In recognition of International Men’s Day, which this year is themed Zero Male Suicide, Newsday spoke with Jason Julien, group deputy CEO – business generation of First Citizens Group, on men’s well-being, leadership and the role of his organisation in fostering a supportive environment.
Julien shared perspectives and shed light on the initiatives undertaken by First Citizens Group to promote positive role models and well-being for men and boys.
International Men’s Day, which is observed on November 19, serves as a platform for promoting positive role models and addressing the multifaceted challenges faced by men – a stark reality.
“Men struggle. Men can be weak and carry deep-seated trauma and hurt. That men wrestle with mental health and emotional issues. That men are underperforming in the classroom. Men suffer from violence and sadly have also inflicted pain, crime and monstrosities."
He emphasised the need for open discussions on these issues and highlighted the scarcity of "safe spaces" for men to share openly.
Julien's candid acknowledgement of his imperfections and life lessons positions him as a relatable mentor, aiming to contribute to the well-being of young men, providing guidance and support.
As deputy CEO, he plays a pivotal role in shaping the organisation's culture. Julien noted the initiatives FCB implemented, particularly the Young Men’s Development Programme (YMDP), and the First Citizens Boys’ Symposium from which it emerged. The YMDP, exclusively mentored by male employees, aims not only to have an impact on the lives of young men, but also facilitates personal growth and development among their mentors.
“The feedback from them, in terms of what the experience of mentorship has done for them, has been phenomenal."
Addressing gender diversity in the financial sector, Julien highlighted the diverse leadership within First Citizens Group. He emphasised the commitment to continuous improvement in diversity and inclusion, citing the Girls First Festival, Women’s Conference, and the Young Men’s Development Programme as initiatives challenging stereotypes and promoting equity.
On men's health, both physical and mental, Julien pointed out the company's comprehensive approach through health screenings, vaccinations and lectures on lifestyle diseases, as part of its Health, Safety and Environment Week activities.
International Men’s Day this year focuses on male suicide, and an important part of its partnership with the Mindwise Project was the recent launch of the website www.preventsuicidett.com, a national suicide prevention and data visualisation platform that will provide resources, showcase partners, include articles and guides, and tell the local story of suicide through data.
“It feels great to know that our organisation is in touch with the issues facing men and making a difference exactly where help is needed," Julien said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website, cdc.gov, states: The suicide rate among males in 2021 was approximately four times higher than the rate among females. Males make up 50 per cent of the population but nearly 80 per cent of suicides.
From January 2016-August 2023, 83.5 per cent of suicides in Trinidad and Tobago were male,
Notably, FCB's partnership with Mindwise addresses mental health issues, as part of its commitment to addressing issues such as male suicide. The Mindwise Project is a member of the National Co-ordinating Committee of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Network of TT.
Mindwise was formed in 2020 by the Ministry of Health and PAHO-WHO in response to the rising rates of mental-health issues brought on by the covid19 pandemic.
The main feature is a volunteer programme aimed at empowering mental-health influencers with digital skills and mental-health training to equip a new wave of innovation in this space. FCB's employees are a part of this volunteer team.
Julien offered advice for aspiring male leaders in the financial industry, and maintaining work-life balance.
“My personal philosophy is that for any individual, male or female, seeking to achieve their full potential and live a successful life, that there must be harmony and balance in all aspects of life. Very early in my career I was introduced to the concept of the wheel of life, which is a great tool to help improve your life balance. "Essentially, the objective is to get harmony in the many facets of life, such as relationships, career, well-being, spirituality, finances, and community. If any one of these is out of harmony, the 'wheel' will have a bumpy and ineffective ride. For example, you can’t have sustainable success in your career at the expense of your physical and mental health.
"Success has many definitions. Some measure it based on career status, others based on awards and accolades, and others based on accumulated wealth. But my personal belief is that the definition of success is a personal one."
Achieving it takes sacrifice, he warned.
"This may mean foregoing leisure in the short term for the long-term gain, or making trade-offs on what should take priority for your precious and limited time. This may mean concentrating on the action or activity at hand and being present in the moment.
"This is true for all endeavours of life, in and out of the office. This would mean being very consistent and disciplined over a long period of time.”
In terms of positive role models, there are both men and women whom Julien admires.
“I don’t have any heroes, not in a strict sense. There is no one that I wholesale hero-worship, but there are quite a few individuals – male and female – that I admire and find that their respective characteristics, mindset, journey, accomplishments or traits are very admirable and that I can learn from, and in some cases, pattern after.
"In terms of mentality – Zlatan Ibrahimovic – (former Swedish professional footballer); in terms of leading teams to outperform their ability on paper – José Mourinho, (Portuguese professional footballer manager); in terms of building winning teams and a culture and dynasty of success – Dawn Staley (US basketball Hall of Fame player and coach); in terms of the use of language to communicate and influence – Barack Obama (44th president of the US); in terms of physical health and longevity – Lenny Kravitz (US singer/songwriter); in terms of courage and conviction – Muhammad Ali (professional boxer and activist); and in terms of grace, intelligence, balance and poise under pressure – Michelle Obama (wife of former US president Barack Obama).
In terms of local examples, a wide cross-section of names came to mind, he said, but: "I would like to single out Gervase Warner, Group CEO of Massy Holdings, from a leadership impact perspective. I’ve truly admired the tremendous job he has done in creating a widespread and pervasive company culture that goes beyond the focus on the bottom line and prioritises the need for positive impact in the society and being a force for good in the world. All of this while unleashing the power of their people across the Massy Group. As a student of leadership myself, I know that this is no small feat and is truly admirable.
He admitted it might seem odd that his list wasn't solely male.
"But to me, that’s the point. To become a better man, I can’t only see the world through the eyes and footsteps of males, I need to understand and appreciate the journey of both male and female role models.
"And I think at the heart of it, International Men’s Day should be about men striving to become better men for there to be a better society and world for both males and females, with equality, diversity and inclusion.”