MHFA Lite – Introduction to Mental Health

This is a three-hour workshop comprising a foundation of knowledge on the area of Mental Health First Aid.


Key areas covered in this comprehensive course include:


  • Language & Stigma
  • What is Mental Health?
  • Some common Mental Health issues
  • Supporting people in distress
  • Personal wellbeing


The 17 delegates were from all levels of staff at a global professional services Firm based close to London Bridge.


Interaction flowed as knowledge was shared through the Graffiti Wall, Stress Container, personal experience films and colleague discussion.


It’s always a ‘wait with baited breath’ moment until the evaluation forms have been analysed to see how well the course and me, the instructor, were received……


Firstly a few thoughts on the course:

‘Amazing course, felt very emotional during the training.  Feeling more optimistic about how to approach mental health and well being’

‘A good course  which brought home the importance of caring for yourself whilst caring for others’

‘Fantastic training’


& The Instructor:

”Well delivered, good level of audience participation’

‘Clear and approachable, created a comfortable environment for questions’

‘Passionate & easy to follow’

Rated  very good (top mark) by 12 of the 17 and Good (second highest) by the remaining 5.


I look forward to the next course on 9 June 2017


Get in touch for more information on mental health & wellbeing training available…..



The Baker’s Dozen Evaluation – Adult Mental Health First Aider Training

Last week saw the delivery of MHFAEngland’s latest version of their 2-day Adult training programme in Mental Health which qualifies delegates to be First Aiders in this critical area.


The robust manual – heavy but yet of interesting facts, figures, resources takes the fear out of the subject.  The interactive sections – Graffiti Wall, Anxiety Face, Stress Container and Depression T-Shirt were well received.  The films brought home the key points.


So, what did the 13 managers from the private sector think of giving up two days to do this course?


Almost an even split on the question ‘As a result of the training, I am less likely to judge people with mental health issues negatively’ – 7 strongly agreed.  The 6 remaining Agreed.  So – some hearts and minds were definitely changed!


‘As a result of this training, I am more likely to consider mental health and mental ill health a normal part of everyday life’ – bigger shift here – 10 strongly agreed and remaining three agreed.


‘How would you rate the MHFA course’? – 100% rated it top marks with’ Very Good’.


As the Instructor – I’m very pleased to see 100% of the delegates gave me top marks  of ‘Very Good’!


Some general comments included:



‘Really well delivered course.  Feel like I’ve learnt plenty to take away and implement’

‘The course and its delivery was excellent – thank you’.

‘Extremely useful – sharing tools and giving confidence’

‘Excellent course.   I would like to see it rolled out to all managers’


If you have a business and want to upskill your employees in the field of mental health, why not get in touch to discuss how?

Holistic Week – Growing Talent…..

This is the ‘soft skills’ section of Growing Talent’s 12 week programme.  Usually carried out halfway through.  It’s a time for the Growing Talent Associates to meet up again and encourage each other face-to-face as well as learn some wellbeing techniques and ‘kick back’ a little from their usual work timetable!


We returned to Southwark Cathedral were we held the Orientation Week back in early February!  At least no more presentations before senior managers!

So what did we cover?:

Monday – parts 1 & s of Mental Health First Aid – a global course resulting in a qualification as a MHFAider.  This is an intense four part global programme so we lightened the learning a little with Lesley’s 3Rs!


Lesley, seen above, is part of the Health & Safety team at PwC.  Her 3Rs are Refuel, Recycle and  Refresh. It’s all about what to eat, how much sleep, exercise all the usual things we need to consider when making choices.  It’s especially difficult doing this on a strict budget!

‘I got a lot of information which I’ll put into practice!’ ‘Another important segment that allowed growth within the unknown.’

Tuesday – saw parts 3 and 4 of the MHFA programme be completed.  This time, Healthy Bites  Nutrition was sandwiched  between the two sections.  This invaluable workshop by Kate from HBN ( dispels myths around diets, the latest fads and new guidelines – such as only 7 tsp of sugar a day.  Kate shares the cost savings in making your own food, cost comparison and ingredients as well as how to eat quickly prepared nutritious meals on a budget!


