Author: Graham

A personal reflection on mental health first aid training

One of Jonathan’s colleagues, David Hammond, writes about his experiences of Mental Health First Aid Training.

“It’s a funny old thing, mental health.  We all have mental health – it’s just that some of us have better mental health than others.  Poor mental health can creep up on us unexpectedly, in ourselves or our colleagues, friends and families.  It doesn’t always knock on the door to announce its arrival, and there may not be a single trigger that you can point to and say “that caused my mental health to decline”.

For me, I can point to one event that caused me to struggle mentally.  It was losing Jonathan.  Not only was he a colleague at Haseltine Lake, but a good friend, and I tormented myself for months with the “how”, “why”, “what if”.  I was supposed to be his friend, and I felt like I’d failed him.  How could I not have not seen this coming?  Why didn’t I spend the time to see how he was doing, and go for that beer we’d been talking about for so long?  What if I’d messaged him a few days before he died to tell him some exciting personal news, rather than waiting to tell him in person?  All of these futile thoughts, and the frustration of knowing I’ll never have satisfactory answers, led to most of last year passing me by in a foggy blur.

The one thing that I did resolve to do was to make sure that I did everything in my power to try and stop this happening to anybody else.  Not on my watch.  Not to anybody I care about.  I jumped at the chance to become one of the firm’s Mental Health First Aiders (we now have 24, across all offices) and willingly attended the two day course run by MHFA England.

Two accredited trainers came to our offices, and delivered an incredible course that not only equipped me with the skills and knowledge to look out for others, but set me on the path to improving my own mental health.  One of the things they taught us was that if we’re in a bad place ourselves, we can’t help others.  Knowing that MHFA England devised the course content and trained the trainers gives you real confidence that what you are being taught can and will make a difference.

Being a Mental Health First Aider isn’t about diagnosing a particular mental health condition in someone – we leave that to the professionals.  What we have been trained to do is to spot the warning signs, and then to know what to say and do.   Quite often it is just a case of sitting and listening – giving someone a safe place where they can unload in confidence is sometimes all they need to start feeling better about things.  We never tell someone what to do, but we are there to talk through what resources and services might be of help.

As a firm, and particularly as a group of MHFAs within the firm, we are committed to looking out for our colleagues and being there to provide support and advice when needed.  Mental health is so very often still overlooked as a workplace issue, and the more that employers can do to rectify this the better.    We have our own internal wellbeing campaign, HL Well, with a particular focus on mental wellbeing.

IP Inclusive is proving invaluable in spreading the word in the IP profession: improving mental health support is key to creating a more inclusive working environment.    From a recent survey of IP practitioners, those struggling with their mental health still find it incredibly hard to admit as much to their employer or peers, for fear of being seen as “weak”, or “not up to the job”.  It’s not a sign of weakness.  It’s ok to not be ok.

While IP Inclusive is amongst those leading the charge, the stigma surrounding poor mental health still pervades through many other professions.  All of us, regardless of our profession, have a collective responsibility to ourselves, our colleagues, and our friends and family, to break down the stigma and create a workplace in which mental health can be freely discussed. Having an employer-led focus on mental health in the workplace would go a long way to breaking down the stigma, whether it is an internal program such as our HL Well, or formal training from MHFA England to create a workplace team of Mental Health Champions and/or Mental Health First Aiders.

Jonathan’s death will stay with me forever. But, becoming a Mental Health First Aider has helped me make some sense of it all, and left me feeling better in myself and more importantly better equipped to be there for others.

As I write, the MHFAs at Haseltine Lake are busy planning for the future, preparing our own Mission Statement and collating resources on a range of mental health issues.

Fundamentally though, we’re focussed on the human interactions that can help so much.  It doesn’t take two minutes to check on a colleague or friend and ask how he or she is doing, but it could change their view of the world, and of their workplace, to know that someone cares and is there to listen.”

David Hammond, Haseltine Lake LLP

Thank you for sharing this informative and powerful reflection.

Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace

What is mental health?

Mental health is often described as the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal pressures of everyday life. Factors both inside and outside work can affect our mental health and it can be helpful to think of it as a spectrum ranging from good to poor, that each of us is constantly moving along depending on our personal circumstances.
Mental ill health is very common – the Department of Health and Social Care suggests that one in four of us will experience it at some point in our lives. And anyone can suffer from its effects, ranging from feeling unmanageably stressed to conditions such as anxiety and depression. A limited number of people experience more severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder or paranoia. Some of these conditions can be persistent and may be classed as a disability, whereas others may come and go leading to good days and bad days. With the right support, someone with a diagnosed mental health condition can still enjoy positive mental health.

