De-Bunking Myths About Mental Health Issue

Usually, when we hear the term ‘mental health’, we immediately think of the negative.  Due to stigma? Not being taught to speak about and learn about mental health issues from a young age?  Not living in a society where being unwell mentally is just as normal as being unwell physically?

 

I’d say all of those reasons, and probably some more.

 

Clearly, we cannot function without good, positive mental health.  Learning and talking about it debunks the myths, enables the best early intervention – which is a simple conversation – to begin stopping mental health issues becoming disorders.

 

Having been a Mental Health First Aid Instructor for over 10 years, I’ve seen the wall of stigma start to slightly crumble.  Businesses are starting to train their staff in this area.  Organisations like Mind have staff who have undergone Instructor training at MHFAEngland to deliver the first aider range of courses.  Charities have sprung up to support niche groups such as Place2Be, CALM and so on.

 

There is still much more we can do.  Schools, colleges, universities can adapt their curriculum and social network groups to spread the work.  Many educational establishments have started already but as a fundamental building block of life and resilience needed to thrive, Mental Health needs to have a DNA focus.

 

Of course, families of all kinds, religions, community groups also need to start, continue and develop the conversation.  Mental Health has no barriers of who it affects.

 

I believe mental health education starts in the home.  Just as parents teach their children to brush their teeth, cross the road safely and so on, they need to make speaking about feelings equally important.

 

I am excited to have been retained by a global law firm to deliver mental health awareness training to some of their London staff today.

 

Together we can all make a difference.

The best kind of appraisal!

Today I received some flowers and a card – a thank you from someone who completed Growing Talent and went into work.

 

It’s easy to forget the difference we make to people’s lives especially when mentoring and coaching is what we do.

 

But we all need affirmation now and then.  Reflection to know we do a good job.  But we can’t always do that until people tell us we’ve made a difference to them and done our job well.

 

Take the time to thank those who you see doing a good job and make a point of reflecting on what you have done each day to deliver a ‘good job’ to someone.

 

No matter how small, it matters and makes a difference.

 

Orientation Week – What Is it? What happens?

The Orientation Week is a series of workshops to boost confidence of those applicants selected by employers for a place on Growing Talent, delivering a permanent, full-time job on completion.  It’s carried out at a central London location prior to applicants going on site with their employers.

 

For the whole of 2019, we’ve carried out all speed dating events, orientation and holistic weeks are Etc Venues in Eastcheap.  Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea is provided along with fresh fruit, tea/coffee/hot chocolate, herbal teas and smoothies/orange juice with breakfast.

 

From the start of the Growing Talent journey, all participants – known as Growing Talent Associates – feel invested in and start increasing their self-esteem.  Their #YesICan attitude increases massively.

 

During the Orientation Week we have visiting professionals to share communication, art therapy and workplace choices to increase knowledge.

 

Within 10 minutes of arriving for the start of the Orientation Week, Associates are tasked with their first challenge.  To draw a set number of images about milestones in their life and then present them.  Yes, public speaking in front of strangers!  It works every time to showcase just how strong Associates are.  They start believing in themselves, not the perception of their labels.

 

During this week, Jade from CCF (Customer Care First – an excellent training company Jade started) delivers her bespoke 2 hour workshop with the Associates sharing all the nuances of communication from body language, spatial awareness, tone, emphasis etc to the topics to avoid in effective communication.

 

Daniel going to Pertemps and Tequila going to Churchill Services discuss topics that are ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ to discuss with clients…..

 

Debbie and Juliet – both going to Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster, doing the same task as Daniel and Tequila above but addressee colleagues/managers….

 

Jade and the guys above discussing the importance of tongue twisters for loosening facial muscles making it easier to speak for longer.

 

Tequila and Juliet experiencing how important communication is.  Juliet is holding a picture of a pair of boots which she has to describe to Tequila who draws what she hears.  Laughter aside, it proves the point we need to ask questions and probe to make sure we have the right information to complete our tasks at work.  As Tequila said ‘I never asked if it was a pair!’

 

The Jade’s session ended with smiles all round in the knowledge the Associates have more knowhow in communication!

 

Lesley, Head of Health, Safety & Environment at PwC always delivers her excellent ‘Zest for Life’ workshop featuring the 3Rs – Refuel, Rejuvinate and Renewal.  Knowledge, information and tips for Associates to look after themselves on the Growing Talent journey and beyond!

 

 

Lesley introduces herself and shares her journey of how she got her current role which was unplanned and totally unexpected but ended up being something she loves.

