Why keep doing the same old same old?

Of course ‘Mental Health’ isn’t such the taboo subject it was but there is still a huge social and self stigma fog to break down.

Back in 2017, the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, commissioned Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer (CEO of Mind) to investigate and report on mental health at work. This resulted in “Thriving at Work” published in October 2017.

Some of the key findings of this report were disturbing:

  • 300,000 lose their jobs each year due to mental ill health – far higher than the incidence of physical health
  • Around 15% of people at work have symptoms

Key recommendations from this report:

  • Produce, implement and communicate positive mental health in the workplace
  • Develop mental health awareness among staff
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health
  • Provide employees with work/life balance options
  • Routinely monitor employee wellbeing

More ambitious ‘enhanced’ standards from this report include:

  • Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting
  • Demonstrate accountability
  • Improve the disclosure process
  • Ensure provision of tailored inhouse mental health support and signposting to clinical help

At the time of this report only 11% of employees discussed a recent mental health problem with their line manager – meaning 89% did not feel able to disclose. In addition at the time of this report in 2017 only 11% of the Top 100 companies disclose their initiatives in their annual reports.

Only 24% of managers in 2017 received some form of training in mental health at work.

4 years later – has anything changed?

That’s what I keep asking myself. On the surface, businesses seem to feel they’ve done all that they can. They’ve usually rolled out MHFA training, assigned some people who’ve done MHFA training as ‘First Aiders’ to their peers who might be struggling. Is that effective? Is it enough?

I don’t think so. Businesses need to think about what their business and staff need to really thrive not just do a tick in the box training exercise with a proven reactive programme like MHFA just because it’s the most well known.

MHFA is an excellent programme for those interested in the subject area. It teaches in-depth information on mental health conditions, legislation and how to support, listen and signpost someone once they have experienced an issue. Devised by Betty Kitchener, a mental health nurse in Australia, and her partner Professor Anthony Jorm. With a global reach, it has become the go to product for businesses to deliver mental health training – but it was not designed for the workplace!

Selecting a unique, accredited programme like I-act, specifically written for the workplace and accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists with over 50 self care tools, guidance on how to build a mentally positive and healthy workplace as well as evaluation and development tools for those doing the training to support others – makes more sense. Cost effective and efficient.

Maybe if more employers choose to build a select menu of options for resilience, wellbeing, and positive mental health for their business and staff – the stats will be much better in another four years.

Or will we continue to kick the can down the road? Businesses are not the same. Why select the same training as your competitors when your business is different? Isn’t it better to lead than follow?

At Jane James’s Consultancy Ltd, we deliver the I-act training for managers and non-managers along with devising bespoke bolt ons to meet staff and business needs. Financial awareness, self-employment, team empowerment, financial awareness, know your purpose, what’s your journey – and many more. Financial awareness for staff is a key point in the new international guidelines ISO45003.

If you want to ensure your business and staff are thriving, why not get in touch to discuss options?

Are employers solidifying employees’ fears?

The BBC News online featured a piece from the PCS (Public & Commercial Services) union today whose research suggest the majority of JobCentre Plus staff fear returning to their offices. Out of 1,299 members the PCS surveyed, their results shared showed 3 in 5 workers want to continue working at home and are fearful of returning to the workplace due to Covid.

PCS claim they should be allowed to continue to work from home as they’ve proved this is effective during Covid restrictions. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS union warned industrial action could follow.

The fear of returning to the workplace after so long working from home or on furlough during Covid will be many employees’ fears and this is something their employers need to address BEFORE they are asked to return.

There is so much fake news on social media and possibly amongst friends, families and community leaders. Add in the continuous illogical updates from Government, it becomes completely understandable the fear that can be brewing. Trouble is, this fear and be intrusive and longterm.

We all know facing our fears are the only way to conquer them. If we give in to this, anxiety, isolation, debilitation will grow and possibly cripple individuals, business and communities.

As individuals we have to find evidence from experts we trust to enable us to make decisions and resist listening to opinions/views of non-experts.

JobCentre Plus staff do a difficult job supporting the most vulnerable in our communities. If they go on strike, what happens to those in dire circumstances?

If Employers don’t support their employees to overcome their fears and gain confidence to living their lives to the full again – what happens to those employees? Remember not every person has gone through the pandemic living in a nice, safe home, in happy, nurturing relationships. For the majority, it’s been one of the hardest, loneliest periods of their lives.

