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Getting Started

A start-up born from life’s experiences

George Bell, development partner at Sanctus, discusses how his company’s mental health coaching helps businesses.

A start-up born from life’s experiences

Sanctus is a start-up that is on a mission to change the perceptions of mental health and to get people working on their mental health just as they do their physical health. Mind, the mental health charity, currently reports that one in four of us will suffer from a mental health issue, which is an incredibly important statistic.


Everyone understands the importance of physical health and fitness, but Sanctus questions why people don’t see mental health and fitness in the same way. Looking after your mental health and fitness should be just as acceptable as your physical health and fitness.


Sanctus was founded by two best friends, George Bettany and James Routledge, who together established Sanctus off the back of their own bad experiences with previous workplaces and subsequent mental health issues. Previously involved in a sports tech start-up, they’d convinced themselves that they couldn’t show any sign of weakness, or vulnerability, in the business world; they were never their authentic selves.


Behind the bravado

George and James always talked about how they were “smashing it” or “killing it”, but never about the fact that they were struggling with stress, burnout, anxiety, management and targets. Eventually, they had to shut the business down and let their team go, and this process, as well as the fact they’d been ignoring how they felt for so long, resulted in mental health issues for both of them.


The road to wellness

After a journey of self-discovery and coming out the other side, they began to ask why mental health was such a scary topic, hidden in the shadows, and why people weren’t working on their mental health just like they do their physical health. After starting to write honestly on the topic, more and more founders, leaders, CEOs, managers and employees began to contact them to share their own stories. And that’s what led to Sanctus.


The Sanctus vision

The Sanctus long-term ambition is to build the world’s first mental health gyms on the high street, but right now, they’re building a version of the gym within the workplace. This will encompass 1:1 mental health coaching, where all individuals within a business are given access to a completely safe, confidential and impartial coaching space to bring whatever is on their mind. Whether it’s good or bad, big or small, personal or professional, they’ve had people bring everything from issues and arguments through to promotions and relationships to the space.


George explains, “There is nothing too whacky, weird or wonderful that you can talk about – we always say that if it’s on your mind, then you can talk about it. While it’s not always the space to work on absolutely everything, it is a space where anything can be brought, and the coach can help signpost extra support if it’s needed.”


Business services

“We work with businesses to provide them with a coaching partner in terms of coaching days per month. We help companies behind the scenes to make the relationship that extra special. When we pitch, we explain the thinking behind Sanctus and discuss our views on mental health too. We’re delighted to see so many people taking an interest in mental health.”


Moving forward

“While Sanctus is still quite young as a start-up, we have ambitious plans to grow and to become the only mental health partner that a business needs, offering a holistic range of services that covers all parts of the mental health spectrum. For now, we stay committed to giving employees a completely confidential space where they can bring their full selves, speak what’s on their minds, and work on their mental health and fitness. And, we’ll continue working closely with firms to help create a culture where mental health is at the forefront of everything they do.

Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place. This article first appeared on the Octopus Group website.