SUE BAKER OBE
If you've come here expecting an interview with Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, then we can only apologise. As you can see, there isn't one. The questions, listed at the bottom of the page, are those we asked Sue on a number of occasions with countless promises that they will be answered, but it was never to be. Trust us when we say that it's not for the want of trying on our behalf. It's been advertised on our site as 'Coming Soon', but we now realise that it's never going to happen.
Men Tell Health is built on trust and honesty, so we wanted to be open and let you know why it didn't happen including all the background and communications that have taken place since. All the information below is 100% accurate and can all be validated, verified and backed-up. We don't take any pride in this, but feel it's important to be honest with you, our community. All the names included are accurate, although we acknowledge they may not be in those roles now, nor do we assign any blame or animosity towards them. These are just the facts. Text in italics are directly quotes from the people concerned.
We absolutely understand that the people we want to talk to are all very busy people. That is why we suggest doing the interviews via email. Assuming they're interested, we email them the questions and then they can complete the answers in their own time and send them back so we can get them on the website for you to read. The idea is that is saves them time and it saves us time too.
The process started, as all our potential interviews do, with an introductory email, just to explore if they would be even interested.
27th November 2015 at 13:07.
The first email, to the generic TtC email address, was sent not long after we relaunched our website.
Given the size of the Time to Change organisation, we didn't expect the email to land in Sue's inbox directly, but we added that it was for her attention and hoped it would eventually land on her virtual desk.
We send a lot of the emails out to people we would like to interview and those we think would interest you guys. Sue was perfect for this. Some say yes (see previous interviews). Some say no, for any number of reasons, which is fine too. One asked for money (well his Agent did), but most of our requests go completely ignored and we never hear anything either way. In all seriousness a "sod off" email would be preferred to nothing at all, but as is life I guess. The more we're connected, the less we connect. Anyway, we digress.
1st December 2015 @ 17:10
Our initial email was forward by a Time To Change Assistant, Hassan W J Hassan, to Karen Wilson, Sue's Portfolio Coordinator and PA.
2nd December 2015 @ 15:49
Karen replied "confirming receipt" of our email and stated she would "discuss the request with Sue" and "get back" to us. So far, so good. We hear nothing more until...
11 December 2015 @ 12:50
We hear back from Emma Warren, Time to Change's Social Media Officer saying that they'd "spoken to Sue and she is happy to do an interview in the new year. The third week in January would be best for her". Great.... although this is where it took an unsavoury note.
In the time between the initial request and the latest email, our original email had bounced around a number of people at Time To Change to get their input. The email Hassan sent to Karen was forwarded on by her to both Hayley Richardson-Roberts (Communications Manager) and Emma Warren "alerting" them to the email. They also pointed out that we had linked to the piece on the Time to Change website which we wrote to support them and asked for their thoughts. Can you imagine? The cheek of linking to a piece we wrote from our own website! How dare we, but that's not the problem.
Hayley had replied to Emma (copying in Karen) asking her to look into it. She thought that "it might be better to do it over email and we can write the questions for Sue and get her approval. Don't think this is something she spends a great deal of time on". Charming.
Now clearly we weren't supposed to be see these emails, but we did. Sufficed to say, we weren't happy. Not only is deceitful to us, it's also disingenuous and disrespectful to those who would have read it. That's you by the way. Either way, it needed clarifying.
15 December 2015 @ 19:26
I replied positively and confirming the date for w/c 18th January 2016 with the promise to supply the questions the week prior. I mentioned that I noticed the text in the earlier emails and, quite fairly, asked if "that how it’s going to work in reality? Just so we know - full disclosure and all - I wouldn’t want to mislead our community. I contributed to the small things campaign and would hate to think the reciprocation isn’t genuinely meant." Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I said I'd be in touch in the new year.
16 December 2015 @ 10:44
Men Tell Health, if nothing else, if built on trust, honesty and positivity. Having thought about the emails and how they had treated a fairly simple, genuine request. We had a change of heart. I replied again saying:
Further to my email yesterday and on second thoughts, it’s probably not a good idea to do the interview so feel free to cancel the time from Sue’s diary. I was really hurt by the comments left by your team. I appreciate I wasn’t supposed to see the comments, but I did.
Having the team write the answers for her feels incredibly disingenuous to both me, my organisation and the community who are all fighting to remove stigma of mental illness. Clearly that doesn’t go as deep as reciprocating the time and effort I put into helping your #SmallThings campaign.
The questions we would ask would require Sue’s input in order for them to be effective, not written by someone else. I’m sorry that Hayley feels my request “shouldn’t be something Sue spends a great deal of time on”. I thought we, as organisations, were on the same page. I fully appreciate Sue’s time is precious but I would have much preferred an email saying ‘Sorry, she can’t do it cause you’re busy”.
Many thanks for the little time you did spend on it"
Covers it all I think.
