Tag: mental wellbeing

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 .

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.

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.

Working too hard ?

Do we learn to base our self-worth on the ability to pursue and achieve unrealistically high standards?

In a recent article in the Guardian, clinical psychologist from Sydney, Barbara Rysenbry, writes that this is a question she has raised with some of her clients.  Maybe if this is the case, she asserts, it could be time to take back control and to try being imperfect.

We so often hear from friends or colleagues about the need to be seen working late into the night or every weekend. This can be true especially when someone has been promoted or has joined a new team or department. Add to this mixture, the possibility of things not going well, for example problems with managing people or deadlines not being met, then the possibility of stress, anxiety and sleepless nights can become part of the person’s life.  It may be that in striving for perfectionism we develop unrealistic expectations of both ourselves and others. Rysenbry goes onto to suggest that this quest for perfectionism can be a strategy for avoiding feelings such as shame, failure and embarrassment. Taking a step back and observing our thoughts but not getting caught up in them can take time and practice.

Perfectionism can be one of the hardest things to deal with when trying to perform to the expectations we, and maybe others, have set for us. How then can we ‘work with’ this notion of perfectionism?  Perhaps we can carve out more space for the things we like to do or to spend time with those people who are important to us. We could also participate in mindfulness activities, where there is good research evidence to suggest its benefits on emotional well-being. Her article concludes by suggesting that by controlling our actions and the values we choose to live our lives by is a simple and empowering way to build our self-worth and not to work too hard.

This is such good advice but in many people’s experience it is not that simple to achieve. That doesn’t mean we should give up trying! Jonathan’s Voice has produced a guide to mental health and wellbeing that suggests some strategies that might help https://jonathansvoice.org.uk/resources and the NHS has very useful resources https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/ and don’t forget the five ways to well-being https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-yourself/five-ways-to-wellbeing/  are always worth revisiting.

World Suicide Prevention Day September 10th 2021 – Creating Hope Through Action

Val McCartney, co-founder of the mental health charity Jonathan’s Voice writes

“Hope” might not be a word that immediately comes to mind when thinking about suicide. Indeed to those who have been recently bereaved by suicide, and for some for many years to come, it may be deeply antithetical to their feelings. Those on the edge who  feel completely entrapped and in deep emotional pain will feel despair rather than hope.

So why choose such a theme? It has been chosen because it is a theme that carries a very positive message. Professor Rory O’Connor, President of the International Suicide Prevention Association (ISPA) https://www.iasp.info/ writes, “We believe that it will help us to instil light in those who have been touched by the darkness of suicide and self-harm. It also aims to inspire confidence in all of us, such that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling. The concept behind the theme is heavily rooted in the need to emphasise that it is possible to overcome feelings of hopelessness, that it is possible not only to survive but also to thrive in life. We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by suicide” Professor O’Connor continues, “By creating hope through action such as providing a listening ear, signposting people to support services and sharing effective tools and resources to help cope, we can offer a solution other than suicide for those who can see no other alternative in a time of despair. By offering a glimmer of hope, we can and will save lives.”

Each individual or organization can take a step and make a difference, perhaps by asking someone how they are feeling. It may not feel easy to start a conversation but it’s important and could be crucial. One of the recent blogs on our website https://jonathansvoice.org.uk/a-conversation-is-good provides some guidance and signposts the reader to SIGNSS, a mental health conversation starter tool. In the past there was a myth that by asking someone about suicidal feelings you’re planting it into their head.  The evidence is clear that this is not the case. Professor O’Connor again, “asking those questions doesn’t cause harm but they can get people the help they require and hopefully lead to the support they need.”

Organizations can and should promote mentally healthy workplaces as an integral part of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Jonathan’s Voice believes  that mental health, like any other aspect of inclusivity, is championed from the top.  The IP (Intellectual Property) Inclusive Senior Leaders’ Pledge https://ipinclusive.org.uk/newsandfeatures/the-ip-inclusive-senior-leaders-pledge/ is an excellent document to which the signatories have made a personal undertaking to its eight commitments. Is there something similar in your organization? Should there be?

We are an IP focused charity and would welcome the opportunity to speak with senior leaders in the IP sector to provide tailored advice and support for your organisation. This support is provided by mental health professionals and there is no charge. Please contact the team via our website https://jonathansvoice.org.uk/  or email val@jonathansvoice.org.uk

Research continues into understanding suicidal behaviour, including why people see suicide as the only escape from the deep darkness they are experiencing. Jonathan’s Voice is proud to offer financial support to a research project at the Suicidal Behaviour Laboratory, University of Glasgow. led by Professor O’Connor. Susie Bennett, the researcher on this project, writes, “Male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in Britain, and according to the Samaritans three-quarters of all suicides in 2018 were male. I want to build a greater understanding of what causes suicidal feelings and behaviours in men and what more can be done to help”; hope  through research.

