Here at Mind Matters we want to make a positive difference to you helping you to manage your own mental health and well-being. We want to challenge stigma, and get people talking about their mental health like they would their physical health.”
When Mind Matters attended the recent Health & Wellbeing at Work Conference in Birmingham we met some really interesting people offering a variety of services to support businesses and individuals. One of the little gems we came across was a company called Work Positive who have created a product to help people to identify and recognise their strengths and to identify these in others. For those of us who have experienced poor mental health, or supported others experiencing mental health difficulties, there are certainly times when it’s incredibly difficult to identify positive attributes and strengths in ourselves. Sometimes we may need others to remind us of these, or to highlight what we haven’t yet recognised in our selves.
At the event, Martin Galpin, Director of Work Positive kindly allowed us an insight into his new product and generously gave us a sample set of the At my best, Strength Cards, to give us a chance to try these out and consider whether they would be something we could use with our customers as part of some of our training courses.
It’s been a busy few weeks for us since Birmingham, but this week I finally had the opportunity to have a look through the cards and reflect on my own strengths and to see if I could identify these from the deck. The deck of cards offers two options, visual selection by way of a picture on one side, and language selection via words on the other side. I opted to use the words. I was interested to try out some of the suggestions in the accompanying guide, so as well as doing a self-reflected selection I also asked my husband to give me his reflections on what my strengths were. We then did a jointly decided selection to look at our strengths as husband and wife and as a parent team. It was really interesting to see my strengths from another persons viewpoint, and of someone whose opinion I highly value. These are just three of the ways you can use the cards, but they can also be used with workplace teams, undertaken as a ‘Guess Who?’ which will also highlight perhaps how well we know team members and how well we think we know them. I actually believe the ‘strength’ in these cards is their versatility to be used personally, professionally, individually, and in teams. Many people will also prefer to use the pictorial side of the cards. As part of purchasing the deck, there is also a further opportunity to use the FREE online tool to record these and to make word clouds featuring your strengths – a great thing to have displayed on your workstation or fridge door for the times when we might need a gentle reminder of our strengths.
Martin and his company have generously provided a discount code to our readers so you can purchase your cards with 30% discount off the single pack (i.e. not applicable for bundle packs). You simply need to enter the code mindmatters at the checkout. The cost of the Strength cards is £25 but there are options to buy them as part of a bundle and you can find all the costs here and find out more about the cards and how they can benefit you here We hope you have fun identifying your own strengths.
This morning, as I sat with a cup of tea reading the local news, I came across sadly familiar phrases in a news article: “fallen from a railway bridge”; “no suspicious circumstances”; “if you are affected by the issues in this story, call Samaritans on 116 123”. I initially felt incredibly sad for the gentleman who died, his family and friends, the train driver and any other witnesses, and the emergency services. Then, I found myself getting annoyed. Why, in this day and age of sharing our thoughts and feelings more than ever before, are many of us still not saying the seemingly-still-taboo word: “Suicide”? Or even “taking one’s life” or “killing oneself”? Is it a secret? Are we scared to say it? Does it makes it seem… Real?
Well, it is real. It is scary. And we can help to prevent it, if we would only talk about it.
Now before I continue, I am aware that the media are reporting celebrity suicides more than they ever did before. This is a good start, and it is helping to open up the dialogue that everyone – no matter how perfect their life may seem – is vulnerable. The tragic losses of Love Island’s Mike Thalassitis and The Prodigy’s Keith Flint to suicide within the last month are just a handful of examples of this. However, this often isn’t the case for us ‘everyday folk’, such as the news article I read this morning. I am not, for one minute, suggesting that the family should have to identify the person, speak to the media about how they feel, nor do methods or locations need to be discussed in any form of detail as this is not considerate reporting of suicide, as it can pose a danger to the grieving relatives and other vulnerable people due to suicide contagion(Samaritans Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide). But, the simple word ‘suicide’ is rarely mentioned for everyday people other than in high-profile cases, and it is glossed over by implying that they simply fell, died in their sleep, or were in an accident. What does this do for opening a dialogue on suicide, other than suggesting that it’s unsavoury language and can’t be mentioned? (Conversely, media reporting of celebrity suicides occurs, but can sometimes go to the others end of the spectrum and speculate simplistic causes, talk in detail about methods, and glorify suicide; against the Samaritans Guidelines for Reporting Celebrity Deaths).