16 December 2015 @ 11:13
A reply arrives from Emma Warren:
"I’m really sorry that you saw those comments below. As you can see from Karen’s initial email Sue should be able to answer your questions (directly). Happy to make sure this happens – I can assure you this won’t come via us. We’re in a bit of a state of flux at the moment – waiting to find out whether the Time to Change project is going to be funded beyond March 2016 so it’s all hands on deck on the offices.
Let me know what you think.
Best wishes and sorry again."
16 December 2015 @ 13:12
Thanks for the email but, to be honest with you, I don’t trust that to be the case, given the comments in previous emails. Yes Karen’s email said Sue would answer the questions, but Hayley’s contradicts that, so who knows which is true. I would have no way of knowing either way, which is arguably worse. As I said, it feels both disingenuous and deceitful to carry on, not something I would have attributed to Time To Change as an organisation - until now of course. At least you got something from me though, which is maybe the only way it is supposed to work.
Given the ‘state of flux’ you find yourselves in, I’d have rather you (and the rest of the team) said that instead.
16 December 2015 @ 13:35
Emma replies that she is "more than happy to put you directly in touch with Sue. Let me know if this is something that you want me to arrange."
Amazing how quickly the replies come when some corporate embarrassment is on the agenda. We decline the offer as it seemed a little pointless. That seemed to be the end of it, from our perspective at least until...
16 December 2015 @ 16:25
We receive an email from, Hayley Richardson which said:
"I know you have been speaking to my colleague about arranging an interview with Sue Baker and I’m sorry about the experience you’ve had. I can totally appreciate how my email came across.
I thought it would be prudent to email you to explain our situation properly. Sue Baker has some major strategic priorities at the moment and I simply thought a Q&A email response would be easier and a more efficient way of working and getting the time in with her. Obviously the internal email trail you received didn’t explain our position clearly.
I hope you can understand and can accept my apology. We would really like to work with you but I appreciate that this may not be something you wish to continue."
The day of emails wasn't over yet!
16 December 2015 @ 16:53
We reply stating:
"Whilst I appreciate the revised position, I couldn't in all sincerity continue with the interview knowing what I do. I am under no illusion that Sue and the rest of your leadership team have much more important things to deal with than me and my little organisation. I am, almost literally, a nobody. I understand that completely and wouldn't expect people in their positions to have anything other than a plate full of more important things to do. It's the nature of the world.
If she was too busy to even do the interview herself, I doubt she's found time in the last 24 hours. The interviews I've done already have been based on understanding, cooperation and mutual respect; the latter has clearly been sadly lacking on this occasion. These three things are also why the email interview works for all concerned. They get to answer my questions, and those submitted by our community, in their own time. I ask nothing more than it be their words and their opinions. Given the emails I saw, that clearly wasn't going to happen in this case and, if I hadn't seem them - let's be honest - that would have continued to be the case. It would have misrepresented what I'm trying to do and have felt disingenuous, even if Sue signed off on them. If my own struggles with mental illness have taught me anything, it's that honesty is always best and, with that in mind, I have zero tolerance for BS. As I said to Emma previous, a "thanks but no thanks" or "can you come back to us next year" would have been so much better.
I only originally enquired on the hope that my input as part of your #SmallThings campaign might have, at least, generated an element on 'quid pro quo'. Again, that clearly wasn't the case. If Sue genuinely wants contribute when (and if) her workload allows then maybe we can do something later on. I was at the #StoryCamp event with her and she seems like a genuinely nice person. If she wants to contact me (assuming she even knows about this) then feel free to pass my details on.
I wish you the best with Time to Change's bid for further funding next year. You're all doing a great job.".
e genuinely thought THAT would be the end of the matter, but no!
18 December 2015 @ 13:57
We get an email from Sue herself. Up until this point, I hadn't seen Sue's name included in the address fields of any of the emails, so wasn't sure if she was even aware of what had transpired. Clearly she'd heard about it from someone. She said:
"I’m just finally catching up on emails, after a very busy period with many demanding strategic priorities and I’m afraid I am only getting to reply to you myself now.
Yes of course I remember meeting you, and am keen to help your great project. I’m sorry I’ve had so little time to support projects like yours.
Firstly I’d like to know a bit more about what you are doing as am very interested, and then perhaps we could actually do that interview? I can do this in person if my diary and yours align, or over the ‘phone.
Anyway sending my best wishes for a peaceful and restful festive break, and hope we can work together soon"
4 January 2016 @ 14:03
Clearly the Christmas period and amount of sweets and chocolates we'd ate had softened our stance and in the spirit of a new year, we replied to Sue saying:
"Many thanks for the email. Whilst it was nice to receive, given the emails I’ve exchanged with members of your team, it was also a little surprising. I’m sure you’re aware of the problems I’ve had trying to set up the interview.
