Back in October I was asked to design a three hour workshop for senior managers based at Canary Wharf.  The idea was to give a greater understanding of the issue along with some ideas, tools to use and signposting.  The workshop finally took place on 4 December on a grey rainy day in London.

It’s easy to turn these things into ‘lectures’ making the subject matter boring and the absorption of information practically nil!  I focused on three core areas:

First:  What actually does the term mental health stand for? is it positive/negative? can we see it/feel it? how does it manifest itself and is this different if we are working with people we manage, our peers of our senior managers?  This section involved drawing a manager and an employee – the artwork was very good!! – some case studies and open discussion around the flow of mental health stages.

Second:  In this section we looked at what we could do in situations where we noticed there was an issue, how to start those conversations and how to handle the situation is we didn’t have time to have that conversation immediately.  We looked at a film of what employers have implemented for the staff – taking away the mystic of ‘adjustments’  We tackled the language we use.  Remember back when you was at school and the awful names children called each other.  If you compiled two lists one with ‘neutral’ terms to describe poor mental health and one to describe ‘offensive’ terms – you’d have a full page for the second and only a few for the first – we have a lot to learn.  We thought about the reasons we don’t intervene as managers and why we don’t declare as employees.

Third:  Before re-capping we looked at how we sometimes put ourselves and those we manage at work under pressure.  Asking for a quick decision can often be the wrong thing to do.  We will answer using our primal brain which is only good for yes/no thoughts.  Giving ourselves and others time to think through things, weight up potential consequences will often give the right answer and take the stress away from people.  We considered the need to not worry about diagnosis or symptoms but to be aware of a change in someone and start a conversation.  We ended with an exercise in really listening to  Matchbox Twenty’s song ‘Unwell’ which sums up the facts of mental health – it’s a very small part of someone.

Lots of signposting, handouts and questions following.  The three hours was interactive, enjoyable and flew past!

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