CEO BLOG

30/01/2017 ‘Happy New Year’

Olivia Craig -Plymouth & District Mind CEO

Is it too late to say ‘Happy New Year’ at the end of January? I don’t think so, particularly because last year only feels like it was 5 minutes ago.

January generally doesn’t hold many surprises for us, other than broken resolutions and a hankering for spring. This year was different, and for the first time (ever it seems) mental health was the leading headline on the BBC 10 o’clock news two nights in a row at the beginning of January.

The dulcet tones of Huw Edwards outlined Theresa May’s pledge to ‘do more’ and I for one felt that there was a turning of the tide. I hope my optimism is not short lived, but I certainly welcomed her promise to support work place initiatives that help people with mental ill health to stay in work. She also acknowledged that schools need help in supporting those young people who are at risk of developing a mental health problem.

‘Prevention is better than cure’ is an old adage, but a relevant one nonetheless.  Nowhere does this apply more poignantly than the workplace – I still hear stories that make my toes curl.

Such as the person who returned to work after 6 months sick leave because of a breakdown and was greeted by 6 months of work – no return to work interview, no re-assuring words from her manager. Nothing.  Or how about the person who is told to ‘man up’ when he asks his line manager for time off due to depression?

These are the tip of the iceberg and we believe that everyone who is responsible for the welfare of their employees should undertake Mental Health First Aid training (MHFA). For a lot of people, their work is the glue that holds them together – it gives them a sense of purpose. When work becomes the problem, it has a detrimental impact on a person’s wellbeing and sense of who they are. Not to mention the economics – the Centre for Mental Health has estimated that mental health problems cost employers £26 million a year. Surely training your staff to better understand mental health in the workplace is a lot less expensive. I think so, and I suspect Theresa May does so too.

If you would like to find out more about workplace training and MHFA, please contact us on [email protected]

4/11/2016 ‘I am the 3 in 4’

“The more people we can empower with the tools to support others, the more people we can support with mental ill health to get their lives back on track.”

On Tuesday 25 October, I was travelling on a much delayed train service from Paddington to Plymouth.  Tragically, there was a fatality on the line earlier in the day and services were delayed to allow the police to investigate. As we were about to pull out of Paddington, the gentleman sitting beside me asked if I thought it was a suicide. This prompted a passenger standing in the aisle to declare that if it was, it should have been ‘done in his own home rather than causing chaos to the general public’. Nothing more was said, until later in the journey my seat companion and I began to discuss the issue a little further.

In a comment that struck me as very profound, he said that he was the ‘3 in 4’. I wasn’t aware initially of what this meant, but he explained that if 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime, then he estimated that 3 in 4 will know and/or be supporting someone with a mental illness.  ‘I’m the 3 in 4’ he repeated.

‘I have no idea how to help; I have no idea what to say; I feel powerless’.

This person was trying to support a daughter with depression and anxiety, yet he felt that he was totally out of his depth. This echoes the calls and emails we receive each week from family members and friends who want to find out ‘what they can do’.

We decided many months ago to develop a ‘family and friends’ service, to allow people to share their experiences and to learn what they can about helping someone else. This would involve setting up a peer support group, providing 1:1 support, and running some activities that people can attend to support them to better understand mental ill health. 

3in4-logo‘I am the 3 in 4’ is the focus of our Giving Tuesday Campaign. We want to raise £1500 to fund a support worker for 6 months who will focus on working with families and friends. This will enable us to put a peer support network in place and train some ‘champions’ who can volunteer their time down the line to support this service.

You can donate via our Virgin Donation page

Or by mobile donation by texting MIND37£5 to 70070

10/10/2016 Awareness Overload or Worthy Campaigns or both!?

Today, the 10 October, is World Mental Health Awareness Day. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness of what can be done to ensure that people with mental health problems can live with dignity. Every year we are asked ‘what are you doing for world mental health day?’, alongside 10-15 invitations to attend awareness events across the city from fun runs to family talks. Our response is always that ‘we are carrying on business as usual’, and for us this means running our Recovery College, delivering awareness training,  supporting volunteers, getting involved with social media, and much more. For us, every day is mental health awareness day.