As I said to your team, I completely understand the constraints on your time and can only imagine how busy you must be. I’m running a tiny organisation on my own and I don’t know whether I’m coming or going half the time, so your role must be manic! That said, and as I stressed to the team, if the interview is not something you can commit to due to current workload, then I would rather you say so, rather have the embarrassment of having members of your team reply to the questions on your behalf. It would be disingenuous to me and my community otherwise. If my own struggles with MH have taught me anything, it’s that I have no time for BS! If you can find the time and I can genuinely be assured that the answers will come from you, then I’m more than happy to do the interview.
I talk a little (ok a lot) about Men Tell Health, what we do (or did) and pointed her in the direction of the interview we did with Eddy Temple-Morris so she could get a flavour of the tone, etc and finish off by saying:
"Of the 5 or so I’ve done already, they have all been done via email. I find this helps both myself and the interviewee (as they can do it in their own time). Doing it over the phone doesn’t really work as I can’t write quick enough to dictate and the sound quality on recordings is generally poor. I like to create the questions, but also have the opportunity for visitors / followers to submit their own questions. We trail the next guest as soon as the new one goes live. You can take a look at them by visiting http://www.mentellhealth.org/men-ask/ (if you scroll to the bottom - you can see the previous ones I’ve done). I don’t want to get all Jeremy Paxman on you - or Jeremy Clarkson for that matter - but I also don’t want it to be a fluffy piece either. I think you mentioned at StoryCamp you’ve had your own challenges with MH in the past so if you’d be willing to talk a little about those, that would be great. Similarly, if there are any particular topics personally or through TtC you’d like me to touch on / avoid like the plague, please just let me know."
What can we say, we're a soft touch!
5 January 2016 @ 08:51
"Thanks for the reply and just read some of the Eddy interview – very good read.
I wanted to come back to you quickly as I’m only in this week and then away until 25th Jan, to say yes I’d really like to do an interview and over email is fine. If it ends up being similar in length to the Eddy interview then it will take me some time to reply and write all the responses – so let’s plan a date and I can schedule this in.
Yes more than happy to talk about my own lived experience of depression (and suicidal thoughts) – I’ve been very open about this in previous media work and speeches.
I think I can safely say it will be busy when I get back, and then we have Time to Talk Day in early Feb so probably looking at mid Feb onwards – how does this work for you?
The work you are doing is very much needed, and it must be hard work doing this in on your own – so I appreciate you must be hectic on a daily basis. Do let me know what timing works for you re: the interview.
We’ve done some previous work targeted at men in our target audience, and you’ll see many men featured in our campaigns and blogs etc – I’m sure you know some of them well. We are thinking about the future programme (what we call ‘phase 3’) and when we have secured the funding (that’s what has absorbed a lot of my time over the last six months) beyond March this year we will be considering future audiences and of course men are part of this discussion.
Karen does the PA role for me and work with you to schedule in this email interview and time for me to respond – and I’ve copied who Hayley who you were in contact with before."
So we've now gone from a mid-January date to one in mid-February, but at least it's progress.
26 January 2016 @ 12:04
We get an email from Claire Groom, the Interim Portfolio Coordinator and PA to Sue stating:
"Thank you so much for getting in touch, apologies for the delay in responding, as Sue mentioned in her mail below, it will be difficult to schedule an interview in Sue’s diary before mid Feb.
The following slots look okay for Sue, please do let me know which ones would be convenient for you. I’m due a catch up with Sue soon so once I know which dates suit you (hopefully one of them will be!) I can then get back to Sue and confirm.
Tues 16 Feb 10-12 or between 1330-1600
Wed 17 Feb between 12-1600
Thurs 18 Feb between 1400-1600
Can I just confirm the format of the interview, just to make sure I’ve got the right end of the stick. You mentioned in your that the interview won’t be on the phone, and that you email through questions to the respondents. Would you then meet face to face and interview Sue?
In the meantime it would be really useful if I could take your phone number."
Clearly something got lost in translation, but it's progress... kinda!
26 January 2016 @ 14:39
"Many thanks for the email. Happy New Year! (is it too late to say that?).
As far as the interview goes, given the format that we have adopted in the past, the only time needed will be for Sue to reply to the questions via email. I don’t necessarily need to talk to her (although I wouldn’t be opposed to that) as it’s all usually done via email. I email the questions and she responds with her answers.
It might not be the most personal way, but for busy people like Sue, I find it works well. Doing the interview over the phone is tricky as it’s hard for me to make notes whilst giving the other person the courtesy of listening to their answers. I could record it, but the quality is rarely any good. Let me explain how it has worked in the past.