Business is a core part of our lives and communities. If businesses aren’t flourishing, growing and employing people, taxes aren’t being paid to support the vulnerable, provide healthcare, education etc. Where will the money for these come from?

For many businesses, continued working from home for their employees won’t be tenable. If work can be done from home, might some employers start to ask why can’t it be outsourced overseas to a cheaper workforce?

Giving in to fear is not an option. As actor Will Smith said some time ago –

“Success lies on the other side of fear”

What say you?

Passion Map – Do You Have One?

The global pandemic and yo yo-ing UK restrictions over the past year + has enabled a period of reflection for us all.

“Where are we?” “Are we happy and fulfilled?” “Is something missing?” “Am I on the wrong road?” “Are my relationships healthy or toxic?”

Just some of the questions we may have considered over this time.

Catching glimpses of the highlights of HRH Prince Philip’s funeral over the weekend and seeing some of the unique things he had planned – such as symbols of his love of carriage racing and land/range rovers – got me thinking about how much planning we put into living our best lives.

How many of us run on automatic pilot? Doing everything as habit almost on automatic pilot just means we are existing not living.

Having a Passion Map enables us to really examine all areas of our life and ask ourselves those difficult questions. Especially “am I where I want to be?” or “am I on the path to get where I want to be?”

Slowly, we are seeing the seeds of change – restrictions are gradually lifting. Is now the time to devise our own Passion Map?

Life is too precious to return to automatic living.

What do you think?

When the noise gets too much

Many employers have recognised the need to ensure mental wellbeing and resilience in their teams. Some have done a colossal amount of workshops on various aspects of these key areas of human function.

However, too much can be as bad as not enough! It can end up being ‘white noise’. At this stage, nothing penetrates the conscious of some individuals who may have switched off – and likely rolled their eyes.

A menu of options is the best way of ensuring optimum, flourishing staff. Giving an insight into each workshop/course, content and benefit enables the team to decide what is right for them rather than having to do everything.

After discussions with a client this week, we’ve devised a Zoom ‘Open Mic’ programme of events. Non-management teams from different parts of the business will be offered weekly sessions during working hours where they can talk about anything they want. They can just listen and not contribute. Or they can choose not to dial in. Or they can enthusiastically contribute topics they want discussed. Thing is, they know this is their space where they can talk openly, safely and without judgement about anything that’s on their minds. They may not get the answers they seek but they will get the space and time to think which will give them clarity and energy to deal with what’s on their minds themselves.

I’m excited to be involved in something as innovative as this for this employer. In my work, I’ve seen the power of giving a platform to someone they can talk openly and in confidence they won’t be judged. They always seem to gain a calmness which enables them to see the solution that is right for them.

Business – time to disrupt mental health training for something new…..


“This course gives you the knowledge and courage to ask those difficult questions regarding your own and others mental health. Knowing what I know now, I am very comfortable to help not only myself but those around me”, Conor. 

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As businesses we know how important it is to have a healthy, inclusive workplace where staff can thrive. A business that makes positive mental health and wellbeing training part of their DNA will get commitment, higher productivity, increased brand reputation and increased bottom lines. But, it has to be the right training! Especially in the time of Coronavirus uncertainty.

Training costs money. It’s pointless running reactivate courses that don’t deliver the results required. Time to disrupt the norm……

I’ve worked in the Mental Health, Wellbeing and Inclusive Employment fields for many years. I still see a fear within businesses – large and small – to address positive mental health training for all staff.

Traditionally, non-accredited training – either a half day awareness level, one day champion level or two day ‘first aider’ course is selected by businesses without considering some key facts:

  1. These courses are reactive – useful only when a problem has arisen
  2. Being non-accredited by a regulatory body or a respected Institute – what real meaning do they have?
  3. One of the largest providers in this field only licences their instructors to deliver in their local area – not nationally nor internationally meaning there is no uniform of delivery for national/international businesses.