The text and image above are taken from the introduction to the Mental Health section of the newly launched IP (Intellectual Property) Inclusive website https://ipinclusive.org.uk/mental-health-and-wellbeing.

There’s such a lot of really good material there; you don’t have to be in the Intellectual Property area to find some great stuff. Do take a look and also explore the other pages on the website. We think mental health and well-being is integral to all areas and were so pleased that this was something that emerged from the recent IP Inclusive Annual Meeting.

Jonathan’s Voice have been delighted to be able to collaborate with IP Inclusive in developing the mental health pages – you’ll see our logo right up there! We have a great partnership with IP Inclusive which we value greatly, and thank them for the support for Jonathan’s Voice. We will continue to collaborate on other initiatives, particularly Mental Health Awareness Week  (May 13th – May 19th 2019). Look out for news and information about that in the coming months.

 

Managing Stress at Work

Managing stress is one important element of good mental health at work and the first Wednesday in November each year is National Stress Awareness Day https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/national-stress-awareness-day/

So what is stress and how can we go about dealing with it?

Although most people know what it feels like to feel stressed it’s not easy to identify precisely what being stressed means. It can be regarded as our reaction to being placed under pressure and the feelings we get when it is difficult to cope with the demands or work or life situations. Stress is a normal part of life but if you become overwhelmed by stress then this can potentially lead to mental health issues like anxiety or depression.

Even though there are likely to be many things happening in your life that you are unable to control, there are, according to work done by Mind and others (Mental Health at Work Gateway of resources1 https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk), generally a number of steps you can take to manage the amount of pressure and stress that you are under day-to-day in the workplace.

Identify what triggers your feelings of stress

You can then begin to think about what you can change to manage them. For example, you might have an unrealistically heavy workload or you might have frequent or unrealistic deadlines to meet. You need to take some time to reflect on work and other aspects of your life to arrive at a better understanding what triggers unhealthy levels of stress. This might involve talking to friends and family or seeking professional help.

Organise your time and prioritise your workload

Make adjustments to how you plan and organise your tasks as this could help you feel more in control of tasks you are facing. If people are making unreasonable or unrealistic demands on you, be prepared to tell them how you feel.

Arrange tasks in order of importance and try to focus on the most urgent first.

Deadlines are often the biggest causes of stress in the workplace, try to plan ahead and organise your work schedule accordingly.

Make some lifestyle changes

Speak with your employer. Ask for help if you’re weighed down by an impossible workload and drowning in deadlines. Try not to worry that talking to your manager or colleagues about stress will be seen as a sign of weakness. Your wellbeing is important and responsible employers will take it seriously. Talking about the difficulties you’re experiencing is by no means admitting defeat – it’s better than pretending everything’s fine when it’s not.

Make time for friends and family. When you’ve got a lot on this might seem hard but  it can help you relax

Find an activity or a hobby that’s completely different from the things causing you stress. This is a great way to get away from everyday pressures. You may already know what helps you relax, like going for a walk, reading or listening to music. Make sure you set aside time to do it. Try looking at the website www.stressbusting.co.uk for a range of ideas .

Look after your physical health

Physical activity can help reduce stress and  help you get some time to yourself to think things over, away from everyday pressures.

Sleep is important in managing stress. If you don’t get enough sleep, negative feelings are likely to be exaggerated and you might find you are more irritable and less confident.

Eating healthily has a positive impact on your physical and mental health.

 

See your GP

If you feel like you need some professional support, you can speak to your doctor. They can check your overall health, and help you access treatments. They could also recommend that you take some time off work in appropriate circumstances.

1) In conjunction with their charity partner, Mind, The Royal Foundation has been developing the Heads Together Workplace Wellbeing Programme, which will deliver much of the help and support recommended by the government-mandated report “Thriving at Work” (Stevenson/Farmer, October 2017). A key element is the  Mental Health at Work Gateway of resources https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk.

Christmas Post

Christmas is a great time to remember friends and family and catch up on what’s happened during the year. So many lovely cards to choose from, many supporting a wide range of really worthwhile charities. This year, we were delighted that the Card Factory Foundation produced for us 500 beautiful Christmas cards that many of our supporters were pleased to send out. They were very popular and we were pleased that we couldn’t take any more orders after the middle of November! We were not aiming to raise money or even cover the cost through donations as the Card Foundation generously provided them free of charge.