Bear in mind that we only launched in November so are still very new, but once a new interview goes live on our site, we begin to trail the next one. With our previous interviewees, what we have done is allow a week or so for members of our community to submit their questions which are added to ones I come up with myself. This is designed to create a sense of engagement and allows for a more diverse range of topics. Obviously any inappropriate or silly questions will be filtered out and any duplicated ones can be combined. We haven’t had anything untoward yet but you never know!. If Sue (or Time To Change) is willing to throw out the invite to her followers during that time too, that would be even better. People can submit questions through our website (link here) and we can also Tweet / Facebook the link out.
Once I have the questions finalised, I usually email them over to whomever is being interviewed. They then reply with their answers. Simple as that. You can schedule some time in for Sue to answer them as part of her day or she can answer them laid on the sofa at home with a glass of wine. Once I have them back, I’ll format them and get them uploaded ready for launch. I hope that makes sense!
I will say again, I need the answers to be from Sue herself. We had a problem with a member of your team saying that they would answer the questions for Sue. If this is going to be the case, I’d rather not bother at all. It’s discourteous, disrespectful and disingenuous to me and my organisation.
Given the interviews currently being scheduled, I would estimate the questions would be ready w/c 15th Feb.
I hope this clarifies things. If you need anything else, please just let me know. My number, if you need to call me, is 07*** ******"
We speak later that day on the phone to clarify the interview points. Feels like we've back on track!
26th January 2016 @ 16:26
"Nice to chat earlier. Not too late to say happy new year we’re still in January after all. Although new years eve etc seems like a very very long time ago now!
I’ve put some time in Sue’s diary for Tues 16 Feb so if you can get the questions over to us by Mon 15 Feb that would be great.
Thank you for your patience you must be incredibly busy running the site (Love the name by the way)
If there’s any problems I’ll get straight back to you."
Dates booked. Again. We set about finalising some questions.
15th February 2016 @ 9:34
As promised, we send over the questions for Sue to answer (listed at the bottom) and await her reply later that week.
15th February 2016 @ 11:40
We chat on the phone again that morning. Claire replies confirming that "Sue has time in her diary this week to go through the questions, but if anything changes I'll get back to you".
16th February 2016 @ 9:32
We have the briefest of conversations on Twitter about the questions we sent over. (PLEASE NOTE: Sue wasn't an OBE at the time of the original tweet, but was when the screenshot was taken).
She's doing it today though. We're getting close now though.
17th February 2016 @ 12:56
Part of the interviews we'd done, up until that point, was one question that is asked by the person interviewed previously. We received one from Stuart Semple (the previous interviewee to Sue) a little late, but fired it off to add to the other questions. The question was "Hi Sue, simple questions, just how awesome was the last Time To Talk Day???".
17th February 2016 @ 15:05
"Sue has been a ridiculously busy time for Sue over the past couple of days. I'm going to catch up with her today hopefully I'll put Stuart's question to her.
My two pence worth about Time to talk day is that it was especially good this year because the West Mids came out on top with the most conversations! We brummie's do like a chat we're right gas bags.
I'll keep you updated"
Clearly the answering questions for Sue has returned ;-) but we took it in the spirit it was intended.
20th January 2016 @ 18:22
"Many thanks for the email. It sounds like Sue’s diary is like my own; more of a general guideline than any sort of concrete plan! Thanks so keeping me up-to-date. Sue mentioned (via Twitter) she was doing it today so I hope she finally found a little time."
We hear nothing more.
11 March 2016 @ 15:38
We send Claire an email:
"I was just wondering how we're doing with the answers for Sue's interview? Im not pressuring you, Im sure you've all got plenty of things on. Just thought I'd ask."
11 March 2016 @ 15:45
"I thought Sue had been in touch? I know that she'd gone through the questions. Sue's away poorly, she won't be back at work until the end of April.
I'll take a look through the emails/file to see if I can find anything"
11 March 2016 @ 16:03
"Sorry to hear that Sue's not well. Give her my best if you speak to her. I haven't heard from her since before Christmas but if theres an email floating about, feel free to send it over!"
11 March 2016 @ 16:06
"Will do! I'll do some digging around and see what I can find"
We hear nothing more.
15 March 2016 @ 11:37
We send a speculative email that simply reads:
Claire replies at 11:39 saying "Not yet no but I'll get right back to you if I find anything".
We hear nothing more. Do you sense a pattern developing?
14 April 2016 @ 10:33
Another email asking Claire:
"Just wondering if you had any luck with Sue’s interview? Given the problems we (not you and I, but me and others at Time to Change) had at the beginning, I’m starting to think this interview is cursed!"
14 April 2016 @ 10:41
"Thanks for getting in touch, I'm afraid I haven't been able to find them. This is a shame as Sue did make time to go through the questions you'd sent through.
Sue is on long term sick leave at the moment, but I will bring it to Sue's attention when's she's back".
So no-one seems sure if she did them when they said she was going to do them and if she did, no-one knows where they are. Arse and Elbow. Spring to mind.
