Author: Graham

Time to Talk Day 3rd February 2022

The annual Time to Talk Day is run by MIND and Rethink Mental Illness in England in partnership with the Co-op and aims to promote the idea that conversations have the power to change lives. It is important that we can develop a culture whereby we can all talk openly about mental health. The concept of empowering people to talk and aiming to remove the stigma associated with mental ill health has been a guiding principle here at Jonathan’s Voice and the reason for supporting this initiative.

The focus of the day is to encourage conversations about our mental well-being. However, it is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to do this, but these tips may help:

  • Don’t wait for the perfect moment: rehearsing a conversation is probably not helpful and it is important that the conversation happens at a time and in a place that feels natural. Remember sometimes it is easier to talk about how we feel when we are doing something else e.g. driving walking, running or having a cup of coffee
  • Ask questions: and you may have to ask twice, as often people say they are fine when they are not. It is also important to ensure you listen to the answers
  • Talk about yourself: talking about how you feel can help create an atmosphere where people feel safe to discuss their feelings. This may also help them to recognise you will not be judgemental.
  • Approach the elephant in the room: Too often we are tempted to skirt the issue if we know someone has had time of work. You can raise the issue gently by asking things like “How are you now?”  or “You seem a bit quiet, how are things?”
  • It doesn’t have to be face to face: some people may find receiving a text or an email easier  

What might you or your organization do to mark Time to Talk Day and encourage conversations? MIND have a lot of very useful ideas and resources .

Take time to talk .

Could a new way of treating suicide have saved my friend?

 A recent article in the i Newspaper (9-Nov-2021) caught my eye:  Could a new way of treating suicide have saved my friend?

 The journalist recounts the story of meeting a close friend who shared without waning he had tried to kill himself on more than one occasion. His response was to suggest to his friend that he was doing much better now. This is probably not an uncommon response when faced with such a situation.   The journalist continues to describe how his attempt at positivity meant he felt he missed the opportunity to talk in more depth with his friend about his real feelings. Sadly, two months later the friend took his own life, leaving the journalist with questions: why did he do it?

The article continues by exploring, why we might be failing to help, specifically in regard to people who are experiencing auditory hallucinations, and asking the question: do we need to actively engage people with auditory hallucinations, not suggest they suppress them?  Reading further there is the idea of trying a fresh/ different approach This is pioneering treatment that has yet to be supported by research evidence.

One factor identified in relation to why some people do not seek help is that “often people don’t talk to professionals because they are fearful of being locked up “. Over the last 30 years a branch of psychiatrists and psychotherapists have developed a protocol for this group, called, Talking with Voices therapy: an extension of other approaches e.g Gestalt therapy. There is a study underway into this method by the Psychosis Research Unit at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.  This protocol starts with an assessment asking the patient to disclose if and how long they have heard voices. Australian Psychotherapist Matt Ball uses this to then ask the patient what questions they want to ask their suicidal self if this is where their hallucinations are leading them.  He then uses a simple relaxation technique, together with listening, to help engage the patient in dialogue about their own suicidal thoughts. The idea is to support the patient rather than trying to eliminate suicidal thoughts related to the auditory hallucinations, to better understand them and try and live peacefully with them. Ball himself recognises that he would not use this approach for someone who was in acute crisis.

The article also highlights an interview with psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton who suggests that Matt Ball’s approach is “operationalising rather than revolutionising the treatment for such suicidal patients, putting it into a kind of format and applied a framework”. It is important to note however that there are many people with strong suicidal ideation who do not experience any auditory hallucinations. Ball goes onto indicate that he does not have particular concerns about this type of approach, noting that he regards the treatment as more suitable for those experiencing auditory hallucinations who are in a state of “passive” rather than “active” suicidality whom he would regard as less likely to be at acute risk.

Whilst the benefits of this type of approach/ treatment have yet to be fully supported through research evidence, I think it is important to note that the topic of suicide is being ‘spoken’ and written about in the mainstream press, helping to bring it into the open and reduce the stigma.

Jackie Scruton

Looking Forward to Christmas?

The Christmas period can be a time of great happiness and fun for many people but can be very difficult for others. There will be those who feel a sense of obligation and over commitment to social activities they’d really rather not attend.  There will also be those who will experience loneliness or a deep sense of sadness because of the absence of those with whom they have spent past Christmases but have now lost through death or other forms of separation.