I’ve been hugely impressed by this innovative programme because of it’s standout features. Some of the key ones are:

  1. It has over 50 self care tools to ensure we look after ourselves and those around us
  2. Designed specifically for the workplace – not only is it proactive in promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, it debunks myths, gives countless tools and guidance to build a mentally healthy workplace tying in with Health and Safety Executive tools as well as legislation responsibilities – it gives real confidence to those undertaking the training to break down the wall of social and society stigma which directly impacts the workplace.
  3. Accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists gives it real meaning and substance.
  4. The same instructor can deliver nationally and internationally giving uniform training.

“Excellent course to do. A very relevant and important course to do in these times. The skills learnt on this course could help you to intervene and save someone’s life.” Robert

Interested in knowing more? Contact me.

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Workplace Managing Positive Mental Health & Wellbeing

Unfortunately, five planned delegates, couldn’t make the session, so we commenced with a bespoke, niche group of five managers from officers throughout the UK. It always amazes me how interactive and powerful delivering training virtually is. Experience and knowledge shared.

The course is packed with over 50 self-help tools which can be used to support others as well.

Facts, figures, signpost, tools – every possible area of wellness and resilience in the workplace is covered in this.

“I’ve learned so many tools I can use to help others”, shared Paul at the end of the session.

It’s empowering to me as an Instructor to see delegates so empowered with information, tools and confidence to use.

Does mental health, wellbeing and resilience training make a real difference to a business’s bottom line?

Absolutely.  This has been proven time and again in various research reports in delivering added value to bottom lines, brand reputations and staff retention. It’s more relevant and vital to business operations in the Coronavirus/Covid-19 era.

Of course, you have to ensure you implement the right training otherwise the impact made to your bottom line, brand reputation and staff retention could be negative!

I’ve been working in this field for over a decade now.  I’m often asked what course I would recommend.  See the table below for some key features of three training programmes I deliver.

Featurei-actFAA levels 1,2,3MHFA England
Proactive – designed to prevent mental ill healthYesNoNo
Specifically designed for the workplaceYesNoNo
Accredited course for delegatesYesYesNo
Over 50 tools for self- care/building resilienceYesNoNo
Signposting to professional helpYesYesYes
Delivered virtually or classroomYesYesYes
Instructors can deliver nationallyYesYesNo

I’ve been so impressed by i-act’s proactive standpoint of aiming to prevent mental ill health in the workplace, vast array of self-help tools as well as tools to evaluate and develop skills of those delivering first stage support, that after 12 years as a MHFA England Instructor, I will no longer be delivering their products.  

For employers who do like a formal, first aid approach to mental health, the FAA Levels 1, 2 and 3 deliver Ofqual regulated accreditation on the same three adult programmes MHFA England offers – half day awareness, one day champion and two-day first aider.

In this day and age, it’s more important than ever for employers to select the right product for their environment and team.  Having the choice between accredited/non accredited and proactive/reactive training enables them to make this choice confidently and cost effectively.

200 hours completed!

Around May 2019, I saw a news feature with Duke & Duchess of Cambridge launching the 24/7 UK crisis text line Give Us A Shout.

The idea seemed simple and brilliant. Mobile providers waived their fees for texts to this service. Anyone struggling with their emotions from feeling lonely to idealation to complete suicide, any age, could text the word SHOUT to 85258 and get help to take them from a hot moment to a cool calm.

As a completely text service 24/7, those struggling didn’t have to overcome fear or anxiety of speaking to someone via a telephone line. Nor did they have to take part in a video call.

Completely anonymous.

This idea peaked my interest. The new launch was to engage with volunteers to train to go on the platform and support. The training was long and intense.

A coach is assigned from joining Give Us A Shout until a volunteer decides to leave.

This wrap around support for texters and volunteers is unique so I applied and thankfully was accepted.

Starting off as a baby chick (new volunteer) I could only take one texter at a time. The commitment is to give 200 hours to the platform before deciding to leave.

That target seemed light years away and completely unattainable. However, I received the following email from my Coach – I didn’t even realise I passed the landmark!

Congratulations on having spent 200 hours on the Platform.

Thank you for giving so much of your time and empathy to our texters. We really appreciate every second you’ve spent with us on the Platform…….720,000 seconds to be exact!

I’m sure that when you made a commitment to do 200 hours of volunteering with Shout it seemed almost unattainable, and yet you have made that commitment a reality and for that we are all so grateful to you.

We look forward to you continuing to support texters and other Shout Volunteers with your invaluable experience for many more hours to come.

My plan is to continue volunteering as long as I can for this unique service. Feedback shows me, it really makes a difference to those struggling.