14 April 2016 @ 10:51
We reply, trying in vain to make sense of the situation:
"Thanks for the email. Just to clarify…. Both you and Sue both stated she had scheduled some time in her diary to do the interview (back in February). Did this happen? I’m conscious that, if it didn’t, she’s certainly not going to have time to do it when she’s got 2 months of work to catch up on.
Pass on my regards and I hope she’s feeling better soon."
14 April 2016 @ 10:55
"Yes that's right time was put in Sue's diary to go through the questions. Unfortunately Sue went on sick leave soon after. I'm afraid I cannot find the work Sue had done on the questions you'd sent."
At this stage we didn't know what was wrong with Sue (no reason why we should) or when she'd be back. Not much we can do about that so we leave it for a while. We hear nothing, nor ask any more until....
6 May 2016 @ 9:18
We send an email to Claire simply stating:
"Dare I ask?"
6 May 2016 @ 10:23
:"No, Sue's still on long term sick leave. She's really quite unwell right now. As I mentioned in previous mails I looked through files etc to see if I could find the work Sue had done, unfortunately I've not been able to.
I understand that Paul Farmer Mind CEO has agreed to be interviewed? As Mind and Rethink mental illness are partners of Time to Change, Paul could perhaps speak about the work of Time to Change during his interview?
To fill you in we'd reached out, via a third-party who knows Paul Farmer, to ask him for an interview too. We sent him an email to his direct email address on 7th April 2016 @ 19:56 but that didn't even get a reply. Still not sensing a pattern?
After this email, with the information that Sue wasn't well at all (although we didn't know what was wrong with her or for how long she'd be off), we just left it with the idea that we'd check in now and again to try and clarify the status of the interview. Which is exactly what we did.
15th September 2016 @ 20:17
We emailed Claire for an update which read:
"I hope you’re well. I was just wondering if there was any update on Sue. I hope she’s feeling better."
We had an automated reply that she no longer worked for Time To Change and asked us to contact Regency Rae (what a great name!). 3 minutes later we sent Regency this with all the previous emails attached so she could see the preceding conversations:
"Welcome! I appreciate I’m dropping this on your lap without no much background but, as you will see from previous emails, I’ve been trying to get an interview with Sue Baker. I understand she’s been ill but I was hoping she was back at work.
She’s aware of the interview and has the questions already. I hope you could speak to her about it, assuming she’s back of course.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.".
Four days pass.
19 September 2016 @ 12:23
"Thank you for your email, and I apologise for the delay in replying.
Unfortunately, Sue is still off sick; however, I have forwarded your email to her and I will be back in touch when I have received her reply."
Despite the emails, by this point, we'd pretty much given up on ever getting it resolved.
31 December 2016
In the meantime, Sue was awarded the OBE in the Queen's New Year honours list. We posted a tweet to congratulate her and, surprisingly, got this reply.
Where we back on? Dare we be so bold?
2 January 2017 @ 18:07
Buoyed by our interaction on Twitter, we email Sue (directly) the questions again with a note that read:
"It was nice to speak to you briefly via Twitter last week. If you’re still interested in doing the interview now you’re feeling better, I’ve attached the questions. If you could fill them in and return them, I’ll get them up on the site asap. It would be lovely to finally get this sorted if you have the time.
Again, congrats on the OBE and I hope you’re feeling better. Happy New Year."
We hear nothing back from anyone. Not Sue, not her PA, no-one.
24th March 2017 @ 12:11
We email Regency:
"I hope you're well. In regard to the interview with Sue I've been chasing for a year or more, I spoke to her via Twitter earlier in the year and she said she was still keen to the do the interview. As requested, I re-emailed her the questions on 2nd January but still haven't heard anything back. I can't help but feel I've been, and continue to be, taken for a ride over this whole situation.
Could you please find out the status of this and get back to me asap?"
We hear nothing back from anyone. We give up. Again.
12 April 2017 @ 8:39
Seeing Sue's now active on Twitter, we send her a message. Although, as you can see, we weren't our usual positive selves.
You heard it here first, it's getting scheduled in before the end of April! Hurrah. Only a couple more weeks to wait. How exciting.
4 May 2017 @ 2:31
Still nothing. We drop her another Tweet.
It's on her list. In a few weeks time. How very exciting!
5 June 2017 @ 17:42
We have a brief Twitter exchange with Sue on, well, Twitter.
13 July 2017 @ 15:48
In the meantime, Men Tell Health continues to grow at a rapid rate. As a result, we get asked to speak at the local NHS Trust's Annual General Meeting, as does Sue. Awkward! The AGM is booked for the 19th July. I wonder if we'll hear anything from Sue 'out of the blue'. Probably not ;-)
Out of the blue, we get an email from Sue, copying in Larissa Lily and Julie Evans (we don't know who they are at this point) which reads:
"How is life with you?
