction from everyone who did the training was fantastic.

’We all learnt a lot, especially the signs to look out for if people are struggling.

’I’m proud that as a company we are able to offer that help and provide counselling or psychiatric services when needed.

’It’s good not just for people’s work situation but their domestic situations too and of course both are intrinsically related.’

In addition to Gary’s professional roles at Manx Telecom and Strix, he is also a director of Motiv8, the charity that helps people with addictions.

’For every person struggling with addiction, there is likely to be another 13 impacted by that addiction.

’I have seen the affect that addiction can have, particularly on families and especially the children, so it is something I felt very strongly that I would like to help out with.

’Many people are unaware of the fantastic job that Motiv8 does and there is still a lot of stigma attached to addiction.

’But the services they provide are so helpful to those who are trying to deal with living with an addict on a daily basis.’

Gary envisages spending more time working with charities when his working days are eventually over.

’It might sound cheesy but as you get older, you do get more pleasure from giving than receiving,’ he says.

’I spend most of my days with people - it’s rare that I sit on my own for very long - and the reward of helping them is immense.

’And of course you are ultimately helping the business or organisation as well by passing on your experience.’