Kate below preparing the Associates for making their own Pot Noodle!


A good workshop for sustaining health both in and out of work” ” I know what food groups are now!’


Sharing why recycling waste is so important was Dan from Suez, on the left below, on Wednesday.  This got everyone thinking.  A quick roundtable showed the difference between residential recycling across boroughs.  Indeed one of the Associates who has never recycled was inspired to go through her bins!



Thursday we talked finance.  Covering the basics we should know around debt, regular payments budgets, and so on. It’s surprising how well received this workshop is but on reflection maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising.  After all, where do you learn this stuff if you don’t have supportive, informed parents? Does the Education system have the time to do this?


‘The 3 x thirds will be really useful’, ‘I learnt about saving money and ISAs – really useful when we start earning’, ‘this was the most important topic covered for me’ ‘I learnt how to plan ahead’ ‘One million % worth it.  I understand now how to be financially stable.’

In the afternoon it was off to do an Art project!  Terrifying for some!  Their task was to visit Tate Gallery in Bankside and select an item that ‘spoke’ to them.  This could be in a good or bad way.


Left to right above inside the Tate are Mokhtar, Leon, Zainab, Ilamathy, Stefan, Ashley, Sebastien & John.


Friday morning we had a good discussion on their visit to the Tate, why they selected their piece of art and what they would ask the artist……… then they had to draw it!  You can see the results in the feature photo.  So much laughter in the room.  For some it ignited a childhood love of drawing for others it opened their eyes to a possible new creative way to feed their soul during lunchtime break and outside of work.


After some paperwork we finished up the week at lunchtime.They guys presented me with a lovely gift before going home for a well deserved break!


On Monday they returned to their employer sites:  Zainab, Ashley & Mokhtar – Harrow Green, Craig, John & Ashling – Iron Mountain – Ashling had to work this week, Leon – Pertemps, Ilamathy – Red Personnel, Stefan – Mitie Connect and Sebastien at Invest In Buy To Let.


Theresa May & Mental Health

An encouraging interview with Sophie Ridge of Sky News and the PM was aired yesterday morning.


Initially, I felt a bit unenthused at the start of the interview.  Sophie seemed fixated on the single market.  She asked three times about if we were leaving the single market in favour of securing our borders.


This illustrated to me the blinkered, reporting some journalists fixate on to get ‘the story’.  Three times Theresa May explained there is no opportunity to stay in the single market as we’ve voted to leave.  The negotiations will bring a different relationship. Still Sophie persisted before moving on to other topics.


This is where my interest was renewed.


The PM is highlighting mental health resources especially for children – which is fantastic news.  She recognises the biggest issue is stigma.  If people felt able to talk about their issues there is proven evidence they don’t deteriorate and get help quickly.


The PM is making a speech 9.1.17 – it will be interesting to see what she says on this.


Mental Health is  core component of Growing Talent.  We strongly believe in training participants as First Aiders.  Indeed everyone on Growing Talent complete the two-day standard global course.  There are many reasons for this – a key one is to remove the stigma associated with Mental Health.  I’m glad the Government is finally catching up!


Let’s get talking!



Mental Health First Aid

Since training as an Instructor with MHFAEngland, I’ve noticed the growth of awareness and knowledge amongst the global world of business just how important this subject is to their bottom line – which is great.


Mental Health Awareness Week commences 16 May 2016 with events nationally to showcase the importance of taking mental health seriously.  World Mental Health Day is 10 October and the theme is ‘Dignity in mental health: psychological and mental health first aid for all’.  Now in 23 countries and the global remit to join forces globally to create one inclusive course, MHFAEngland is leading the way in the UK.


BITC recently published a report recommending Mental Health First Aid training for all managers in the workplace!  MHFA seems to be mentioned regularly in the press and the CEO – Poppy Jaman – was recently at Downing Street for a meeting with the Prime Minister.