I attended an ASIST 2-day Course on Suicide Intervention Skills this week (through Mind Matters in Barnsley), which may be why it is on my mind more this morning. Despite thinking that I talk about suicide quite openly, one step of the intervention framework (The ‘Pathway for Assisting Life’) had two words in it: “Ask; Suicide”. It made me stop and think. How many times have we actually asked someone who we are worried about “Have you been thinking about suicide?” On the other hand, how many times have we said things like “But you’re doing okay, aren’t you?” Or “But look at all of the good things you’ve got in your life!” Or “You’re not thinking of doing anything stupid, are you?” (How would you feel opening up to someone someone who has just called your thoughts in your darkest moments ‘stupid’?)
When we dance around the subject, and don’t use the word “suicide” (or a close derivative such as “ending your life” or “killing yourself”), as well intentioned as we are, we perpetuate the myth that suicide is not okay to talk about. When in reality, talking to someone about suicide is often enough to help someone come out of the spiral; it has been said that just 20 minutes is enough to bring someone back from then brink. The old adage is appropriate here: This Too Shall Pass. The feelings do pass, and this is the key time to talk to someone, as suicide is often (although I appreciate not always) an impulsive act when someone is in despair – and many survivors of suicide have said they regretted their actions as soon as it was too late to go back. But to normalise talking about suicide, we need to see talking about it normalised; and this includes using the word (sensitively) in both local and national media.
There are many organisations out there trying to encourage talking about suicide. Aside from the wonderful work from organisations such as Samaritans, PAPYRUS, and CALM, there are international organisations such as ASIST providing training, national charities such as Grassroots Suicide Prevention providing both training and signposting services, and local organisations such as Liam Jones Legacy (the founder of which I met at the ASIST training; they work extremely hard to encourage people to talk about suicide, provide a listening ear, and signpost to relevant organisations no matter where in the country you are). More of this, please!
Suicide is not a dirty word. Despite the abundance of ‘risk factors’ and stereotyping out there, we are all vulnerable no matter our age, gender, employment status, or socioeconomic status. If you’re worried about someone, don’t be afraid to ask them “Are you thinking about suicide?” If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to open up – either to friends/family or a professional organisation – that you are thinking about suicide. Talking about suicide saves lives. It’s OK Not To Be OK.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide right now and wants to talk, please visit my I Need Help Now page for a list of places you can turn to if you feel you can’t talk to any friends or family about how you feel.
Having attended the Health & Wellbeing at Work event at Birmingham NEC since my first visit in 2009, I’ve watched it evolve from its early days pre-recession and pre-mental health ‘wake-up’ to what I’ve experienced this week at the 13th annual event.
During the last 13 years I’ve mostly attended as a delegate, exhibiting once with a previous company, and this year for the first time with my own training company Mind Matters. Me, and one of my Associate Trainers Gemma Davies brought along some information about our Mental Health First Aid and the many other courses that we offer, and a few ‘freebies’ which went down really well, particularly our #MindMattersMike pens! I think Gemma used the word ‘mobbed’ at least once during day one.
Dame Carol has now completed 3 reviews for Government, and is currently working on the 4th, describing the last 13 years as a ‘journey’ one that we too share with her and are indeed still working on. It was great to hear that the independent review of scientific evidence carried out by Waddell & Burton (2006) is still significantly cited and remains robust around the subject area. Dame Carol identified a number of employment/work factors standing in the way of good health, including:
Culture and belief
GPs not going as far as she would like to see e.g. work as a clinical outcome
Research base still not strong enough
Dame Carol emphasised the difference it could have made had we focussed with equal (or more) measure on work sickness absence 13 years ago rather than the greater focus on sickness claimants and work capability assessments. Dame Carol did highlight an increase in the uptake of Occupational Health services and of her work states, “I wish I’d done more on the next generation” particularly focussing on young workers and transition into work.