I have your interview questions in front of me now and will try and finish them off tomorrow – so that we can discuss this when we meet and speak together at the Trust’s AGM next week?
Looking forward to seeing you soon!"
The questions are finally getting finished off tomorrow. Excitement grows beyond words!
13th July 2017 @ 16:09
"Great to hear from you. I hope you’re back to fighting fit. Here was me thinking you’d given up on us ;-)
If you can get it finished tomorrow and back to me, it might be a great way to promote the event by publishing on that day. If you could attach a nice photograph of your good self, that would be great too."
We thought if we could publish on the same day of the AGM, it would be good publicity for the event, for us and for Time To Change.
13th July 2017 @ 16:17
"Ha I’ll try and find a nice photo ;)
Julie/Larissa can you send over the stock shot of me (even though I don’t look much like that now!)
Fab – will find what I started a long time ago and put aside an hour to finish it off tomorrow!"
Finish it tomorrow? We can almost smell those answers! Only took 20 months ;-)
13th July 2017 @ 16:25
The theme of the AGM was men's mental health. In the time between first sending the questions, Time To Change had launched their #InYourCorner campaign. SO to make the interview (which is coming tomorrow don't forget) more relevant and topical, we thought it would be prudent to include another question, which was included in the following email:
"That’s great. I knew we’d get there in the end!
I know there were plenty of questions already, but just to bring it up to date and more relevant now, could I add just one more? I hope you said “Yes” ;-) I’ll fit in into the overall interview so it flows.
The ‘In Your Corner’ Campaign is looking specifically at men’s mental health and how men can help their friends who may be struggling. Does Time To Change develop campaigns and outcomes that are aimed squarely at men differently than those that are more gender agnostic?
No more I promise."
14 July 2017 @ 15:58
Today's the day the interview arrives! Exciting!
We get an email from Louise Penman, Senior Communications Officer at Time To Change with a photo of Sue. The very one attached to this post in fact. The interview will probably follow immediately after.
14 July 2017 @ 16:40
We reply to Louise:
"That’s great, thanks for sending it over. Do you know if Sue will have the interview back to me today?"
We hear nothing more.
18 July 2017 @ 16:59
The AGM was due to take place tomorrow, on the 19th July. Time was getting short, but ever the eternal optimists we send an email to Sue:
"Just wondered how you’re getting on with the interview? It would to be able to get it back today so I’ve got a chance to get it online and published for tomorrow."
We hear nothing back.
19th July 2017 @ 13:00
The AGM takes place at Middlesbrough Football Club's Riverside Stadium. Sue even tweets about it.
We meet Sue inside, run through our respective presentations, have a nice chat, we both do our talks. Sue has to shoot off early and the interview isn't forthcoming, but she promises to do it on the train back to London. Three hour train ride with nothing to do but finish that questions. Fantastic. We'll log on tonight and finally be able to read them.
13 August 2017 @ 20:49
We send Sue another email, stating:
"I was just wondering what the status of the interview is? If it’s not going to ever be finished, I’d just rather know so we can move on."
We hear nothing back until....
30 August 2017 @ 12:35
An email from Larissa Lily which reads:
"And so sorry for the delay, Sue is on leave. I can check with her when she is back next week."
Do you ever get the feeling you're getting the piss taken out of you?
30 August 2017 @ 13:01
It's time for, what I tend to call, a curt email. It read:
"Many thanks for the email. This situation, from my point of view has become ridiculous. This was originally request in December 2015. I appreciate that Sue was off with illness for some time but I feel entirely disrespected and constantly lied to by Time To Change. Having helped out on a number of your campaigns, it feels entirely unprofessional. So far I've had numerous promises that the interview will be completed; either via email, Twitter, before a recent event and even on the train home from the event. None of which have happened.
The whole situation reached a point when your colleagues passed my original request around themselves saying that Sue didn't have time and your colleagues would "write the answers for Sue" and that they "didn't think this should be something she spends a great deal of time on". Whilst I obviously wasn't meant to be copied in on those emails, I was. Despite apologies from them once their error was declared (sorry they were caught, not sorry it happened), clearly you've all been having a good laugh at my expense ever since.
In light of the constant disrespect, I will be forming those emails into a longer narrative post..." (which you're now reading!) "...I've been asked to write for the Huffington Post. You might want to brief the relevant colleagues. I will also add it as a post on our own site to clearly let people know why the interview that has been promised for almost 2 years never happened. Of course, I'll be including the emails in the post for confirmation and to evidence my thoughts.
I appreciate this wasn't down to you, but I hope you can understand my frustration."
Out of respect, we decided against writing in the Huffington Post, not wanting to embarrass anyone on such a large publication. Clearly respect is only flowing one way.