Each person and each person’s needs and emotions are different, but it is important for all of us that we look after ourselves and are kind to ourselves. “It’s ok not to be ok” at Christmas as at any other time, despite the messages we might be get from so many sources. If you don’t feel great, you’re not alone.

As well as being kind to ourselves, we can also be kind to each other. It has been demonstrated that showing kindness is not only good for the person to whom we are kind but has a positive impact on our own sense of wellbeing.

Whatever we might be feeling, we could express gratitude; taking time to thank someone who has shown kindness in the past year, sending a card, giving flowers or calling someone. These gestures can often lead to positive and unexpected consequences. We could notice the small things; bulbs just beginning to appear and days just starting to lengthen.

The Mental Health Foundation has advice for those who rather than being lonely or feeling bereft for whatever reason may feel there are too many things to do and overwhelmed by the festivities. These suggestions include:

  1. Balancing your sense of social obligations with the need to be kind to yourself.    
  2. Practising self-care and taking time to reflect on how you are feeling. Christmas can take a lot of time and energy. A return to work exhausted will not be the best way to start the New Year.
  3. Having realistic expectations about family gatherings, tensions can run high especially when everyone wants to have a happy time. If things are getting a little ‘tough’ take some time out and go for a walk or find a quiet space and read a book or listen to music.

Finally, If you need someone to talk to:

Samaritans. Call 116 123 available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) for men. Call 0800 58 58 58. 5pm to midnight every day.

Papyrus for people under 35. Call 0800 068 4141. 9 am to 10 pm weekdays, 2 pm to 10pm weekends and Bank Holidays.

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide  (SOBS) for anyone who has been affected by death by suicide. Call  0300 111 5065. 9 am to 9 pm Monday to Sunday.

Mental Health First Aid at the IPO – hints, tips and lessons learnt

It was very interesting to hear Euros Morris of the IPO share the “hints, tips and lessons learnt” about Mental Health First Aid in his organization at the event organized with IP Inclusive.  Although the IPO is a much bigger organization than many IP firms there was nevertheless much to think about and reflect on. Euros emphasised the importance of employers buying in to MHFA and ensuring it has a high priority, of a MHF Aider having a buddy and of consistency in the way in which MHF Aiders in a particular firm operate. He addressed the importance of the MHF Aider creating clear boundaries without leaving the person who is seeking help without support. You can read more by going to the post on the IP Inclusive website  website event post

 

Addressing Burnout – unlimited time off

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been properly managed”. Burnout is frequently cited in surveys about mental health and wellbeing.

In an initiative to address this, a city stockbroker (FinnCap) has given their employees unlimited time off from next year in order to try and prevent staff burnout. In doing so they recognise there have been heightened demands from their clients due to volatile capital markets. The chief executive Sam Smith understands that “burnout is not easily resolved by  a two-week holiday… but by properly changing the way you work”. She highlights that the company had started to notice how much mental health strain employees were under in February this year. Staff have worked long hours at home through the pandemic and she suggests that “lines between work and life have become blurred”.

In order to try and help employees, the company are insisting staff will need to take at least four weeks a year off, to include some days each quarter. In addition, in order utilise this time for real relaxation they have issued certain activities that do not count as part of the four weeks, e.g. visits to the vet, caring duties or a broken boiler!

FinnCap are not the only employer in the last year to help employees combat workplace stress. Other strategies are being introduced, such as temporarily closing offices. One company, Belmont Packaging in Wigan are pioneering what many believe could be the future: the four-day week. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/four-day-week-uk-trial-b1964714.html

At Jonathan’s Voice our guide Protecting your mental health and wellbeing has been designed to help professionals take care of their mental wellbeing, to recognise when they and maybe others around them are starting to struggle and to look at first steps to getting help.

Jonathan’s Voice can also provide a bespoke workplace package to support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. There is no charge. Please email val@jonathansvoice.org.uk to find out more.