A shift that I was personally delighted to hear about was that there had been success in persuading the GMC that all new GPs will need to be able to ‘describe the principles of holding a fitness for work conversation’ as part of their qualifying studies. Having worked on an NHS project between 2008-2012 where I spent a great deal of time and effort encouraging GPs to recognise and appreciate the positive health-work relationship and to talk to patients about this – largely to no avail with the exception of a few forward thinkers – it was music to my ears! All medical schools will now have to include this.
Dame Carol referred to some valuable research drawing out a number of significant issues as causes and outcomes of the fact that we are very much still on the journey:
Performance and productivity (where the UK is not the amongst the best)
Poor leadership and low Board engagement
Lack of workplace data
Mental ill health and its associations, amongst others.
Research including 400+ organisations revealed a number of risk factors:
Life-style – Insufficient sleep
Clinical risk – cholesterol
Mental wellbeing risk – depression
A longitudinal study of the same found that managing these risks can significantly reduce days lost.
Salient points coming out of Dame Carol Black’s keynote were:
Impact of life choices
Impact of problem sleep
Impact of stress, anxiety, and depression
Sleep, finances, bullying, physical inactivity, managers behaviour, etc.
Developing a ‘Strain-Reducing’ company culture
Several groups still often being ignored, and Dame Carol Black drew out ‘women’ as one of these, with some startling statistics around pension values and gender, women negatively impacted significantly compared to their male counterparts, with 75% of women also experiencing negativity around pregnancy. Specific risks for women included:
MSK in later years
Need for leadership Board engagement and line manager responsibilities
Dame Carol referred to the new NHS framework which has been developed over the last 3 years, focussing on a number of the aforementioned areas. Seventy-three organisations are using the framework, including 10 ambulance trusts, 12 improvement sites, 15 trusts facing challenges in the last year, and 36 fast-tracked.
Three tasks that Dame Carol regards as needed for the future are: more research; focus on young workers and transition into work; and health incentives.
As for our own exhibitor experience, we had some really positive engagement, and our ‘elephant in the room’ also paid us a visit on day one, where a number of delegates pledged to stamp out mental health stigma. We’ve had some interesting and valuable discussions over the two days, met up with some inspiring people who share the journey with us, and a few friends we’ve not seen for a while. We also had the privilege of meeting Mark Poole the new Mindful Employer Lead.
It was so positive to see that since 2009 when I first encountered the Health & Wellbeing at Work event, where there would have been only one or two names in mental health exhibiting, we now had an exhibition hall full of people promoting mental health interventions that can make a positive difference to people’s lives. Mental health is well and truly on the map, but I too agree with Dame Carol Black’s sentiments that we are very much still on that journey.
We look forward to working with a number of the businesses and individuals that we met, and hope to see you all there next year!
Some of my followers will be aware that I have life long experience of managing Generalised Anxiety Disorder, of the high functioning type. It’s a significant part of my frame of reference and something I’ve shared openly in my blog and training courses. My family tree has a significant pattern of mixed anxiety and depression and of varying degrees in severity, so as to causes I suspect these relate to genetic pre-disposition, personality type, and environmental factors – biopsychosocial influences if you will.
As someone who has been coming to terms with this aspect of myself over my lifetime, I have tried and tested a number of different interventions in an attempt to ‘cure’ my symptoms, to eradicate the discomfort it has so often created. It’s taken a long time to be able to say that my condition is ‘managed’. I’m not symptom free, but no longer view this as necessary. In fact my old self didn’t even recognise that it was ok not to be symptom free. Like many people I viewed the medical model as central to all solutions, and held it with such a regard that it blinded me to the possibility that interventions might in fact come from outside of it. Interestingly the key to managing my anxiety to a level I can cope with (most of the time), comes from both the medical and social models of recovery.
