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Dorset Chamber launches new mental health initiative for business leaders

By Karolina Lasinska
4 May 2021

Dorset Chamber has launched an initiative to provide support and build resilience amongst business leaders.

Liz Willingham, Ian Girling, Caron Khan, Matthew Barrow and Tony Brown

At a time when the pressure of running a business and managing a team is potentially at its most stressful in our lived history, Got Your 6 (GU6 for short) has been developed to plug the gaps where the well-being of our bosses is often ignored or taken for granted.

The initiative has been named after a term used by WW2 fighter pilots where they protected the ‘backs’ of fellow pilots in formation at the vulnerable rear ‘six o’clock’ position. Ultimately, Dorset Chamber ‘has the backs’ of those in the business community, member or non-member, who may need some respectful and confidential support.

A series of Chamber board directors, ambassadors and members, as well as chief executive Ian Girling, have qualified as mental health first aiders (donated by Ouch Training) and are ready to take the next step as GU6 Champions.

Sharing their knowledge and experience, they all understand the pressures of being a leader and will make themselves available for a relaxed peer-to-peer chat or for signposting to further help.

Believing strongly in the initiative, support has also been provided by south coast law firm Lester Aldridge to enable wider awareness of the GU6 service and the overall health and well-being focus developed by Dorset Chamber, including a forthcoming Fit For The Future Charter.

GU6 has been developed by past president and board member Liz Willingham, who feels business leaders get forgotten in conversations about mental health.

She said: “The well-being of our workforces is thankfully now higher on the agenda, and rightly so, but I have become increasingly concerned about the lack of support specifically for employers themselves who are often single-handedly shouldering huge pressures from their businesses and the teams they employ. It can be a very lonely place. To be in good shape, our leaders need to be effective, resilient, and able to function with clarity.”

Matthew Barrow, managing partner at Lester Aldridge, said: “Mental health awareness is something that we are passionate about and the opportunity to support this initiative felt totally right for us. It’s such a critical subject to grasp right now. We encourage anyone to reach out and talk to someone if they feel they are struggling. I hope GU6 can provide real support to our local business heroes.”

A dedicated section of the chamber website hosts a growing bank of relevant resources and information, all aimed at helping our business leaders thrive in a difficult time. All GU6 Champions are also listed here and can be reached via private message via their LinkedIn profiles or through the Dorset Chamber team.

It is hoped the number of champions will grow and the reach of the support evolves as recovery from the pandemic unfolds. GU6 has been developed with the support of Ouch Training, Dorset Mind, and Livewell Dorset.