Mental health is a pandemic in its own right: An interview with James Stirk, SVP of Global Sales & Marketing, Tradeshift
For mental health awareness month, we sat down with Tradeshift’s SVP of Global Sales & Marketing, James Stirk to learn how he approaches the topic of mental health with his colleagues and in his personal life. You can watch the video of James in conversation with us here.
What can you tell us about James Stirk when he isn’t leading the sales and marketing organization at Tradeshift?
There’s not a lot of time left when I’m not leading the sales and marketing organization. No, but seriously, look, I’ve got three girls, three daughters—identical twins, and an elder daughter. And outside of work, they keep me very busy. They are at that lovely age now of late teens and early twenties. So I’m very busy ferrying them around and being the personal bank of dad.
You recently posted on your LinkedIn account about a mental health issue that affected one of your family members, could you talk a little bit more about this?
I think mental health is a global pandemic in its own right. And I think these last two years, where we have been hit with a pandemic, have just emphasized how critical it is becoming. And you know, I probably ignored or didn’t really understand how debilitating that can be both for the individual and the families around them when I had no experience of it myself.
And it’s been a real learning journey for me over the last three years to really start to understand. What it is and what causes it. And I guess as an individual who had limited understanding of it. I’ve taken much personal pride in assisting my daughter to really help her and our wider family understand the triggers of what causes that and how we can help.
There is no simple fix. There is nothing that can take those problems away. But I see helping somebody understand the triggers and being sensitive to the environment that makes them feel the way they do as a positive step forward. As a leader, as a human race, we all have to be sensitive to what we’re going through. I think historically the stereotypical British stiff upper lip hasn’t helped us to address these issues honestly. You can’t just ignore these things. They won’t go away.
We have to be more receptive and more conscious of what’s going on in our own families and working environments to really help the people who need us. Sometimes they just lose their way a little bit and giving guidance, coaching, and help, I believe can make a profound difference in people’s existence.
Social media can be a double-edged sword for mental health, on one hand, it allows us to share our feelings with the world, on the other, we experience tremendous pressure to look and act a certain way. What are your thoughts on when it can be a tool and when it can be a trigger?
Social media is a powerful tool. For the good of people and for the bad. And it’s not regulated, it’s not policed. It’s quite scary. My daughter has been very open with everybody about her problem with self-harming, and she learned how to do that on social media and she did that because individuals and communities of individuals she connected with on social media e caused her to believe that it was the right thing to do. So from that perspective, how we police that has to change.
But it’s here to stay. There’s a concept called IO2, which is Internet Age 2002. And every child, mine included, who was born since the year 2002 has grown up with these platforms, these tools, these technologies around them. It’s in their DNA. I have to learn it. The kids don’t have to learn it. They’ve just grown up using it. How it works is irrelevant.
It’s there, it’s powerful, and it’s a huge communication platform. So again, you know, I think there’s a lot of work we can do in the industry across all of the technology around really understanding how to harness the good and contain the bad of social media.
You lead a large team and on that team are people of all ages, how do you talk to them about the importance of mental health?
It’s a big team, it’s a diverse team, a group of very, very talented people across the globe—all in different environments. I draw an example from, you know, I’ve talked about myself personally now, you know, I’m fortunate. I have a nice office in my garden near my sheep.
I like working in that environment because I’m totally connected, and I have peace and quiet away from all the craziness that goes on in the house. We’re all in different stages in our lives. I’ve learned that it’s not just getting your team to sell more, it’s making sure they’re mentally healthy as well.
James and his daughter are joining a walk to raise awareness for mental health among young people on June 20th, if you’d like to read more about the event or make a donation, you can do so here.