Management of my anxiety has included some specific things, primarily acceptance, and also recognising that therapy isn’t a ‘fix all’ for mental health difficulties. There have also been other key interventions to my survival. These interventions include medication for the gastric consequences of my anxiety, which in and of itself created a vicious cycle of fear, panic, and anxiety for a great number of years. The gastric problems ruled my world until 2007, and on my birthday that year I was given the most valuable birthday present ever! This present turned my life around to a point that I could envisage doing things that up until that point I’d had to avoid due to the gastric difficulties I’d encountered. The prescription medication (which I’m pretty sure my GP didn’t regard as a birthday gift) is still required today, and is taken as and when I need it to manage the physical consequences of my anxiety. It’s extremely effective and allows me to focus on other things outside of my physiology. The second intervention (and gift) has always been there, but only in recent years have I regarded it with the true value of it’s worth. This intervention is reading. As someone who manages anxiety, I live in a world that is on high speed in my head. This isn’t helped by the fact that I’m an introvert who spends a lot of time in her own head. I over-think, over-prepare, over-worry, and can all too easily fall into catastrophic thought patterns until I check myself. I am equally guilty of ‘feeding the beast’, which I have learned to tame, but at times I forget this. The gift of reading however does something magical to all of this chaos in my head. I absolutely regard it as a gift and here are the reasons why. Reading gives me:
Respite, a cessation to the whirring – my mind slows down for the time that I am reading
Relaxation – I simply can’t get anxious with the level of relaxation I experience when I read
Lose myself – when I read I share the lives of other characters to an extent that I’m embedded in their world not mine, an escapism
Isolation – I’m an introverted personality type, I refuel when I’m alone. When I read I’m also re-fuelling so that I have the energy required for a world and vocation that is much more extrovert than me
Learning – as a self-confessed Philomath reading teaches me something new with each book that I read, I am absorbed in the learning that it provides – new ideas, words, and theories which enrich my life and mind
Comfort – when I read it’s usually in the comfort of the places I feel safest e.g. bed, armchair, usually with a cup of tea, need I say more? Yes, make that Yorkshire tea, I’m also a proud Yorkshire woman!
Between medication, reading, and less notable coping mechanisms, I survived, just like many people struggling with mental health difficulties. I survived to the point that my Anxiety could be managed. Knowing that this is possible, I encourage those who are struggling with mental health difficulties to think with a very open mind about what can help, try out different interventions, and please don’t be disheartened if one intervention doesn’t work for you, or straight away. Think of interventions as a menu of options, choices, opportunities – because most of the time you are the expert in what will help you to feel better. Of course you only know the things that you know, and sometimes we need someone to show us the way, to explain the menu and its ingredients, for example, a medical professional, friend, colleague, Mental Health First Aider, or otherwise. I wish all those who are finding their way, all the strength and tenacity to do so.
Time to Talk day is a great opportunity to encourage the nation to be more open about mental health. We all have mental health, and from time to time we may all need support if our mental health isn’t as good as we’d like it to be. The first step in getting that support when we need it is to be able to reach out, express how we feel, and to express our need for support. But our reaching out needs to be heard. Time to Talk day is about sharing, talking, expressing thoughts, feelings, needs, but it’s so critically about listening – listening effectively and with empathy. There are so many challenges to effective listening in today’s environment – lack of time, technology, other interruptions – the list is endless. Today (and every day) I urge those who engage in conversations about mental health to focus mostly on listening, listening without agenda, listening attentively, hearing with an open mind, and with the aim of remaining judgement free. Those who feel listened to, understood, not judged, and supported will remember this way beyond Time to Talk day.
May your Time to Talk day provide a human connection in time that continues beyond the 7th of February 2019.