 

Explaining how humans were not designed for the predominantly desk based jobs we do now, she asked the Associates to think of their roles and come up with suggestions of a body to do their tasks adequately.  As you can see the two heads/multiple arms in the drawing below look like something of a SciFi prototype!  However, if shows we must be vigilant in taking care of ourselves so our bodies do not suffer.

 

A key thing is our body bank balance!  Things such as coffee – too much is bad but if we follow each cup of coffee with a cup of water it balances out.

 

Lesley then shared tips on nutrition, saving money by making our own lunches, batch cooking and freezing as well as top tips on relaxation and finding what works for us.

 

She then set the task of each pair of Associates thinking of three questions for the opposing pair to answer based on her workshop.

 

Tequila & Daniel devising their questions…..

 

Debbie & Juliet devising their questions for Tequila and Daniel.  I’m glad to report all gave the right answers #payingattention

 

Smiles all round as Lesley left after sharing key knowledge…..

 

Emma from Unravelling Minds attends to deliver her Art Therapy workshop and join the Associates for lunch after.

 

 

Emma shares her journey from high powered/pressurised career in fashion to complete mental health breakdown.  Art was a particular feature in her recovery and she now shares her learning with others.  Previously involved with Balloons and the Brain and now Unravelling Minds, Emma runs a unique cafe.  A safe non-clinical environment for people to bake and talk together – CBT_Cafe (Cake Before Therapy – what’s not to like!). Check out the remaining dates and information on Emma’s journey below.

 

Whilst sharing her journey, Emma invites the Associates to select one of three challenges to see how art during their lunch breaks or at any quiet time calms the mind.

  1.     Heart full of favourite things
  2.     Graffiti newspaper
  3.     Illustrate your Growing Talent mantra
  4.     Start with a doodle and see where it takes you

The concentration and quiet in the room was amazing!

Daniel’s mantra with it’s hidden message uncovered

Debbie taking up the graffiti challenge!

Juliet focussing on her favourite things.

Tequila starting off with a doodle which soon filled the page!

Juliet also shared her steps of affirmation.

Time for a group shot before an interactive lunch together.

Various workshops with me continued throughout the week ending with the Social Enterprise Challenge.  Up for grabs was £50 cash.

 

The running challenge throughout the week is to devise and deliver a social enterprise to benefit a local community and vulnerable group living there.

 

Judges l-r seated are Anna – JobCentre Plus, Judith – Churchill Services, Pedro – Head Judge from Pertemps and Shennell – Growing Talent Ambassador who completed Growing Talent on the 5th programme!

Associates standing l-r are Juliet, Tequila, Debbie & Daniel.

First to present was Debbie delivering her Brighter Futures.  Based in Wandsworth it focussed on upskilling ex-offenders by teaching them skills to refurbish a venue given by Wandsworth Council.  These skills would enable them to apply for roles with the Council in maintenance as well as FM companies.  In return the ex-offenders would share their bad choices and consequences with excluded 10-13 year olds with the target of enabling them to make the right choices.  Professionals from law, social services, medical etc would attend to help with any issues the participants experienced.  A safe space to learn, grow and become more productive.

Next to present was Daniel with his Health Hotspot based in Orpington.  Daniel described the location and need for information and choices for better health.  Many people develop intolerances to certain food groups.  Learning from others with the same intolerance on recipes, adapting ingredients etc would be hugely beneficial and break down barriers.  Equally people making choices based on media/fashion such as ‘clean’ diet, ‘sugar free’ – often includes sugar under a different name!, ‘vegan’ – how to ensure you get enough protein and so on.  Learning together builds community spirit.

Juliet’s presentation ‘Brotherhood Marching Together’ targeting the stigma within the Afro Caribbean community towards prostrate cancer using colour, music, joy and information was delivered with passion based on Juliet’s own family experience of the disease.  ‘Afro Caribbean men don’t talk about such things’. Mindful of inclusivity Juliet wanted all men in the Brixton area where she lives to be included.  So men can support men regardless of their cultural background.  Using the 02 at Brixton for the end music extravaganza, the day would start at the Museum of Black History with cancer charity specialists in place to talk about the stigma.  Affected men and their families can ask questions in a non-clinical environment.  Moving to the square where a plethora of stalls for music, food, clothes would highlight all cultures in the area breaking down barriers.  All money raised from entry fees etc would go to research.  The event would build support structures for all concerned.

