90 minutes on Mental Health Awareness

An EO2 from DoF shares his experience of the new Mental Health Awareness workshops for NICS staff.

NICSHR Learning & Development are providing a new 90 minute webinar inviting colleagues to broaden their knowledge of mental health, to help them identify warning signs and to learn techniques to help stay positive.

Having not gone on a non-mandatory training course for quite a while I joined the Mental Health Awareness webinar with a certain degree of trepidation. However, as more people joined the event, the more I relaxed and the more conversation began to flow. At this early point of the webinar it was great to just talk and listen to others from right across the service and hear how they are surviving the trials and tribulations of life in lockdown.

Leading the webinar on behalf of NICSHR Learning and Development was Julie Hill who is a mental health professional with an extensive background in the field.

Interactive poll and the mental health continuum

The first exercise was an interactive poll which utilised the technology of web conferencing very well to enable participants to take an active role. The results of the poll clearly demonstrated that the majority of people were feeling more stressed and isolated than before lockdown.

Julie moved through the other sections of the course exploring ideas that I had not really considered before such as the mental health continuum (a sliding scale of mental health) and the common signs of mental health conditions. Personally, the continuum helped me to focus on the reality that my mental health isn’t in a fixed state, and that despite intrusive thoughts of being stuck or hopelessness, it is important to remember that it’s possible to move from a negative mindset to a positive one and that negativity isn’t a hardwired position.

Recognising signs of mental health conditions

Most of us are well aware of the physical, psychological and behavioural signs of mental health conditions but to see it in black and white on a screen in front of you and to realise you are displaying the majority of them, is always a slight shock. Working remotely with the family continues to be a challenge but whatever your circumstance, the increased (sometimes irrational) irritability, poor concentration, indecisiveness, withdrawl and low moods can be some of the signs that you are currently at the wrong end of the scale. Help is available.

Techniques to manage your mood

Various techniques were explored which can help us throughout and at the end of a days work. Virtual coffee time is one such idea which I hope to employ as it incorporates two activities I’m very fond of – taking breaks and drinking coffee. Of course the idea is to begin to socially reconnect with others whom I would normally join for breaks in the office.

Exercise and nutrition is also important. My dodgy knee has held me back long enough, so I am reaching for the running shoes very soon. I will no doubt seriously regret the pre-lunch diet of chocolate hobnobs that I have been indulging myself with for weeks.

Reframing and Control and Influence

We learned about reframing which is about how we can transform negative thought patterns to positive ones. “I’ve achieved nothing today” which of course isn’t true for anyone, is unfortunately a very common thought or feeling. Changing that to “I’ve achieved x, y and z today” is more realistic and positive, yet strangely quite hard to do.

Control and influence teaches us how to identify which of our concerns fall into the control and influence spheres. This allows us to focus on what is out of our control and may then allow us to “let go” of it.

What Went Well

Many of us at the end of a working day may recount to loved ones the frustrations and problems that occurred, instead of focussing on the things that went well. Writing down three things that went well that day is another technique that can help us focus on the positive aspects of the day. Again, who would have thought that mental health was so hard – I got two.

To conclude, my experience on the webinar was wholly positive and provided me with a lot of food for thought. The technological delivery in no way felt detrimental to the experience and indeed, the thought occurred to me that this is the perfect tool for those people who may not wish to use video or even participate but can still listen and learn from others. Perhaps a new door has opened for people who would never go to a training session in person. My thanks to Learning and Development and of course Julie Hill.

New Learning and Development sessions

Mental Health Awareness Webinars are available both for individuals and for managers working with remote teams.  Limited spaces are available for the next webinars on Thursday 28 May and further dates will be announced soon.  To register for these, or any other Learning & Development training, please refer to the LInKS portal.

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