I always teach people I work with ‘Never look at big targets. They always feel unattainable. Instead, look at bite sized steps. You’ll soon achieve your end goal and learn so much along the way.’

I know I have.

If you or anyone you know is struggling, no matter the time of day or night or issue that’s on your mind, text the word SHOUT to 85258. Help is there. You don’t need to go on any struggle alone.

Happy Sad Man by Genevive Bailey

I came across this film on Eventbrite. A two part event from Australia.

Genevive is a film maker from Bondi Beach, Australia who has spent years making this documentary. If follows a group of men – all ages and backgrounds in their journey through the ups and downs of mental ill health and their strength in finding ways to make a difference to others.

I’ve been interested in mental ill health and wellbeing for many years and seen diverse projects/films/discussions trying to capture the stigma and loneliness felt by those living with mental ill health – none touched this film.

The sensitivity, respect and inclusion Genevive showed, John, Jake, Grant, David, Ivan, Dave and their families/friends conveyed the real range of emotions felt. The passage of time from the 50s/60s to today hasn’t demolished the stigma mental ill health causes. Still a taboo subject.

It’s always struck me – where does this stigma come from? We aren’t born with it. If we’ve learned it, we can surely unlearn it? Why does the mind scare us so much that we feel unable to say ‘hey, how are you feeling? I’m really concerned about you’….. The mind is just part of the body. We wouldn’t fear asking ‘how’s you leg? healed ok?’.

Happy Sad Man tells the story of a group of men. An emotional awakening of understanding on how these men feel on their rollacoaster journeys. Little gems are littered throughout the films. Grant’s synergy of living with mental ill health is like a recipe. You have to balance everything. Using fluorescent colours to start a conversation on Bondi Beach about mental health every Friday morning at 6.30am. Flouro Friday is now on 200 beaches across 40 countries. Using bright clothes and surfing to spark a conversation. Can we adapt this idea to fit the communities we live in?

David’s wet dog perfume was another highlight. His goal wasn’t to make money but to get people smiling and talking.

Jake’s journey from film maker to war photographer was stark. Even in such dire circumstances he was able to teach children in Syria, Aleppo etc to skateboard and do the things that kids everywhere do. He also taught them how to make films on their mobiles to capture the environment they live in the the futility of war.

The overall message of hope was uplifting.

There is still time today to register on Eventbrite to watch this outstanding documentary and join the live Q&A session tomorrow.

You can follow Genevieve at:

www.facebook.com/happysadfilm
www.instagram.com/happysadfilm
www.twitter.com/happysadfilm

Green gold or green despair?

I’ve always liked a smashed ripe Avocado with some chilli flakes and squeeze of fresh lime on some toast – not necessarily sourdough!

However, after watching a short feature on Al Jazeera TV I might need to re-think food choices in solidarity with the village residents of Chile!

We are lucky to take safe drinking water as a human right in most parts of the world. Turn on the tap and there it is. We don’t think about it.

In some countries, water is naturally a scare resource. People are brought up to not squander it so there is enough for everyone.

Water Aid and many other charities have done amazing work ensuring unique water wells linked to children’s playgrounds to make fresh, safe drinking water from a well available and accessible to all.

But what struck me about the feature on Al Jazeera was water is not seen as a human right in Chile! Just let that sink in for a moment.

Instead, following privatisation in the early 80’s water is seen as a commodity to be brought, sold and even left in wills. Added to this the fact shared by Reuters that Chile is the third biggest producer of Avacados which take 1,000 litres of water to grow just 1 kilo! The mind boggles. How many kilos do families get through worldwide a day?

The residents of local villages have very limited access to water putting at risk their mental and physical health as well as their children’s.

It’s well documented how essential it is to stay hydrated. In the UK 6-8 glasses of water are recommended to be consumed each day. Elsewhere on internet search it varies around 2 litres

An activist group – Modatima – is trying to change the law to make access to fresh drinking water a right for all not just the few in Chile. One of their lead activists, Rodrigo Mundaca, has received death threats and regular harassment from the authorities. Rodrigo has even come under the protection of Amnesty International.

It seems unbelievable that we consume food without thinking about the possible impact on those living in the country that produced it.

What can we do? Rethink the impact on others of the food we choose to eat maybe?

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