Vickie Swindle, Mental Wellbeing Staff Network Chair talks about her role supporting staff and the value of employee networks on Mental Health Awareness Week.
Hi my name is Vickie Swindle and I’m an organisational development facilitator in Training & Development.
My main role is a facilitator to support professional development and build capabilities across the trust to enhance our culture and encourage staff to live the trust’s values in delivering high quality, safe and caring health care services.
I was approached to chair the Mental Wellbeing Staff Network support group due to my passion and work to create an inclusive culture in my team and the trust to support reducing inequality. In particular I wanted to support the trust in challenging the stigma and misconceptions about mental health and I saw the network as a great starting point.
It is important to raise awareness with an emphasis on the types of mental health diagnosis yet even today many of us are still reluctant to address the issues. This may stem from a lack of understanding of the signs of symptoms of common mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety and stress resulting in a perceived stigma and judgment from colleagues and managers regarding the ability to do your role.
Much has been done to raise awareness and encourage discussion around mental wellbeing but to remove the stigma and normalise conversations around mental health the subject needs to be more visible.
Some employers may feel that mental health and wellbeing of employees is outside of their remit, but bringing attention to the issue is mutually beneficial. The cost of mental ill health to employers is high due to a combination of sickness absence, staff turnover and reduced productivity.
The best thing about being in this network are the ideas, commitment and friendliness of the group who are all fully supportive of each other. All ideas are shared and discussed and recently a number of suggestions to improve support have been implemented across the trust.
On a personal level I’ve developed my own wellbeing plan which has techniques and strategies I follow. This can include being kind to yourself, taking time out, staying active, surrounding myself with good people. I also enjoy helping others and prioritising taking time to deal with what’s making me feel stressed, setting realistic goals, and recognising it’s okay to ask for help at home and at work when I need to as well.
I enjoy being part of the Mental Wellbeing Staff Network because as we spend such a large portion of our time at work, it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness of common symptoms and of what help is available to our staff.
Often, people don’t seek support early on because they are unaware that what they are experiencing can be linked to mental health or because they are unaware that there is effective help available.
Educating employees could prevent them from reaching a crisis point that requires extended sickness absences but instead encourage conversations and peer support to help people stay in work. A great way towards embedding a supportive culture is taking part in Mental Health Awareness Week and joining our staff network.
To find out more about staff networks day visit www.nationaldayforstaffnetworks.co.uk.