As part of Heads Together Mental Health Week - former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Frank Bruno, recently visited our teams to talk mental health and well-being. He also talked about his career and answered questions from approximately 250-300 operatives in the room. It was the second of two sessions he took part in last month.
Organised by Laing O'Rourke Health and Safety manager Stuart Green, the former boxer and celebrity was interviewed by Project Leader Michael Richards, who not only paid tribute to his achievements but also facilitated questions from the audience on a whole range of subjects related to mental health and well-being.
Franklyn (Frank) Roy Bruno was born on 16 November 1961 and grew up with five siblings in Hammersmith, West London. Suffering from dyslexia he left school at 16 before working as a metal polisher and shop assistant on the way to becoming an amateur boxer. His early fame grew from an uncanny ability to finish fights early, by his own admission he ‘knocked a lot of people out!”, and only experienced one loss at amateur level. In conversation with the Laing O’Rourke team he described his father as his hero and how he was deeply affected by his mother’s death when aged only 14, but always managed to stay very ‘driven, dedicated, focused and hungry’ throughout his teenage years, an attitude he carried into his professional career.
Known not only for boxing, but also for his appearances on television and in several seasons of pantomime over the years, Bruno was extremely entertaining in interview, but very humble about his own successes and celebrity status.
He told the audience, “I enjoy my life, as these days I have a much better support network around me, and you realise that there are people much worse off than yourself. They don't have food, water or a roof over their head.”
Often candid, he discussed everything from his childhood, his own children, the early boxing years, divorce from his wife, his struggles with mental health and eventual recovery – also highlighting Prince Harry’s recent media interviews as helpful for further awareness raising.
And his advice for those who came to listen? "Mental health and well-being is not necessarily about tablets and medication. It's about talking and awareness, there's always a start to a problem, a root cause to why someone acts like they do. Get to the heart of the problem, talk to any friends or family that are affected and try and help them the best you can.”
Self-deprecating as ever, he concluded on a sombre and down to earth note that, "you could be anybody that goes through it because we're all human beings with the same type of brain, and we can all have mental issues, these kinds of problems don’t come in any shape, size, colour or creed."
However he kept attendees laughing throughout the session, and was determined to end on a light-hearted and positive note. When asked by Michael Richards who had hit him the hardest, the answer was a simple and emphatic one – “the taxman!”
As Michael said afterwards: “Frank’s bravery, honesty and humility in talking through his battles with mental health issues reinforced the respect felt for him, and he leaves with new admirers here. It was a pleasure to interview him, and the feedback we’ve been hearing from a wide cross-section of the team in attendance, has been overwhelmingly positive.”
A number of Laing O'Rourke project sites had a Health & Safety focused week last month to tie-in with Heads Together Mental Health week nationally across the UK.
Additional Health and wellbeing activities that took place for the remainder of the week included sessions on the services provided by LifeWorks the Laing O’Rourke Employee Assistance Provider, mini medicals and other health awareness sessions.