As part of my CPD, I undertook the MHFA Lite Instructor training earlier this year.  Although I already design and deliver three hour courses, it was interesting to see different materials.


Feedback from the latest MHFA Standard I ran in London for 13 people, showed an increase in knowledge over the two days of at least 6 points – which is great and some comments below:


‘The Instructor was the best motivator’

‘Jane is amazing at her job and I am glad I met her’

‘Learnt more than expected and enjoyed the course’

‘This was an amazing course, great materials and information, mostly the best instructor. I learnt so much – thankyou!’

‘Learnt alot, amazing course, fells like a breath of freshair’


If you are looking to upskill your team in this area, don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss.

The brain – it’s just a physical thing right? So why do we refer to ‘mental illness’?

This is something I hadn’t actually thought of before.  As a Mental Health First Aid Instructor I teach how to recognise the changes in someone, starting a conversation and supporting them to get the appropriate help for them usually in the corporate workplace.


I recently stumbled across this blog written by Sally Buchanan-Hagen.  It makes complete sense and when you think about it, is exactly how we treat someone in hospital with a ‘physical’ illness,


‘During my past hospitalisations, I’ve identified some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ when it comes to visiting (or not visiting) loved ones in hospital and I’ve put them together in a rough guide. As everyone is different, I would like to point out that this is how I like to be treated and it’s always important to gauge the patient’s individual situation when visiting them.


  1. DON’T show up unannounced. Like with physical illnesses it can be tiring having visitors. Particularly if you’re depressed and just need time to yourself.


  1. DON’T make yourself scarce. Don’t be afraid to message or ring the patient if you can’t get to the hospital. Send cards or flowers to let them know you’re thinking of them.

Psychiatric hospitals can be intimating and visiting someone in a psychiatric hospital can be confronting, but this is not an excuse not to visit (besides psychiatric hospital aren’t scary, they’re just normal hospitals with normal patients). During my first manic episode two of my good friends hardly visited for 2 months, which really hurt. Hospital can be lonely and boring so getting visitors is always the highlight of the day. (I would like to point out that those two friends have been fabulous during this manic episode).

  1. DON’T pity the patient. I don’t want pity. I want empathy and at times I want sympathy, but I don’t want anyone to pity me. Pity can feed the ruminating spiral of depressive negativity and puts a wet blanket on resilience. Yes, having bipolar can be difficult at times, but it is manageable and I normally live a rich and fulfilling life. So please, no pity parties.
  2. DON’T act like the patient is a different person or what they have is contagious. This is very insulting.
  3. DON’T blame the person for being in hospital. No one wants to be so unwell that they have to be in hospital. It’s no one’s fault, but the guilt of this can still be crushing.


  1. DO visit when you can; but always ask the patient if they’re up for it. Visitors are a source of support and they break up the monotony of the daily hospital routine. I love getting visitors.
  2. DO send flowers and cards. Not only is it a nice gesture and brightens the room, but is normalises the experience of being in hospital as a psychiatric patient (which in this day and age there should be no divide between how psychiatric and physical patients are treated, but that’s a whole other blog topic).
  3. DO ask if they need anything while in hospital like magazines, a favourite snack or if a simple job needs to be done around the house. Continue that care when they are initially out of hospital like you would for someone with a broken leg. It’s hard getting back on your feet and into your regular routine once you’ve been discharged so a little extra help is often needed. You don’t need to spend all of your time caring for the person, but little thoughtful gestures go a long way.
  4. DO bring fun activities into hospital. As I said, hospital can be pretty boring. I don’t know how many hours I whittled away playing monopoly or cards with friends, or just colouring on my own. These help to pass the time. Of course, some patients may not be up to playing games, it just depends on the patient’s current situation.
  5. DO validate! Never underestimate the power of validation. If someone is depressed instead of responding with pity or an upbeat (and often corny) saying, say: “that sounds really tough” or something similar. If someone is psychotic, then their psychosis is just as real to them, as to whatever is going on in your life. Don’t dismiss it because chances are that person is going to become confused, angry and hostile towards you. Listen to them and take what they have to say seriously.
  6. DO treat the person the same as you would when they’re well. Your loved one is still in there and no matter how unwell they are, they will know if you’re treating them differently. When I’m psychotic, although I lose touch with reality, I still retain my intelligence and empathy and I can tell if people are treating me differently. If they are it makes you feel misunderstood, isolated, paranoid and alone.
  7. DO acknowledge that we’re unwell, stay in touch and offer to help out. The biggest detriment to us when we’re unwell is silence – that we’re treated like taboo because we have a mental illness so we are left alone. Silence adds to stigma and prevents people seeking early treatment or none at all. Ask how we’re feeling like how you would ask someone who has pneumonia how they’re feeling. Ask genuine and honest questions with interest. Sometimes questions are all that’s needed for us to open up. Again, just simply talking about mental illness normalises it. We don’t want our condition to be swept under the rug it when it flares up. We want to talk about it with the people we trust.

