David Parkin on a new self-help app, the magic of Ryan Giggs and keeping cheery on Blue Monday

THIS week started with Blue Monday, the day which is said to be the most depressing of the year.

I’m not sure why, but I suppose if you are going to dub a particular day the worst of the year, then a bleak and chilly Monday in January is a pretty safe bet.

I’m sure experts would frown at such a marketing creation as Blue Monday. What is positive is that mental health issues are rightly now becoming more important to employers.

And with the backing of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, it is something more people are prepared to talk about.

Mental health issues cost the UK an estimated £70bn in lost productivity, benefit payments and healthcare expenditure, according to the OECD.

So it was interesting to read about a new initiative from Yorkshire businesswoman Joanne Wilkinson.

Jo is the founder of My Possible Self which has created a digital self-help programme to support employees.

Her daughters Hana and Fleur are also directors of the business and have designed an innovative new app.

The app uses content from the world-renowned Black Dog Institute in Australia which is clinically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression in eight weeks.

It comes as Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered employers to better support those with mental ill health and said “more needs to be done”.

My Possible Self is designed to be used as an early intervention tool, preventing symptoms escalating into more serious health problems.

My Possible Self is engaging with corporates to discuss how the programme can help employees with stress, anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression.

I first met Jo a few years ago when she won the not-for-profit category at the Forward Ladies national business awards.

My Possible Self has done a great deal of charitable and not-for-profit work to support many women and the award was rare recognition for Jo’s work, given she has never been a self-promoter.

I didn’t know at the time but her husband is Yorkshire technology entrepreneur Peter Wilkinson.

I wrote something at the time about Jo’s award success and Peter dropped me an email to say that it had been a memorable day in the Wilkinson household as the same day he’d also completed a deal to sell the managed services arm of his Harrogate-based business InTechnology for £65m.

That’s big money and probably life-changing for most people other than Peter Wilkinson, who founded technology companies including Planet Online, the UK’s first viable internet service provider, Freeserve, the UK’s first consumer internet service provider, and Sports Internet, the football and betting website group.

Sports Internet was sold to BSkyB for £300m-plus and became what is now Sky Sports.


THEY don’t do news like they used to.

I was reading the main story on page 3 of The Times on Tuesday and noticed that the woman who featured in the article had a different name in the picture caption than she had in the article.

Poor stuff from a national newspaper.

I switched on the BBC News At Ten where one of the main stories was the publication of a new transport plan for the North of England.

They ran an interview with a balding older man with a caption which named him as: “Dr Adam Beaumont, Chief Executive of aql”.

If it was then Adam’s aged badly. The last time I saw him he had a full head of hair and was 20 years younger.

Well at least the Look North regional news can be relied upon for accuracy.

No. The wet behind the ears reporter sent out to cover the heavy snowfalls across Yorkshire said road conditions were particularly bad in “Huddersfield city centre”.

I’m not saying journalists didn’t make mistakes when I was a reporter. But we had bosses who gave us such a rollicking for it that we made sure it didn’t happen again.

THE appointment of Ryan Giggs as the Wales football manager this week was widely predicted.

Discussion of his new role centred around the number of international friendlies he missed when he played for Manchester United and why he hasn’t gained a top job in football management since he stepped in to steward Man Utd for four matches after David Moyes left.

Some footage of one of his team talks emerged on social media this week – admittedly it was circulated by a Liverpool fan – and Giggs came across as uninspiring, lacking ideas and very little charisma.

He may have been one of the greatest players in the Premier League, but if he doesn’t have the personality to inspire his players then his time in management may be pretty short.


I HAVE to say I didn’t feel very down on Blue Monday, possibly because it was my choice of movie at the monthly film club I’m part of.

Don’t mistake me for a film buff – this is six friends who meet for a burger and a glass of wine or two and watch a film. So far no one has picked a film with subtitles and we’ve only had one documentary and one horror film, although as it was American Werewolf in London it gained more marks than it deserved probably because of the Jenny Agutter shower scene.

The film I picked was one I haven’t seen for years, A Private Function, written by Alan Bennett.

It is a gentle comedy about an illegal pig being fattened up to celebrate Princess Elizabeth’s marriage to Prince Philip in 1947.

Filmed around Ilkley, it stars Maggie Smith and Michael Palin and a host of other great British actors including Liz Smith, Denholm Elliott and Pete Postlethwaite.

As you might expect it is studded with Alan Bennettisms, best delivered by his great friend and collaborator, Maggie Smith, who also shone in The Lady in the Van.

In A Private Function she is an upwardly mobile Yorkshire housewife who is struggling to motivate her unambitious chiropodist husband played by former Python Palin.

Her mother, played by Liz Smith, is another challenge, but probably not quite as daft as Maggie thinks she is.

As she ushers her mother out of the local butcher’s shop, she mouths to bystanders: “She’s 74.”

I suppose that used to be old.

It certainly doesn’t seem old now.

Perhaps it’s my age.

Have a great weekend.

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