Finally, Tequila shared her vision of Take Action.  A unique idea to upskill low income parents in turning their houses into homes and also making them more employable with these new skills such as painting and decorating, tiling, plumbing and so on.  Tequila shared her view that children of low income families are often introverted and don’t have a voice.  Take Action would enable the children to design their bedrooms to be their ‘space’ and give them confidence in using their voice.  Supported by local colleges and organisations like B&Q the change delivered would be lifelong and really make a different.

The judges had a tough time whittling down these great ideas to just one winner.  Who was it????

Juliet collecting her £50 prize from head judge Pedro….

Ahead of lunch with the Associates, the judges shared their journey to the current roles along with their top tips for shining at work.

 

After completing their evaluations after lunch, the Associates left to relax over the weekend ahead of starting on their employer sites.

 

Check back to see how they get on…..

Speed dating – Growing Talent style!

The toughest thing to overcome when looking for employment after a period of unemployment is being judged on your label(s).

 

By that I mean recruiters/employers ofter see your label(s) and the assumptions they make about the potential impact of those label(s) without speaking with you to understand the facts.

 

For example, a homeless, single parent who is unemployed will often be perceived as someone who is unstable and unreliable with zero transferable skills into the world of employment.

 

In reality, homeless doesn’t always mean ‘sleeping on the streets’ – although I think sleeping is the wrong word.  No one can sleep soundly on the streets with all the dangers that environment presents.

 

Single parents, in my experience,  have an array of skills which add value to employers.  All are great problem solvers, they are life coaches, highly organised solution finders with strong time management skills along with the drive and attitude to succeed to be positive role models for their children as well as establish a career path for themselves.  Any employer can train in their area of expertise but they can’t train ‘attitude’.  They are missing an excellent talent pool.

 

At Growing Talent, based on my own experience, we do not allow traditional recruitment methods.  There are no cvs nor job descriptions.  Employers select based on their belief of someone’s attitude to grow into their vacancy.  As every applicant has usually more than one barrier to employment, we partner with JobCentre Plus to ensure a financial safety net if someone is selected but doesn’t complete and secure the provisional permanent job offer.  This removes the ‘fear’ from those unemployed people who really want to work but have that nagging ‘what if’ in their heads.

 

So, to ensure employers and applicants are on the same level playing field, we have a speed dating session.  These always start really quietly.  Within 10minutes everyone is relaxed, laughing with each other and showing who they really are.

 

In small groups, applicants spend 10 minutes at each employer table finding out a little about the company and permanent jobs on offer.  The employers have the same window of time to find out a little about all applicants.

 

Some examples of previously employer speed dating events:

 

Employers select their shortlist from this event.  Shortlisted applicants attend a 1-2-1 meeting on the employer site where the job is based to learn more details.

 

At the point any offers are made to go on the Growing Talent journey with the employer, everything is known upfront about the end job.  There is no mystery around salary, bonus, benefits, hours, shifts etc.

 

How often do you go for a traditional job interview and leave as mystified as when you went in?

 

Growing Talent removes any doubt for both sides and everyone loves the spontaneity of speed dating – who not use it in recruitment?

The final countdown…..

So the final Growing Talent kick’s off tomorrow with the Orientation Week.  The 24th programme.  Over the five years Growing Talent has run it has seen 157 go into direct, permanent employment with a potential four more on the current programme – Daniel, Juliet, Debbie and Tequila.

 

Many employers have been involved from hotels to corporates, filling diverse roles from manual, hospitality to office, HR, administration etc.

 

It’s been a great journey so far and will hopefully continue into 2020 and beyond – funders willing of course!

 

We wish Daniel, Debbie, Juliet and Tequila a fab journey over the weeks ahead as their confidence, skills and ability grow to secure their permanent jobs.

 

Check back to see how they get on….

BBC London People – #GreaterLondoners ……..

Really proud to be nominated to @bbclondonpeople Instagram project #greaterlondoners.

 

Although the journalist got a few things wrong, including it was an unpaid week trial I did for the accountant not paid it made me reflect on what I have achieved.  Through the Real Apprentice and its successor Growing Talent, I’ve got over 600 people into permanent full-time jobs – literally changing their lives – as they tell me.  All with barriers.  All without the confidence to secure a job the traditional route.  One of these, Shennell, nominated me for this #greaterlonder project. #proud #humble

 

I drew on my experience years later when devising the Real Apprentice which run from 2004 to 2013 and won multiple awards including the best of Europe to Growing Talent – 2014-Present.

 

It’s amazing the difference we can make to others without realising the impact we make.  I’m guilty of not reflecting on what I do enough.  I believe most of us don’t reflect on our actions and affirm just how great we are!

 

Take time to nurture yourself.

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