Mental Health Awareness Week


At the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, Executive Director Ian Gregg has written this blog about the importance of kindness in times of trouble.

 As we begin Mental Health Awareness Week, I need to be honest and say I struggled last week. Having reflected on this, there were a few reasons why. As an eternal optimist I had hoped we would be through the worst of COVID-19 by the first May bank holiday, with my worst case scenario being the second May bank holiday.  It’s clear from what the government has said that I need to reset my aspirations for a bit longer and I will live in hope for the August Bank holiday.

Another real low point for me was not being able to be with a family member as they have had one of the worst days of their life due to lockdown. I’ll come on to my other deeper reasons later. However even in this bad week I’ve had three magic moments which were:

  • a manager checking in with me to see if I was okay as they had noticed I was not my usual ‘virtual’ self on a launch of our new Corporate Plan. Thanks again!
  • a virtual conference I had with the managers within my directorship
  • a catch up with Riverside’s Mental Health Champions.

Thanks to our disability staff group Enable and the Workplace Trust, a charity set up and run by staff to help colleagues, their family and friends in times of trouble, we launched the My Possible Self app to all colleagues earlier this month. The app encourages you to track your moods, understand your good days and help you through the less good days with a range of interactive content you can use on your own personal phone.

So on to Mental Health Awareness Week with this year’s theme being ‘kindness’, a topic that changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I can’t be alone in witnessing how kindness has become more prevalent and appreciated, whether that be the weekly clap for frontline workers or people in your community supporting each other.

In recent weeks, we’ve been holding a series of wellbeing roundtables which have really brought this home, particularly videos of our staff working in our care homes and frontline services ensuring our customers are supported during this difficult time.

I have been reflecting why I have being feeling the impact recently and I put it down to three main things:

I miss people

At our Enable AGM last year, I shared a great Ted Talk from Johann Hari on how as a species we are meant to be part of a tribe. Right now working at home I don’t get to be part of a tribe. That said, at my managers’ conference last week, themed around our value of We are Trusted, this tribe of mine let me and their fellow managers know that they care and that they are looking out for their staff.

I miss hugs

At the start of lockdown, a fellow Executive Director who is at the other end of the hugging spectrum to me said that I would miss this and how right they were! It’s not just hugs but it’s that close interaction you have with colleagues when you see, listen and support them whether that be with a smile, ear, gentle tap on their arm or a hug that helps show you are with them. So it was great to catch up with another tribe of mine last week – our 200+ mental health champions – as we got together to agree how we are going to support our colleagues alongside our managers moving forwards. One thing we are encouraging colleagues to do this week is to send others a virtual hug as a thank you to those who’ve been there for you recently.

I need a break

I’ve been working full on since lockdown without a day off and, as it’s clear this situation is going to be with us for many more months, we all need to take time off to keep recharged and focused. I will be taking the last week off in May to do just that and I’d encourage others to take time off as you need and your work can accommodate to keep you motivated.

I am thrilled that my last week in the office will be all about mental health awareness and I look forward to seeing the many posts, blogs and virtual hugs I know my colleagues will be sharing on Yammer and other social media throughout the week. And I’d like to give a special thanks to that manager who checked in on me last week, it was so needed.

So be kind to yourself, be kind to others and try and connect with someone else this week. Most importantly, take care.