Protecting your mental health – A practical guide for post graduate research students in STEM

A new guide from Jonathan’s Voice in collaboration with the Charlie Waller Trust. Free to download here https://charliewaller.org/resources/protecting-your-mental-health-a-practical-guide-for-postgraduate-research-students-in-stem

Postgraduate research within the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) disciplines can be a stimulating and rewarding career path. However, in recent years the higher education sector has become more aware of the complexities of the specific challenges that exist for post graduate research (PGR) students.  For researchers in STEM subjects, there can be particular challenges; for example, working in industrial or other settings, the demands of research sponsors and the growing need to adapt to team working and interdisciplinary research. A diverse, thriving research culture, capable of tackling the key challenges of tomorrow, requires the mental health of postgraduate researchers to be prioritised and supported. The purpose of this guide is to address this need.

It includes:

Taking preventative measures to look after yourself

Setting realistic expectations

The basics of keeping motivated and managing criticism and feedback

Combatting unhelpful behaviours or thinking patterns

What to do when self-care is not enough, and you are starting to struggle

Talking about your mental health

Managing challenges you may experience; such as feeling isolated and lonely, financial difficulties, disappointment and rejection

 A list of easily accessible resources

We hope that this guide will support PGR students in STEM to look after themselves and others, to feel empowered to speak out about mental health issues and to manage some of the challenges specific to postgraduate research.

A personal experience of the Goose Fair Gallop and World Mental Health Day 2021

Goose Fair Gallop

This event was my first ever 10k run and it was a win, win, win event for me.

Firstly, what a great location, in the shadow of the Iron Giant. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Victorian railway architecture, the Iron Giant is the name given to the Bennerley Viaduct. It was built in 1877 it is one of only two wrought iron viaducts left in the UK. https://www.bennerleyviaduct.org.uk/?page_id=1537

The route took us from the start right by the viaduct but sadly not this year across it (Covid and delayed construction work meant this was not possible but watch this space for next year) I have been a member of friends of Bennerley viaduct for a while now and probably know quite a lot about the restoration work and plan to re open it as cycling running , walking route . The idea of racing in its shadow was a temptation too far.  The day could not have been better weatherwise, blue sky and sunshine, the viaduct looked magnificent.

Secondly, I wanted to challenge myself to run further than I have ever before. I took up running 8 years ago as a way of keeping fit and helping to maintain my mental health . The additional challenge was last July I broke my ankle so this gave me a target to focus on for my training.  Up until the day of the race I had not run more than 8km. My target was to finish and I hoped to complete the 10km in around the hour mark. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming and assured me I could do it!. The nerves kicked in before the start but once we were off I settled into a pace I thought I could manage. At about the 1km mark I found myself running with Charmaine who was fantastic. Although we had never met before the run, we chatted amicably and she said she would run with me at a pace with the aim to finish in around an hour. She was so encouraging but at the 8km mark I was feeling the effort so not wanting to hold her back any further suggested she go on at her pace. She agreed and said she would wait at the finish line for me. I needed to walk for a short while to summon up strength for the final 2 km. The last km seemed more like 3 or 4 but with the finish arch in sight I managed a final sprint to the line. Finishing in 1 hour 4 minutes and being, cheered on by Charmaine, her son and friend. A very big thank you to her for friendship and encouragement. It made me realise yet again the importance of talking to people and offering the hand of friendship. It might not be when someone is on crisis but talking at any time  helps us connect and support each other.  

Finally, I used the event to raise money and awareness of Jonathan’s Voice, a mental health charity close to my heart. I know from personal experience that physical exercise and running in particular helps me to maintain my mental health. It was great to be able to raise funds to help the charity with its work and made all the more pertinent as I was running on World Mental Health Day.

I am looking forward to next year’s race , fingers crossed  with part of the route over the viaduct and breaking the hour time barrier !

Jackie Scruton

IP Inclusive Senior Leaders’ Pledge

Jonathan’s Voice, an Intellectual Property (IP) focused mental health charity, welcomes and whole heartedly endorses the IP Inclusive Senior Leaders’ Pledge that was launched in July.

Its aim is to help senior professionals provide visible and active leadership on improving diversity and inclusion (D&I) in their organisations.

At its launch on July 29th, the pledge had already been signed by 70 senior representatives from over 20 IP organizations as well as by the Chief Executives of the patent and trade mark professionals’ representative bodies CIPA and CITMA.

