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?

The benefits of virtual learning

For the 10+ years I’ve been a MHFAEngland Instructor, I’ve been looking for a mental health and wellbeing programme to deliver which was accredited by a qualifying body delivering real value rather than the usual courses that just end with a Certificate of Attendance.

I stumbled across http://www.i-act.co.uk who devised mental health and well-being products specifically for the workplace. Both courses come with a 168 page manual, 50 self-help tools to use and 95 referral organisations for different mental health issues.

Having done the manager’s course – Managing and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLBeing – accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists with CPD points – I knew this was a key product which would deliver real value to my clients.

I decided to apply for the Instructor’s accreditation to deliver both the manager course and the ‘Understanding and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLbeing in the Workplace’ for non-management employees.

At the start of this week myself and others from all corners of the UK, Bahrain and Hong Kong met online with one of the co-founders Pete – a Clinical Psychiatrist and mine of information – also our Instructor. After watching Pete deliver, we then had to deliver the whole programme in our own style with a couple of peers giving feedback.

Solid connections were made. Messages of encouragement flowed over WhatsApp as we all became accredited instructors.

I now intend adding these two excellent courses to my portfolio of training to employers looking to ensure their staff at all levels are maintaining optimum levels of wellbeing duding real value to their bottom line and brand reputation.

The opportunities that open up when you least expect them can lead to incredible places.

Steps to effective communication when someone is struggling

Yesterday saw me deliver the second virtual session with 19 members of ISS including all levels of staff.  Learning from each other we explored, how to start a conversation when we’ve seen a change in someone.  This of course takes planning.  When’s the right time, the best location to avoid interruptions, what language should we use, our tone, what empathetic words work best.  What happens if someone doesn’t want to talk? Or if the subject is something painful/against our beliefs/cultural backgrounds?  How can we ensure the person feels validated and supported even though we aren’t the right person?

 

How do we listen and why is it essential to reflect back on what we’ve heard?  Giving reassurance that emotions are very real to them and natural in the circumstances they are in without giving advice or trying to ‘fix’ them.

 

Encouraging professional help is a key step.  Sometimes mental poor health is cause by physical issues.  Our mind, body and spirit work so closely together it’s not always easy for professionals to diagnose the real issue.  In Afro Caribbean people they can exhibit signs of depression when in fact they have a Vitamin D deficiency.  So a professional check is always a key step.

 

Waiting for appointments can be agonising.  Therefore, self care techniques can help manage what the person is feeling whilst they are waiting.  Guiding them to use mediums that usually calm them or indeed trying something new is pivotal to self-care.  Talking of self-care, anyone listening to someone who is in pain emotionally, needs to practise self-care themselves after.  You cannot pour from an empty cup!

 

We also looked at building a self care plan into our daily routines to enable us to become more resilient in dealing with life’s challenges.

 

So what did the guys think of the session yesterday?…

“The sessions make you think about things in a totally different way and give you the knowledge on how to approach different scenarios or difficult subjects.  I always look forward to Janes sessions. They are always professionally delivered and interactive which makes them enjoyable as well as very informative.” Mark Hetherington, PwC National Contracts Manager, London

“In an informal setting it gives you a good understanding on what/ how to respond to staff. I’d definitely recommend it to others.” Alison, Birmingham

“I learnt so much from today’s session.  I feel more prepared for dealing with possible vulnerable team members and I know when to stop and understand when something/a situation is beyond me but I know the next steps.  Thanks Jane” Loraine, Belfast

“The steps to thinking about when making an approach was really good, very simple and easy to follow and I now feel a lot more confident if faced with this.” Rakesh

Virtual sessions enable teams split across the UK to collaborate together.  I think this new way of working is here to stay!

 

 

 

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…..

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