The benefits of walking in nature can be felt for up to 7 hours afterwards…
You’ve probably had that feeling of needing to get out into nature when things get a bit much. Or is that just me? There are many ways in which it can help with your emotional, mental and physical health. It helps you to focus on the positives of your life. Some studies show that it can affect our ‘broodiness’ state. Not the one where we’d like to produce mini me’s, but the mood which has us dwelling on the same unhelpful thoughts. Sometimes called a broken record. These tips will inspire you to get moving.
7 TIPS THAT WILL GET YOU REACHING FOR YOUR WALKING BOOTS AND A RAIN MAC JUST IN CASE!
It’s free! Apart from the odd parking charge, getting out into nature is relatively low cost compared to a gym membership. So ditch the contract and find your nearest park or wood.
It boosts your energy levels. So when you really don’t feel like going for a walk, the best thing to do is go for a walk! Fresh air will reawaken your brain.
Reconnecting with nature reduces stress and calms your nerves. It can lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate and blood pressure.
It will lift your spirits! Exercise and peace and quiet will lift your mood, and in some cases can help with mild to moderate depression.
Trees naturally give off something called ‘phytoncides’ or ‘wood’ essential oils, which have a beneficial effect on our nervous systems.
Walking through green spaces can create the calmness needed for reflection. It’s in this calm, quiet reflective state that creativity can flourish.
It can help to talk through a problem, laugh and spend time away from work and daily struggles. This is easier to achieve without all the usual distractions like social media, colleagues, noise and chaos.
TAKING A MINDFUL WALK IN NATURE WILL ENHANCE THE BENEFITS EVEN MORE. HERE ARE SOME IDEAS FOR HOW YOU CAN BRING MINDFULNESS INTO YOUR WALK.Walking slowly and taking in everything that your senses can pick up will support bringing you in to the present moment, helping you to dissolve all your cares and worries. Listen to the insect and animal sounds, observe the movement of the grass, smell what scents are carried on the breeze.
Find a space, which has plenty of trees, plants or flowers. Find something that you are attracted to and observe it in the smallest of detail for 5 minutes.
Imagine that you are an insect or wild animal and what it would be like. What would you be aware of?
Gather natural elements from your walk; feathers, leaves, twigs and flowers. Make yourself a gift of expression as a memory of your walk. Have fun with it like a child, rather than making something to impress.
The Japanese have been practising this since the eighties. It means ‘forest bathing’ and these are gentle walks between 2-4 hours long that support wellbeing through sensory immersion in forest and naturally healing environments. It has become a popular preventative healthcare and healing method in Japanese medicine. The good news is that you don’t have to go as far as Japan to have a similar experience. There are some options in the UK as it becomes an increasingly popular interest:
Great news if you already enjoy a walk in nature. And if you’re looking for something that is good for your all round wellbeing, that you can do all year round, don’t want to get sweaty or pull a muscle in the gym, why not start walking today.
“In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks”
— JOHN MUIR
Direct Line Group has trained more than 100 of their workforce, across a variety of locations as Mental Health First Aiders within their business, as they aim to have a mental health first aider on every floor, at every site in the UK. All the First Aiders have completed the two day Adult training course, equipping them to support colleagues in the workplace, and providing them with valuable life skills for their personal lives also. Mind Matters has provided some of the training for these First Aiders, and was delighted to be invited to support the business at their first MHFA Conference on 18th October in Leeds.
As many of our businesses will know, it is important to train staff in Mental Health First Aid, but it is also important to think about how the role will fit into the organisation and also how the business will support its First Aiders in the longer term. Direct Line Group decided that the conference would be one part of supporting their Mental Health First Aiders further. The MHFA Conference involved talks from mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn. Mind Matters provided workshops for the delegates that would support them in their roles as Mental Health First Aiders. The workshops included the following themes and were delivered by a range of our Training Associates:
Maintaining boundaries as Mental Health First Aiders – delivered by Kate Husband
Self-care for Mental Health First Aiders – delivered by Gemma Davies
Understanding and promoting the Mental Health First Aid role – delivered by Gareth Williams
Measuring impact and case studies – delivered by Sarah Frost
The workshops were very well received by delegates and Mind Matters wishes Direct Line Group all the best with the organisation’s future work around mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Mind Matters is a relatively new company, a small business based in South Yorkshire, with some big reasons for the doing the work that we do. We are a small team that work very hard to make a positive difference to people and businesses through our Mental Health Training courses. Like many small businesses, we face small business challenges such as capacity, cash flow, marketing on a budget, and various other considerations.