And Finally…

  1. DO treat mental illness the same as psychical illness! After all mental illness is a physical illness – it just occurs in the brain. If you treat the patient with compassion, unwavering love and support, humour (again, gauge the situation), and show genuine, non-judgmental interest in what they’re experiencing then they will feel supported and loved. And in the end, that’s what we all want when we’re unwell. ‘


For me the most important thing to remember is the patient is the specialist on their illness and the affect on them.


What are your thoughts on mental ill health and the way people are treated?



2nd Graduation – Growing Talent 26.11.15

At 12noon I arrived at the venue in More London for the ceremony.  Known for always beeing really early, you might think it a bit excessive as proceedings weren’t due to kick off until 4pm!  However,  I’m always early to catch a flight due to ‘what ifs’, so this would be no different.


Preparation prevents poor performance, and I was not going to have anything go wrong if I could help it!  First hurdle – one of the lights in the room was out and the technicians had to sort it out.  Then I was confronted with a three screen facilities – only ever used one!  Yikes.  I pushed every button before conceeding defeat and calling the av team.  A very helpful Nick came down installed the right lead – hiding under the stage!, flicked a switch on the wall panel and the presentation magically appeared on all three screens – as you can see!



The trophies arrived – with one broken – luckily for the one person who couldn’t attend!!!!

Inside the box

Marble plinth with heavy colour glass logo – these are heavy!


By the time the set-up was complete some of the Growing Talent Associates had started arriving!



Of course Reese – now working at MHFAEngland and Mali at Invest In Buy To Let got straight into catch-up mode!  Well, it has been a few months since they were on the programme.


HG two

Nigel – MD of Harrow Green and Sharon – Executive Assistant came to support all their guys – Jason, Michael Daoud, Joshua, Maxine, Selwyn, Matt, Joshua, Jose, Shanika, Ernst, Kearon, Leighon, and Will now working in a mixture of software assistant, HR, customer service and operations!

Jon Barnes, Head of Building & Technical Services for PwC, opened proceedings.  Without Jon’s support there would be no Growing Talent!



Nervously waiting to share a snippet of their experience was Chris from Growing Talent 2 – who since completing has trainined as a MHFA Instructor and now co-delivers this workshop along with creative writing, communication in the workplace and a poetry workshop he has devised.

Jane in the centre from Growing Talent 4, shared her experience from an enthused ‘I’ll try anything and want to learn everything’ outlook to securing a supervisor’s role with Baxter Storey at a new site.

Chelsea who was on programme 6 told how her determination despite her personal circumstance won through especially with the support of her work coach at JobCentre Plus.






Founding directors of Invest in Buy to Let – Selvan and Shane above supporting Mali – now Marketing Manager from Growing Talent 6!  Go Mali………….


Small world, Selvan discovered he went to the same school as Anna, one of the leads from Job Centre Plus!