We hope that we have raised the profile of mental health and been able to draw attention to the importance of mental health and wellbeing; perhaps starting a conversation or challenging the stigma. We’ve had a great response so far. Thanks to everybody involved; designers, printers and those who sent the cards to their friends and family.

 Let’s keep speaking out for mental health

Christmas Tree Festival

The annual Christmas tree festival at Southwell Methodist Church is a great community event and more popular each year. It’s visited by people from the town and beyond and by the local schools.

This year part of the money raised through donations was for Jonathan’s Voice. Thanks so much to the organizers of the Festival, everyone involved who worked so hard and the money raised to support the Charity. There was information available about Jonathan’s Voice and about mental wellbeing so hoping that, as well as raising money, we raised awareness of mental health and wellbeing.

Let’s keeping speaking out about mental health and reduce the stigma that often surrounds it.

Volunteers from Haseltine Lake get their hands dirty!

Be Active”, “Give”, “Learn” are three of the ways to Mental Wellbeing.

During Jonathan’s birthday week last September, the volunteers from Haseltine Lake hit all three! They worked on community farms in Bristol and London. Jonathan would have loved this – a great project in the fresh air. The day concluded with a celebrity cake in honour of his birthday. What a wonderful thing to do – Jonathan loved birthday cake! Thanks to everyone for such a fitting commemorative gesture.

Read more about the day

Some time ago as a commemorative activity we decided we were going to create some volunteering activities around Jonathan’s birthday week. We wanted to do something that honoured and remembered Jonathan’s big heart and personality. What better way to do this than taking a step back from the office, get some fresh air and put our best efforts into something different for a day.

We opted for volunteer days over two city farms.  Both of which were eager to have us, as our help would enable the Farms to do major improvement works which otherwise would not be financially or practically viable.

In Bristol we visited Windmill Hill City Farm and in London it was Stepney City Farm. Both of which are community projects that are welcoming, offering a green and quite unique space in city centres as a place to escape. Our volunteers got involved in team tasks such as painting the stables to make way for new farm animals, helping make raised beds for new garden areas, sowing seeds, planting bulbs and generally cleaning these areas up for all who visit the community farms.

These activities couldn’t have been further away from our normal day-to-day work lives and provided a mini-get-away from emails, patents and meetings. We worked hard on the day and got quite a different sense of accomplishment in our team building activities. After a sunny afternoon of manual labour for a great cause we got stuck into some celebratory cake.

Not only did the community farms really appreciate our time and effort, but all those involved gave positive feedback and enthusiasm to do it again.

It’s safe to say that we don’t mind getting our hands dirty and would love to keep this going on an annual basis, never forgetting the celebratory cake in honour of Jonathan’s Birthday.

Teaming up with Card Factory

Jonathan’s Voice were delighted to have teamed up with the Card Factory on World Suicide Prevention Day. Jonathan’s story was shared in order to raise awareness of the importance of “speaking out for mental health”. The Card Factory Foundation has also generously matched the sponsor money that was raised through the Soapbox Derby event. We’re looking forward to developing our partnership further and can’t wait to see the Christmas cards that are being produced through the generosity of the Card Factory Foundation. We will be using these to draw attention to the things we can all to that contribute to mental well-being.

Support Paul in the Great Bristol Half Marathon

On Sunday 23rd September Paul is running the Great Bristol Half Marathon to remember his friend Jon, to give  awareness to mental health issues and to raise money for Jonathan’s Voice.

To sponsor Paul just go to  https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/paul-meller

Good luck Paul and keep up with the training! This run with a view goes past the iconic Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge. This is a fabulous setting , so book the date in your diary for a day out in Bristol and to support Paul.

Harewood Soapbox Derby raises over £300

Andy Northfield, seen here with his sister Sarah, are  Jonathan’s cousins. He and his team had a great day at the Soapbox Derby at Harewood, Leeds on Sunday August 19th They raised over £300 for Jonathan’s Voice. The logo was prominently displayed on the Soapbox and their tee-shirts. They were even mentioned in the Yorkshire Post as the reporter was standing next to them. Listen to the report and read more about the event here https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/soapbox-derby-raises-10k-for-charity-1-9309124