1 September 2017 @ 08:52
"Sorry to hear you feel this way but I understand your frustration with the situation. I apologise on behalf of the team as this is unacceptable.
Sue will be back from leave next week and I will check with her where she has got with this then. If you could bear with us for another week, and we can give you a definitive answer by next Friday?"
Unacceptable? You think?
7 September 2017 @ 12:36
A week later, Larissa replies:
"I`ve spoken to Sue about this now, and she says this is on her radar. However as this is her first week back and she is very busy with urgent requests, she won`t be able to finish the interview this week. I realise this is probably not an answer you wanted, but all I can do is keep reminding her about this."
You can't go wrong with a radar! Always rely on radar to keep you going.
17 September 2017 @ 15:03
After two years, my patience has not suprisingly, worn pretty thin. We reply:
"No, definitely not the answer I wanted, but the exact answer I expected. Now it’s on her radar, when will it be done?"
The email goes ignored and we hear nothing back. We give up.
17 September 2017 @ 15:14
At this point, we start to ask ourselves if this is how they behave with everyone or is it just us? Let's not forget we're all supposedly working towards the same goals. As we always say it should be about "collaboration, not competition", but it seems we're in the minority. We send an email that reads:
"Could you also forward me the relevant documents to create an official compliant against Time to Change."
25th September 2017 @ 11:17
"You can send a complaint to the official Mind complaint helpdesk: email@example.com"
We never do. Really, what would be the point of raising of complaint to people about their boss?
27 September 2017 @ 8:15
In one last vain attempt to salvage something from 2 years of work, we send Larissa (we still don't know who she is or her role) an email trying to clarify whether it being "on her (Sue's) radar" means anything at all anymore. She replies:
"Sue hasn`t been in the office and I`ve not had a chance to check with her about timings. I think in the future if you`d like a sooner reply, it would be best to email Sue directly to ask when she can complete the interview. I can`t provide any further information about this until I`ve spoken to her."
Get the feeling we're boring them now? Yep, us too. Email her directly? Yeah, cause that works!
28 September 2017 @ 15:05
"When I email Sue directly, it either gets ignored or answered by her PA."
28 September 2017 @ 15:21
Larissa replies, sounding as pissed off with us as we are with them. The difference being, we have a reason to be.
"I understand your frustration, but all I can do is keep reminding Sue about this. Beyond that I don`t have any influence on what she does. And therefore cannot make any promises on when she might be able to deliver this.
I know that she is very busy the next two weeks, so I would say it is unlikely that she has a chance to look at this until mid-October."
Mid-October? Think she will? No, us neither.
8 September 2017 @ 16:39
We give up for the final time. We send a final email which reads:
"I think it’s fairly obvious to us all that Sue has no intention, neither now nor at anytime in the past, of completing the interview so let’s just leave it. I’ll write something about the whole ordeal where the interview would go on our website and move on."
We hear nothing more.
As we said up top, we take no pleasure in doing this, but we've been trailing the interview for two years on our website and we owe it to those who submitted questions to understand why it's not happening. We are not trying to embarrass Time To Change or Sue at all, but simply to be transparent.
As we said at the beginning, we ask people to be interviewed because we believe their views and opinions are of interest to you. Sue fits that mould perfectly, so its a shame that she doesn't hold us in the same regard. As we say to everyone we ask, we KNOW you're busy, which is why it's done the way it is. In addition, if you don't have time to do it, just say that. We're grown adults. We're not going to throw our toys out of the pram over it. That's life. Just be honest. Be respectful and be straight with us. It's really not difficult.
We've helped Time To Change on two of their campaigns. We're not the only ones we know, but we thought our help might have warranted a little professional reciprocation. It seems apparent that helping the larger organisations is only ever a one-way street. Ever asked them to retweet your blog after helping them? Did they? No, thought not.
As unsettling as it is, in some ways, we'd love to think this is just a personal thing. That it's just us who have been treated so poorly, so often and so consistently. We would hate to think that this is the norm from an organisation that deals with such difficult issues and with people who are dealing with serious mental illness (as we are!) where this kind of thing can affect people deeply.. Maybe it's just because we're only a small organisation. What do we matter? They don't need us. Collectively, including Mind and Rethink, they've got tens of millions of pounds in the bank and hundreds of people working for and with them. We're the smallest of small-fry. What are we going to do?
Who knows if that's true or not. Is it all smoke and mirrors? Is it all a PR exercise? Is it time for Time To Change to change how they deal with these things? Are all their staff disingenuous? All liars? All incapable of being truthful, professional and straight-forward. You've got two years of evidence to decide.
I'm sorry we didn't get to see Sue's answers. It's a shame we weren't worthy of her time or that of her staff. The questions were interesting. We're fairly certain the answers would have been worth waiting for. For the record, these are the questions we asked Sue. Some now obviously out-of-date and less relevant, but here they are all the same. Sadly, we'll never know the answers, but we asked Sue....