The Leaders’ Pledge was created by a “think tank” that consists of senior leaders from private sector IP practices, who recognise the key role they can play in improving diversity and inclusion in their particular section of the IP professions. It is a commitment entered into by individuals not organisations. Intended for signature by managing partners, chief executives and others in senior, decision-making roles, it includes a promise to work alongside more junior colleagues to effect positive change. It can be signed by as many individuals from the leadership team as appropriate: the more the better.

The Leaders’ Pledge consists of eight high-level commitments. For full details see below. Alongside each of these, a signatory commits to one or more practical steps they will take to fulfil their pledge.

Jonathan’s Voice recognizes the importance of each of the eight commitments. The one that particularly relates to our work as a mental health charity is commitment no. 4 in the Leaders’ Pledge which is “building trust and safe spaces throughout the organisation“. One of our key objectives is to create a mentally healthy working environment. This commitment sits solidly within that objective We are greatly encouraged by the Leaders’ Pledge because we know that when senior leaders are invested in a process then real change will happen. .

As an IP focused charity, we are keen to offer support to organizations as they seek to fulfil that commitment of the pledge. We have already published a guide on workplace mental wellbeing, tailored specially for leaders and managers. It has been very well received. You can download the guide here https://jonathansvoice.org.uk/resources or order free copies.

We also welcome the opportunity to speak with senior leaders and provide tailored advice, support and training for your organisation – again, for free. We are keen to ensure that mental health, like any other aspect of inclusivity, is championed from the top. Please contact the team via our website  https://jonathansvoice.org.uk/  or email val@jonthansvoice.org. Andrea Brewster abrewsteripinclusive@gmail.com would also be happy to pass on any requests.

To see the eight commitments and more detail about the Pledge go to https://ipinclusive.org.uk/newsandfeatures/the-ip-inclusive-senior-leaders-pledge/

World Mental Health Day: Mental Health in an Unequal world

World Mental Health Day, run by the World Foundation for Mental Health and recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), happens on 10th October every year. The aim is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilise efforts in order to support mental well-being.

It comes exactly a month after World Suicide Prevention Day.  The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day was “Create hope through action.” By being more aware of our own mental health needs and those of the people around us, taking action and offering support, which is what World Mental Health Day promotes, the hope must be that there are fewer deaths by suicide.

This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day aims to highlight the inequalities that exist between richer and poorer countries in terms of access to mental health services. Access to good mental health services is often determined by where we live or who we are. We are all only too aware of the difficulty many people find in accessing the services they need in the UK. How much more difficult it must be in developing nations.

On this year’s day, October 10th, ITN News will be launching a new news  style programme:  Forward Together for Mental Health in collaboration with the charity Mental Health UK.  The pandemic has made the public more aware of the importance of good mental health, particularly with regard to the demand for services at a time when greater investment is needed in not only these services but also wider community support. This support includes areas such as physical well-being, having strong social links, safe secure housing, financial and employment support. All of these things help us to sustain our mental well-being.

What can you do to help mark the day?

  • Start a conversation with someone. This can help them and you. Our recent blog will help you with ideas on how to do this
  • Speak openly about mental health
  • Share your story with others.
  • Look after yourself, including exercise and sleep

To mark the day, Jackie Scruton, a Jonathan’s Voice volunteer, will be running her first ever 10K race aptly named the Goose Fair Gallop. Jackie writes “This is a win, win event for me. Firstly, running helps me to stay strong mentally and secondly, I am raising funds for Jonathan’s Voice.”

What could your organization do to create a mentally healthy workplace? In July IP Inclusive launched its Senior Leaders’ Pledge  https://ipinclusive.org.uk/newsandfeatures/the-ip-inclusive-senior-leaders-pledge/  One of the commitment is  “Building trust and safe spaces throughout the organisation.”

Jonathan’s Voice can help your organization support the mental health and wellbeing of your people, build trust and safe spaces and create a positive working culture. We provide bespoke training and expert consultation to leaders. Our consultants are experienced NHS consultants and line managers. Our invited trainers and speakers are selected because of her mental health and training expertise. There is no charge. Get in touch at info@jonathansvoice.org.uk  for a preliminary discussion. We look forward to hearing from you.

Val McCartney and Jackie Scruton.