2022-09-21 12:33

All We Have To Do Is Keep Talking!

This headline is the mantra of both Alison Banks and John Richardson, Mental Health First Aiders and CWU members when it comes to supporting their colleagues suffering from stress, anxiety and indeed any worries that they feel is impacting negatively upon their mental health.

Here, Alison gives us an incite into the work being done by trained volunteers in mental health support and helping to take care of workplace colleagues and friends; seeking help:

Since volunteering as a Mental Health First Aider at Warrington DO, John Richardson and I have been busy encouraging people to talk: 

Talk about their mental health - talk about their frustrations


Talk about their family life and how they deal with difficult situations

Most of all, just to talk.

Recently, a colleague who has shared his mental health journey with us asked for a support group to be set up.  He felt that he couldn’t access this kind of service easily through the NHS and that he would benefit from informal support and a place to get it all off his chest.  What a fantastic idea. 

The next day, we set a date and displayed a poster on the notice boards.

In April we held our first support group in Warrington DO, with John and I as informal facilitators. 

At 3pm, after the working day was done, we opened the conference room for confidential support and waited for staff to attend.  Four of our brave colleagues walked through the door and took a seat.  We were off to a great start.
Our first job was to establish some ground rules for the group so that whoever attended knew that they could trust the people involved with their most vulnerable thoughts.  The group decided on the following:

  • What is said in the room stays in the room

  • This is a place of trust, where people offer the most vulnerable parts of themselves, respect the trust that is being given

  • Respect each other’s boundaries, if someone attends just to listen, that is okay

  • Take it in turns to talk, don’t talk over each other

From the very beginning, those who attended spoke of very personal and deeply emotional experiences.  They comforted each other and established new support networks in each other whilst at work.  The level of trust was phenomenal.

Around three weeks later, we waited in the conference room once again for our second support group session.

To our surprise, nine people attended. Word had spread. A larger number of attendees made it a little more difficult to ensure everyone had a chance to share their story but we were grateful that the support network was building.

We now hold support group meetings every two to three weeks and we have a core group of staff who attend regularly. 

On our smaller sessions we have been able to really devote time to listening to one or two people and provide a safe place for them to discuss everything from anxiety, depression, grief, panic, self-image and relationships.  Our colleagues are fantastic at listening to each other and have now established a Whats app support group to keep each other informed about meetings and offer an ear when needed.

I know that for some members of the group it’s been a real lifeline. 

Knowing that they are not the only person struggling with their mental health, having a place to let out bottled up thoughts and know that people are listening, supportive and encouraging without ever judging each other has been incredibly valuable.

Our meetings will continue for as long as they are beneficial to those attending, so long may it continue.

We have now been asked to visit other DO’s in the area to help people in those offices set up their own support groups. A task we will be starting in the next two weeks with Runcorn DO as our next opportunity.


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