On arriving at work today, Kavita from Growing Talent 3, presented me not only with a lemon and poppy seed muffin – my fav – but also a beautiful bunch of flowers ‘it’s because of you I have the money to do this’ she said – Isn’t that fabulous?




So far 74 people have started Growing Talent.  60 have completed and secured permanent, fulltime jobs.


Growing Talent 8 starts January 2016 in London – contact me for more details.



Yay………. Growing Talent is shortlisted!!!!!



PwC I&P who back Growing Talent have been shortlisted by Personnel Today under their Innovation in Recruitment category.  This is a huge achievement considering the age of the programme which only began in Feb 2014.


As Architect of the programme it’s a privilege to work will all partners.  However, for me the biggest prize is getting someone into work.  Growing Talent has now got over 40 fabulous Growing Talent Associates (formerly known as unemployed)  into work including some great talent in their mid-fifties!


When I reflect back to what the partnership has achieved since Feb 2014, I’m amazed!  We now have a website – – designed by a brilliant niche organisation – Shine Design, a twitter @Growing_Talent and a linked in page.  Copyrighted manuals for the Orientation and Holistic week give great onward learning.  In addition strong relationships have been built with  JobCentre Plus – under the District Director for London and the Home Counties along with stalwart supporters – Portico, Harrow Green, Mitie, Iron Mountain, Aramark, Pertemps, Property Research Co, UpTownOil, Honeywell, Baxter Storey, Red Personnel, MHFAEngland and Wilson James.


It’s amazing what can be achieved through the power of working together and dogged determination!


Winners announced on 30 November.

Growing Talent 6

GT 6


We commenced on 13 August with onsite placements for nine people.  Joshua joined Mitie Total Document Management, Mehmet joined Mitie in the print design department, Marta joined Pertemps, Stephanie and Marli joined Property Research Co – a new employer to Growing Talent – Shay joined Portico at Canary Wharf and Leah joined them at Chiswick Park, James & Chelsea joined Wilson James – another new employer!


After a fun week on the orientation, they guys were largely split up across the employers and won’t see each other again until the holistic week commencing 17 August.


First week saw the first casualty – Stephanie didn’t work out but luckily secured a summer job as a Royal Palace assistant.


All the others are progressing well!


Just planned out their holistic week where we will cover the global Mental Health First Aid course, personal finance, nutrition on a budget, keeping fit without the gym as well as an art class and declutter your life – declutter your mind!  Should be an interesting, full on week.


It’s amazing how the guys support eachother despite different backgrounds/situations they are in.  Check out more about their progress at

100% Success for all Starters!

Team plus

Growing Talent 5 – the most successful group yet.  100% of all starters completed and went into work!  Seen here with some previous Growing Talent Associates who returned to encourage the guys.  Comfort from the pilot has been working successfully with Honeywell since completion, Caroline & James from Growing Talent 2 is still working with Iron Mountain.  Josh from Growing Talent 4 working with Harrow Green and Kavita from Growing Talent 4 still working with Aramark!  #PeoplePower!



For the first time in the short history of Growing Talent, all 11 who started the programme have completed and started their permanent jobs!  Despite a few early day wobbles from some, they rallied with support and encouragement to have the confidence to prove themselves, staying the course for the entire three months!


Jose secured his dream role in HR with Harrow Green after years of working in hospitality roles.

Shanika left retail behind and joined Harrow Green in their niche customer service team supporting all the business moves for their clients.

Jason, Bradley & Gavin all secured Porter roles at Harrow Green’s depots despite having little recent employment experience.

Alechenu joined Mitie Total Document Management in their rapid response team – part of the wider Service Solutions offering at one of their global client’s London sites.

Reece also joined Mitie Total Document Management in their Archiving division.  This team looks after all the Firm’s data – a huge responsibility!

Shennell & Alex both join Iron Mountain as Data/Project specialists after a long period of not really knowing what direction to so in.

Reese joins MHFAEngland as a Data Entry specialist

Camilla joins Portico in their Executive Reception team as an Executive Host.


You can find out more about their journeys at my other site – or at @Growing_Talent.