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An evening of reflection and self care at the Wellcome Trust

In a departure from our normal masterclasses, this month we decided to focus on looking after ourselves; with an evening of mental health awareness and a first aid tool kit, hosted in the beautiful offices of the Wellcome Trust in Euston.

Sarah Mason, Project Coordinator, Mental Health First Aid and Environmental Sustainability, at the Wellcome Trust kicked off the evening with a quiz about mental health in the work place. We learned some interesting facts including:

  • A fifth of all work days in the UK are lost to anxiety and depression
  • 21% of employees call in sick as a result of workplace causes
  • 70% of people feel they can’t talk about mental health concerns at work
  • 56% of employers want to do more about mental health but don’t feel they have the skills, resources or time to do so.

Sarah said: “Positive mental health results in happy, motivated and resilient employees”. She went on to describe the excellent measures that the Wellcome Trust has implemented for their own work force including a 24 / 7, 365 days a year Employee Assistance Programme. More people in the organisation have been trained as mental health first aiders, rather than physical health first aiders. Sarah said:

“Being a mental health first aider means I have the tools to support someone with a supportive conversation and then I can direct them on to someone else who can help, such as a GP, a psychologist or the Samaritans.”

Next up was Dr Victoria Mattison, Lead Clinical Psychologist at Islington CAMHS and Eloise Wynter, Assistant Psychologist at Islington CAMHS. They described mental health as a continuum and said:

“Our perceptions of mental health are multi-layered; deeply rooted in our religious beliefs, politics and identity”.

We then watched a powerful and evocative short film clip which triggered an audience discussion. People spoke of their own experiences, touching on subjects from looking visible, but feeling invisible; to the resilience that had carried them and their families through much adversity.

Victoria talked about the pressures of social media and advised that we all take a break from our screens and make sure that we are not always immediately available. She got the group practicing a 7 / 4 breathing technique which is designed specifically as a calming exercise for the workplace. They touched on other self-care strategies and how to break the cycle of anxiety; from exercise and healthy eating to mindfulness, medication and relaxation. They also suggested a useful selection of resources including Young Minds, Rethink and the Samaritans.

Following on from Victoria and Eloise’s session, Nikki Peters, Campaign Manager at MQ for the ‘Give a ******* about young people’s mental health’ campaign took to the floor.  She talked through their excellent campaign to transform understanding of how mental illness develops; to identify which young people are most at risk – and which support can help them at the earliest possible point and to discover life-changing treatments specifically for young people.

The evening concluded with a Q & A, drinks and some networking. We were also delighted to hand a camera, which had been donated to Creative Access, to a deserving photographer, to our former intern at Swan Films, Rosetta Fourlagawo. As well as committing to support Creative Access, Rosetta will be using the camera to create a book / zine which she hopes to release in 2018.

We are so grateful to the speakers for giving up their time and for their wise and inspirational words and of course to the Wellcome Trust for hosting the evening and for their ongoing support.