We are now awash with awareness days, awareness weeks, and awareness month. A quick look through my inbox finds requests to help promote lots of worth cause in October, such as:

  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Black History Month
  • National Work-Life Week
  • Baby Loss Awareness Week
  • Lupus Awareness Moth
  • International Walk to School Week
  • Back Care Awareness Week

A quick search on the internet also finds a whole host of additional awareness dates for October, including the fun sounding Humphry’s Pyjama Week and slightly unusual Wool Week!  For us, mental health awareness is rooted in the work that we do, but we know all too acutely that for many people it may be the loss of a baby, a cancer diagnosis, stress at work, or family difficulties that trigger their mental trauma. All of these difficult issues have their own awareness days and I sometimes wonder if people feel overloaded by the need to be ‘aware’ 365 days of the year.  As CEO of a local charity, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the need to send daily emails to Valentina , who coordinates our social media, saying ‘can we tweet about this awareness day, can we have a Facebook post about this awareness month, and so on…!’.  I stop myself, and try to get on with the work I really need to do – keeping our charity going!

Soon, on the 20th October, it will be Information Overload Awareness Day…I think that is one we can all relate to!

6/9/2016  Back to School – Back to Bullying?

The start of this week will have seen Facebook awash with ‘back to school’ pictures of kids in their smart new uniforms; some starting their school journey and others beginning the final year of theirs. We often hear the phrase ‘the best days of their lives’ to describe a child’s experience at school. Sadly, this is not always the case. The key findings from the National Annual Bullying Survey in 2015 make sobering reading:

• 50% of young people have bullied another person, 30% of which do it at least once a week.
• 69% of young people have witnessed somebody else being bullied, 43% of which see it at least once a week.
• 43% of young people have been bullied, 44% of which are bullied at least once a week.
• Appearance is cited as the number 1 aggressor of bullying, with 51% saying they were bullied because of attitudes towards how they look.
• 26% said their weight was targeted, 21% body shape, 18% clothing, 14% facial features, 9% glasses and 8% hair colour.
• 74% of those who have been bullied, have, at some point been physically attacked. 17% have been sexually assaulted. 62% have been cyber bullied.
• As a result of bullying, 29% self harmed, 27% skipped class, 14% developed an eating disorder and 12% ran away from home.
• 40% of respondents reported being bullied for personal appearance 36% reported being bullied for body shape, size and weight.
• 45% did not report bullying. 32% of which felt it would not be taken seriously, 32% were too embarrassed and 26% were scared of it getting worse.
• Those who have bullied were more likely to be in trouble with the Police (36%) vs. witnesses to bullying (23%) and those who have been bullied (22%).

We know that bullying can have a devastating impact on someone’s mental health, which can impact their lives profoundly into adulthood. We are supporting many of these adults at Plymouth & District Mind so we are acutely aware of the trauma that people experience as a consequence of being bullied in school. In 2016, we developed a 15-20 minute Prezi presentation that is targeted at the whole school – i.e. it is delivered in an Assembly where there is a captive audience of students and staff. The prezi takes the audience on a visual journey that outlines very clearly what bullying is and its devastating consequences. The aim of this tool is to encourage the young people to not only think about the impact of bullying, but also to reflect on their own actions and to encourage them to support their friends to seek help if they are being bullied. Feeback has been very positive and we are actively seeking funding to enable us to roll this presentation out to as many primary and secondary schools in Plymouth as possible – we have different age appropriate versions. It is not intended to be a quick fix to tackle the issue of bullying, but it is a very important conversation starter. We feel very passionately about this, and for this reason it is a main campaign focus for us over the next school year. If you would like to support us to start the conversation about bullying with young people in Plymouth, then please text MIND37 £5 to 70070. Our goal is to raise £1500 which will help us fund this activity in up to 30 schools.

24/8/16 Roofs, Rooms and Fire Engines

As CEO, one of my main priorities is to raise the profile of Plymouth & District Mind locally and regionally, for 2 simple reasons. Firstly, if more people know about us, then more people will access our services to get their lives back on track. Secondly, we always need more donations, fundraisers, and volunteers – so being visible is really important. Our efforts have been successful, and we are very grateful to Network Rail who funded a new roof on our Parkside Wellbeing centre alongside donating their time to help us renovate our new ‘Mindfulness Room’. In fact, if we had a plaque for every person and organisation who has donated their time to us over the last two years, we would hardly need to paint our walls at all!