This means we can often relate to our small business customers, because we too are faced with similar challenges that they face. As a small mental health training company, we started out by offering just our open courses in mental health. We worked (and still do) very hard to generate interest in these courses. We have since reached a stage in our business growth where we often deliver several in-house courses per week and have a small team of Associates who help us to do this. And whilst one of our most labour intensive areas is delivering our open courses, the courses we started out with, we’ve never removed them from our range of services and offerings. One of the reasons for this is that without our open courses, our small business customers wouldn’t necessarily have chance to access an open mental health course locally. The reasons for this may be that they don’t employ sufficient staff numbers to validate an in-house course, and even if they did, this may been a 100% of their workforce being on a training course at any one time – effectively shutting down their business for a day or two. As small business owners will know, this could have a significant impact on their business, catastrophic even for some. So continuing to offer open courses helps us to know our courses are still accessible for small businesses, as well as the large business customers that we support.
The Federation of Small Business have also given consideration to the needs of small businesses in developing a new wellbeing guide: Wellbeing in Small Businesses – How you can help. The guide includes how small businesses can introduce discussion about mental health, job design, support for your staff when it’s needed, and various signposting and support helplines. It’s a short user-friendly guide for small businesses out there, just like us.
As I’m sure is the case for a lot of our readers, we all come across various written quotes and affirmations, particularly in social media nowadays, and many of these largely pass us by, but then every so often there’s one that just captures us. In my own experience it can sometimes be even more than that, I feel completely moved, life changed by the shift in thinking that the quote creates for me. Sometimes I can relate to why, other times I don’t have this awareness, or at least not on a conscious level.
One quote I’d like to share with you that I read at least a couple of years ago, and still sits in my photo files today, is this:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realising that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
Now I’ve seen this quote attributed to various people, so can’t even be sure to whom the story belongs, or maybe in fact more than one caring person shared this sentiment and the story belongs to many mothers and children – John Lennon, Fred Rogers…
Who it belongs to is largely irrelevant for me other than the more the merrier on this type of thinking, especially in times of need. What matters for me personally is how it made me feel on reading this, the reminder of hope. Hope is powerful, it can help to crush pain, disappointment and sadness into dust carried off on a breeze. Just when we think it’s gone hope rears its head, sometimes from what seems like nowhere – a thought, a person, the right words at the right time, a professional who offers kindness, compassion, support and understanding.
Though media can often focus on the negative things that happen in the world e.g. people’s wrong-doings, there’s lots of helpers in society, some may be professionals some other helpers. Perhaps the only difference is our expectations placed upon the different types of helpers. With professionals we expect them to help. Maybe in your GP practice it doesn’t need to say Dr. Smith or Dr.Selim on the door, because we just interpret ‘Helper’. So these professional ‘Helpers’, who helps them when they become ill?
The national mental health charity MIND, in a survey carried out in 2018, found that 2 in 5 GP’s have mental health difficulties and many would turn to colleagues for support. This makes a case for in the very least GP’s being trained in Mental Health First Aid, and or Suicide Prevention Training. Society can sometimes mistakenly presume all clinical professionals have a good understanding of mental health, and we learn first hand that this is often not the case. Brookes et al (2011) also say that mental ill health is common amongst doctors, and fast effective treatment is needed due to the occupational risks carried by this group in their work. Carrieri et al (2018) say,
There is a need for approaches that are sensitive to the contextual complexities of mental ill-health in doctors, and that do not treat doctors as a uniform body, but allow distinctions to account for particular characteristics, such as specialty, career stage and different working environments.