NSPA (National Suicide Prevention Alliance) https://nspa.org.uk/ is promoting the theme of Hope through Action by inviting its members to share a few words about what “hope” means to them. These will be posted on their Twitter account https://twitter.com/nspa_uk?lang=en throughout World Suicide Prevention Day.

This is my contribution.

“My hope and my firm belief, as a parent bereaved by suicide, is that through speaking out about my tragic experience and encouraging others to share their experiences, the stigma associated with mental health will be reduced. Such stigma so often prevents people getting the support they need. Those experiencing mental health challenges will know that it’s ok not to be o.k.”

We can all challenge stigma where we find it. We can all offer a listening ear or a kind word. We can all encourage our workplaces and communities to support those who are struggling

We can all create hope through our actions.

Resources, facts and figures, suggested activities and personal stories that your organization might find useful in promoting World Suicide Prevention Day are available at



“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

Such is the intriguing title of a blog written by Emma Walker which was recently posted on the LawCare website https://www.lawcare.org.uk/news/to-err-is-human-to-forgive-divine  Emma is an associate solicitor in regulatory and disciplinary team, Leigh Day and also a LawCare champion. A version of the article was first published in the January 2021 edition of the Solicitor’s Journal. You can find the full article here.

Through the work we have undertaken with Jonathan’s Voice and from surveys conducted about mental and wellbeing, we know that perfectionism, along with a fear of making mistakes has the potential to cause considerable stress and distress. In this clear and compassionate article Emma notes that although admitting mistakes can be difficult, recognizing them and taking action is the first step to moving forward. She reminds the reader that firms and other organisations carry insurance precisely to protect clients (and themselves) from financial losses but that safety net can only be triggered once an error is acknowledged and the relevant people are told about it.

Emma writes

“Mistakes happen and admitting them can be difficult. Why might lawyers find it difficult to own up to their mistakes and what ethical considerations are at play?

What’s in a mistake?

Legal professionals may find dealing with mistakes difficult because some can prejudice a client’s position or result in losses for the client or the firm or organisation they work for. A mistake could imply a lack of care or competence, which can cause embarrassment or feelings of guilt, shame or fear about the client’s position or about having to talk about the situation.

Key qualities for legal professionals, such as attention to detail, manifest as widespread perfectionism in the profession, which not only makes accepting mistakes more difficult, but is also linked to defensiveness, poor resilience, susceptibility to stress, anxiety, burnout and a tendency to unhealthy coping strategies.

The nature of legal practice produces pressures and simultaneously discourages practitioners from acknowledging them, in part due to the false notion that lawyers should be impervious to weakness.

The adversarial nature of many aspects of law means a mistake by one party is an opportunity that can be capitalised on for the benefit an opponent’s client, which dissuades disclosure or open discussion about mistakes.

Not all mistakes are born equal

Some may also fear the regulatory consequences of a mistake, but not all errors are equal and even if an act or omission does result in the breach of a regulatory rule, it is important not to lose sight of the fact a breach will only amount to professional misconduct if it is serious.

Another important point to keep in focus is the fact that the majority of mistakes result in little or no consequence to the client. Additionally, firms and other organisations carry insurance precisely to protect clients (and themselves) from financial losses. However, that safety net can only be triggered once an error is acknowledged and the relevant people are told about it.

Delaying or failing to disclose a mistake can create related but separate problems that can be considerably more damaging than the original error, such as jeopardising insurance cover or giving rise to regulatory concerns about the honesty and integrity of the individual(s) party to the error.

Dealing with mistakes is not always straightforward but, rather than something to fear, can provide useful lessons and strengthen resilience.

Take action

In practical terms, once an error has been identified, the first step is to consider who to share it with (a supervisor, compliance colleagues, insurer, the client and regulator) and then share it, so that action to address the error can be taken, where possible.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Saying sorry when a mistake is made can be powerful but, according to research commissioned by the Legal Ombudsman, lawyers struggle to apologise sincerely to their clients. Whether apologising is seen as a weakness or bound up in fears about admitting liability is unclear, but it is clear that failing to apologise is likely to damage the client-lawyer relationship.

Mistakes can add complexity, but they are a fact of life and legal professionals must create environments for themselves, their colleagues and their clients that are free of fear and shame about mistakes and are instead full of understanding and forgiveness.”

Jonathan’s voice has recently produced a guide for senior leaders in the intellectual property profession about advancing the mental health and wellbeing agenda in their organizations (https://jonathansvoice.org.uk/resources). It includes reference to the demands of the profession, a fear of getting it wrong but the encouraging quote from an experienced and highly regarded patent attorney and trade mark attorney, “I’ve made a mistake and I’m still here.” 

Thank you, Emma for allowing us to share the article here.