As part of our awareness work, we are producing a film for the Big Lottery to showcase what we achieved with their funding over the last 5 years. This has been a very humbling project to hear service-users and volunteers describe the positive impact thaFire2t our work has on their lives. As part of this filming, I had the pleasure of spending some time with the Devon and Somerset Fire Service at the Greenbank Fire Station in Plymouth. We wanted to capture their experiences of attending ‘managing mental health at work’ training, delivered by Plymouth Mind as part of the Mind Blue Light programme.  While the cameras were rolling, I had the opportunity to speak to some fire service personnel about their experiences on the job. Despite the very difficult and often traumatic situations they find themselves in, there was an overwhelming ‘love of the job’. My visit concluded with a photo-op in the front on the fire engine. I couldn’t resist!

Fire5NetworkRail1

13/6/2016 Bacon and Books!

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks here at Plymouth Mind. The Recovery College team have developed a new course to support people into volunteering; our volunteer coordinator Donna has been expanding the Friends to Go scheme; our training manager Richard has begun to deliver the first of 5 community mental health awareness workshops…and I have been frying bacon, lots of it! It was all for a good cause as we hosted the bimonthly CEO Breakfast Meeting on Wednesday 8 June here at Plymouth Mind. There were 17 CEOs in attendance from the voluntary sector and the conversation focused on ‘how do we do more with less?’ Public services budgets are shrinking while the mental health needs of the local population are increasing. It’s a national issue I know, and one that will have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of most vulnerable people.

I have been asked to talk at a wonderful event on Thursday 16 June to mark the Plymouth launch of Reading Well for young people. This is a new public library scheme to help young people aged 13-18 years understand their mental health and wellbeing using recommended reading. The new booklist which includes non-fiction and self-help as well as fiction and memoir has been developed with expert support and co-created with young people including those with lived experience.  I will be talking about bullying and the effect that this has on the lives of young people. You can find out more about the event here.

Finally, Steve from Coventry and Warwickshire Mind got in contact and sent me these pictures of the ‘Journey’ bus that they use on a weekly basis to bring wellbeing services to the hardest to reach. The search for funding just got serious!

  Journey_bus_1Journey_bus_2Journey_bus_3

06/06/2016 Number Crunching and Buses!

Exciting times at Plymouth & District Mind this week – we registered the 1,000th person onto our recovery courses since the service opened its doors in 2013. We didn’t have a snazzy gift to give away, but we will support this person to achieve better mental wellbeing and hopefully to get their life back on track.

I have also been doing some more totting up this week! Our fantastic training manager, Richard Wakerell, is an expert in the field of mental health awareness, resilience, wellbeing, suicide intervention. You name it, he knows it. In the last 12 months alone, Richard has delivered a variety of courses to 743 people, ranging from Mental Health First Aid to Wellbeing in the Workplace. Richard firmly believes that every employee and every line manager in every form of employment should be able to access training to support mental health in the workplace. Much remains to be done however and I reminded me of the conversation I had with the Managing Director of a regional company recently who quite curtly informed me that ‘there is no such thing as bad stress – it’s good for business as people are pushed to do more’.  Maybe we need a Trip Advisor rating for how well employees feel their mental wellbeing is looked after. That might ruffle this MD’s feathers.

We have fallen in love with the idea of having a ‘wellbeing bus’ at Plymouth & District Mind. Not just because we would feel like we are on permanent tour, but because we would be able to reach members of our rural community in particular who have little or no access to local wellbeing services. Those who don’t have any means of transport in particular are especially vulnerable to social isolation, depression and anxiety. I’m speaking to some very forward thinking colleagues at Coventry and Warwickshire Mind who have a ‘Journey Bus’ https://www.cwmind.org.uk/journey-bus. They describe it as a transformational resource. The biggest issue for us is funding it…but we will find a way! All ideas on a postcard please!