But as we’ve seen in various media articles recently, GPs in some cases are reaching crisis, and not getting the help they require. There are a whole host of reasons behind this. Some systemic issues, some stigma and self-stigma – after all no one is immune to the pervasiveness of stigma – and various other explanations.
At Mind Matters we want to highlight the range of support that is available to professionals, including GPs, and remind everyone that we all share one aspect, we are human, and no matter what your helper role – professional or layperson – it is OK NOT TO BE OK. Getting the appropriate help or intervention at the earliest opportunity is beneficial for everyone. The following organisations can help professionals who are struggling with mental health difficulties:
Carrieri D, Briscoe S, Jackson M, et al (2018) ‘Care Under Pressure’: a realist review of interventions to tackle doctors’ mental ill-health and its impacts on the clinical workforce and patient care BMJ Open 2018;8:e021273. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-021273
Mind surveyed 1066 GPs in England and Wales (of whom 100 were working in Wales) from January-March 2018. Respondents were a self-selecting sample who completed the survey online.
Samantha K Brooks, Clare Gerada, & Trudie Chalder (2011) Review of literature on the mental health of doctors: Are specialist services needed? Journal of Mental Health Apr;20(2):146-56. doi: 10.3109/09638237.2010.541300. Epub 2011 Jan 28.
Mind Matters was delighted to attend the Launch of Suicide First Aid at The Oval in London today (26th September). The new course has been produced by the National Centre for Suicide Prevention Training UK and provides delegates with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to prevent suicide. This course is slightly different to the ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills) Training that Mind Matters currently offers. SFA is a one day course, but also comes with accreditation at Level 4 from City & Guilds, following completion of an associated workbook. The course compliments some of our other training courses e.g. one or two day Mental Health First Aid, or one day Higher Education MHFA. We’re very much looking forward to opportunities to bring this course to our customer base in the near future.
The Launch had some great speakers including MHFA’s Director of Community Development, Caroline Hounsell, Connect Assist’s Executive Director, Rusty Livock, University College London’s Head of Wellbeing, Karen Smith, NCSPT UK’s Chief Executive, Nick Barnes, and the event was chaired by Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of the Centre for Mental Health. Speakers shared their current work and some of the reasons why them have come to do the work that they do, and their interests in Suicide First Aid. For most, if not all, they’ve been touched by mental ill health. I’ve often thought that those who make improving mental health their ‘life’s work’ have in some way been significantly touched by mental ill health, and I include myself in this – my own experiences, and that of my late brother and other family members – it’s a salient part of our frame of reference. Some of our passion comes from what we saw that was wrong e.g. improvements that could be made to services, or maybe championing the voice of patients. The Launch also provided the opportunity for us to once again hear the powerful suicide prevention story of Neil Laybourn and Jonny Benjamin MBE, which they shared at the MHFA Anniversary Conference last November. The story is one of hope that changed the lives of two men through a suicide prevention intervention. A story that Jonny Benjamin believes is taking place every day via ‘silent heroes’ in our society. Jonny and Neil have also now set up a charity called ‘Beyond Shame, Beyond Stigma’ and also shared details about the amazing resource that is the ‘Hub of Hope’
A key part of the Launch was about how we create positive change around suicide prevention, and how we empower our networks to make changes. Discussion took place around influencing Government Ministers to make positive changes within mental health, particularly when we continually hear coverage of systemic failures in young people’s mental health, where young people in need have been unable to access mental health services such as CAMHS until they are in crisis e.g. suicide. The question was asked, “If a Minister was in front of us now, what would we say?” Having reflected on this question, I’d ask:
What does Government see as an effective children and young people’s mental health service?
What real and genuine financial commitment is being made to young people’s mental health services?
What commitments are they making to Crisis Teams, so that they do have sufficient resources to support the needs of those in crisis?
What are their commitments to early intervention in mental health?
And when can we expect to see some significant change for the better?
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts and what you’d say to a Minister about mental health.
It was also highlighted at the Launch that there is a significant crisis around suicide in prolific gamblers. On this account we’d like to share information about organisations that can support those with gambling problems: