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How taking Time to Talk saved Richard

06 Feb 2020  |  Louise Scodie 
How taking Time to Talk saved Richard

If you're feeling low and anxious, it’s often not easy to speak to a stranger - but as Richard Wickenden found out, it can be a life changing moment

It's Time to Talk day today (6 February), an initiative which aims to encourage everyone to be more open about mental health – to talk and to listen in order to improve our wellbeing.

The initiative chimes well with NABS, the support organisation for the advertising and media industry. That’s because NABS’ support services help people to talk about what’s going on for them, in order to help them thrive – at work and at home.

Its Advice Line is the best example of this. As NABS’ most-used service, the Advice Line has experienced a significant increase in demand over the past couple of years. In 2019, NABS’ Advice Line team took 4,400 calls, over 1,000 more than the year before, with a third of those calls from people seeking emotional support. That’s a huge 76% rise since 2017.

Callers are people from across the industry, at all levels, who need to take time to talk about anything that’s keeping them in a state of distress. While there’s a huge range of reasons behind the calls as a whole, overarchingly the main driver for people calling for help is the search for support with their emotional and mental health.

One of those callers who took time to talk was Richard Wickenden, a business director who says he would not be working, let alone thriving, today had he not sought help when he most needed it.

Last year, Richard had arrived at a crossroads in his career and realised that he wasn't happy or fulfilled in his role. There was something missing. After many months of soul-searching, he felt he only had one option: to quit in search of a fresh start that would help, rather than hinder, his wellbeing.

Richard says: "People couldn't understand why I left a perfectly job without anything to go to but I just wasn't happy. The truth is, I was treading water and needed a new challenge. I knew that there was something else, something better, out there for me. I just needed the time and headspace to find it."

He’d taken the necessary step of building a small financial cushion for himself before making the leap. However, weeks of job hunting turned into months, and Richard began to doubt his decision while worrying about how much money he had left in the bank.

“Job hunting can be isolating and difficult. I worried about all kinds of things – but increasingly about my finances, especially as I got close to the six-month mark. I have two children and my focus was them. How was I going to support them?”

Worries about Richard’s finances were compounded by the other side effects of job-hunting and interviewing. He remembers: “For the first time in a long time, I was on the outside looking in. With rejection after rejection, I really did start feeling like an outcast. I was facing the very real possibility of not being able to re-join the industry I love.”

The impact on Richard’s emotional and mental health was stark. He experienced low moods, depression and anxiety, all of which began to impact on his ability to think clearly when searching for work.

Richard’s lowest point came when a recruiter told him he had absolutely no chance of securing a new position and should give up. That was the first time his confidence failed and the self-belief that had been keeping him afloat, suddenly left him on the floor.

It was then that Richard realised that he needed to take time to talk. He remembered NABS and called the Advice Line, even though he was unsure about how exactly it could help him.

Richard recalls: “It’s not an easy thing to do, to call a stranger and to open up about how you’re feeling. And I didn’t know too much about the Advice Line. But I knew I had to talk to someone professional. I was pretty apprehensive, and feeling very low, when I made my first call.

“Steve, who I spoke to, was great. He didn’t judge, he just listened. After months of isolation, feeling free to talk was so refreshing. Straight away, he made me feel calmer and gave me the courage to talk through my decision to leave my last role, and to share how I’d been handling life since then.”

This was the first of many months of phone calls between Richard and the Advice Line. Richard says: “The team were always there for me, in good times and bad. I’d call them to commiserate or celebrate, depending on how my job-hunting was going at the time. They really were there for me during all of the highs and lows – whenever I wanted to talk.”

Steve and his colleagues were also able to connect Richard with other suitable services, such as coaching, grants and therapy through NABS, as well as an Upskilling Grant to enable him to attend the Google Squared Online course, to help him gain the skills he needed to get back into work.

Happily, a job offer finally appeared in December – a great Christmas present for Richard. He’s now employed as a senior account director at creative agency King Campbell & Friends, and he made sure that the NABS team were the first to hear the news by emailing them five minutes after he accepted his role.

Richard explains: “Had I not plucked up the courage – and believe me, it did take a load of courage – to talk to NABS in the first place, I wouldn’t have benefited from all of the other things that have helped me get back on my feet.

“It is not overstating things to say that I would not be where I am had I not taken time to talk about my wellbeing with NABS. To anybody who was in my position, I would say, please find somebody to talk to, please get proper help. Talking saved my career and it saved me.”

If you need to take time to talk today, call the NABS Advice Line on 0800 707 6607 between 9am – 5.30pm or email

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