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I know you must be incredibly busy. Before we start, let’s get the most important question our of the way. How are you?
Secondly, a HUGE congratulations on your OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. You must be incredibly proud. How does it feel to have your work recognised in such a way?
Be honest, have you already practised your curtsy ready for your date at the palace?
Although you work for a mental health organisation, you’ve also had your own problems with mental ill-health, can you tell us a little bit about those, how they came about and how you manage them?
Does having lived experience of depression and suicidal thoughts help, or hinder, you with having such a high-pressured role, albeit within a mental health organisation?
You’ve previously worked for New Zealand’s leading mental health charity. Did you notice any differences in attitudes between the UK and our Kiwi friends when it comes to mental health?
As part of your previous role as Head of Media at Mind, you carried out the UKs first survey of the extent and impact of discrimination in the mid 90s (yes we read your bio). How has the mental health ‘landscape’ changed in that time and, in particular, since Time to Change started in 2007.
What would you say are your proudest moments since working for Time To Change?
We’re only a new organisation, but one thing we’ve noticed in the short time we’ve been around, and after attending a number of Time to Change events or those from other organisations, is the positivity, support and acceptance that people give each other. At times like these it’s hard to believe stigma exists at all. Discuss.
As an organisation, one of your goals for 2015/16 is to “improve adult attitudes towards people with mental health problems by 2%”. Not 1%? not 3%? How did you come to that as a metric and how do you measure the impact you’re having on the perceptions of mental illness?
Time to Change is a campaign to end the stigma and discrimination that those with mental illness face. How does it feel to have a job where the ultimate goal would be for you and all your staff to be unemployed? Is it a strange feeling to know you’re working to make yourself redundant?
As sad as it is, realistically, you’re never going to end stigma 100%, in the same way we’re never going to completely eradicate extremism, racism, sexism, etc. At which point do you say ‘mission accomplished’?
What would you say are the biggest challenges you face as a organisation?
What two things would you say were (1) the most damaging and (2) the most beneficial to the cause that have happened since Time to Change’s inception?
Where, do you think, stigma around mental illness stems from? Why doesn’t the same stigma affect those with broken bones, or acne, or being left-handed?
As more of our lives are conducted online, so many of Time To Change’s initiatives take place across social media. You can look at people in almost any social setting now and they’re staring at their phones. Do you think our reliance on social media and constantly being ‘connected’ is a benefit or curse to someone’s mental illness?
There is so much great work being done by people and tiny organisations around the country. Do you think there is enough collaboration between Time To Change (and the other big organisations like Rethink and Mind) and those smaller organisations? How are these smaller organisations perceived? An annoyance? Irrelevant? Vital in the battle against stigma?
(For what it's worth, I think it's clear now how small organisations are perceived!)
The media storms that were caused in recent years by ASDAs ‘mental patient’ costume, the headlines on the front page of The Sun newspaper or Thorpe Park’s ‘Asylum Maze’ attraction generated a furore around the portrayal of mental illness. Do issues like these these inspire you to work harder or does it make you think that, despite everyone’s best efforts, it’s something that will never really change? Do you ever sit down at your desk after seeing these and just do a face- palm?
As a Director of a large organisation like Time to Change, when these kind of ‘events’ occur in their respective organisations and clearly must have to be signed off by people in similar executive roles, is the ensuing backlash and fire-fighting always done through the media or do you ever just pick up the phone and give them a good, old-fashioned, Time To Change-shaped tongue-lashing?
When doing media, how often to do you get mistaken for Sue Barker?
When you’re feeling low (for any reason), which of these would you always turn to make you feel better (and why)…
What's your guilty pleasure (can be anything - movie, song, TV show, etc)?
This is going to be our ‘chain letter’ feature. One guests asks a question of the next and so on. Our last guest was artist Stuart Semple, he wanted to know….”HI Sue, simple question just how awesome was the last Time To Talk Day???”
Our next guest on #MenAsk is author and all-round mindfulness guru Dr. Danny Penman. Do you have a question for him?
We know that mental illness doesn’t discriminate between gender, but yet that are clear differences between the number of men and women who seek help for mental illness and those that, sadly, commit suicide. Why do you think this is and what can be done?
With all the cuts in funding and budgets, where do you see the future of mental health treatment? Can the NHS cope in the current climate?
When it comes to mental illness, the role for those with ‘lived-experience’ or ‘experts by experience’ seems to gaining prominence. Do you see this as a positive development?
Let’s imagine, just for a minute, Time to Change’s financial budget was unlimited. The sky’s the absolute limit. What would you do tomorrow to further your cause?
Finally, complete this sentence. It’s important to talk about male mental health because…….
If Sue ever wants to finish the interview that has been promised so many times, we'd be delighted to know the answers as, we're sure, would you.