Posted on July 7, 2017 by staff

‘We’ll put a mental health gym on the high street’


The founder of a start-up that offers mental health coaching to businesses wants to put a mental health gym on the high street.

James Routledge launched Sanctus with the aim of helping people work out their mental health in the same way they work out their bodies.

Routledge was speaking at BusinessCloud’s ‘Opening up on mental health’ event, held in association with Carter Corson, on Monday.

The event was trending at fifth in the region on Twitter with over a million impressions as others flocked to share their experiences and thank the panels for opening up.

Drawing on his own experience of anxiety attacks – which he originally believed were indicative of a heart problem – after shutting down his first business, the 26-year-old started Sanctus to promote mental fitness in business.

He told the 70-strong audience that being a tech entrepreneur had left him vulnerable to mental health issues.

“I spent a long time projecting an image to the world of who I thought I should be as the founder of a tech start-up,” he said.

“I thought I had to portray the image of an alpha, unemotional male who’s always on – a ‘Type A’ kind of guy.

“When I shut my business down it was like my identity had been torn apart. There was a big hole in my chest and I thought, who am I now? I filled the hole up with bad stuff like too much drinking and running away travelling.”

After opening up about his battle with mental health, Routledge realised that he was not alone – which gave rise to the idea for Sanctus.

“Everyone I spoke to could relate to me and I could relate to them, whether they’d had depression or anxiety themselves, just had a bad day or their mother had depression.

“I started to realise it’s not the widely quoted statistic of one in four people experiencing mental health issues, it’s four in four.

“We all have mental health and we’re just on the spectrum at any one point, just like we all have physical health.

“Sometimes we’re ill or people get cancer, and on the other end of the spectrum people build up their bodies and get six packs. Mental health is the same.”

By talking to people about his problems Routledge started to feel better, and wondered if this could help others fight their battles too.

“As I opened up I felt I was getting stronger, I knew myself better, I was more resilient and self-aware and more empathetic – a better person really,” he said.

“I started Sanctus to change the perception and get people to view this positive side of mental health, and get fitter and stronger mental health.”

Routledge’s vision is to put a mental health gym on the high street to help change perceptions and symbolise the ending of stigma around the issue.

“The day someone walks into a Sanctus gym and goes to coaching or a meditation class the world will be changed for the better,” he said.

Other panellists included Vikas Shah, CEO of Swiscot Group Laura Wolfe, managing director, Wolfe; Mylo Kaye, CEO, Dreamr; Tom Smith, former Lancashire County Cricket Club captain; Hannah Johnson, director, Carter Corson; Tom New, co-founder and CPO, Nudgr/Formisimo; Dr Libby Artingstall, consultant psychiatrist/director Team Mental Health; and Janet Jones, author of Happiness Millionaire.