The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (May 18th – 24th) is ‘Kindness‘, something that has become more prevalent since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Be it kindness in the community, more kindness at home or being kind to yourself (especially important!), with that kindness comes a good state of mental health.
To raise awareness, our leaders have been talking openly and honestly about mental health in webinars throughout the week, while colleagues across the business have shared stories across a range of topics, including breaking the BAME stigma, well-being in the Military, navigating the Menopause and life as a Mental Health Champion.
I wanted to share this great blog from one of our very own Mental Health Champions, Paul Akpan.
Experience in the NHS
Prior to transitioning to IT, I spent nine years working in the NHS as a Mental Health Support worker – working in the hospital setting (both open and locked wards) and also in the community. I learnt a lot during my stint as a Support Worker – working with individuals who were going through challenges within a very stressful environment.
I was part of a multidisciplinary team (comprising doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists) who worked with the individuals to get them through their crises, and back on their feet. Those individuals cut across all socio-economic backgrounds and ranged from those experiencing “their first episode” to those with previous hospitalisations who had suffered relapses in their mental health. They included teenagers who had “dabbled”, mothers who had experienced post-natal depression, newspaper editors and legal minds who had been overwhelmed by their workloads, and the list goes on. This is a true reminder of how susceptible each of us is, as far as mental health is concerned.
Becoming a Mental Health Champion at Capgemini
When the opportunity arose in mid-2018 to become one of the Capgemini Mental Health Champions, I threw my hat in the ring as I wanted to leverage my past experience to make a contribution. However, having a background like mine is not a pre-requisite for becoming a Mental Health Champion, as training is provided. A Mental Health Champion (MHC) is a named individual that a colleague can contact to informally discuss mental health matters, and they can signpost individuals to support.
Key Tips for Mental Health Champions
Personally, I believe three things are key in the role of the Mental Health Champion – empathy, a non-judgmental attitude, and patience. By being empathetic, you actively listen to the other person to understand how he or she is feeling and try to offer informal guidance and support – whether it’s arranging subsequent chats, proactively checking up on them, or signposting them to other resources they could benefit from. For someone going through a situation or crisis, it’s taken a lot of courage to open up to someone else – and the last thing they need is to feel condemned or have comments like “pull yourself together” thrown back at them. So, it’s about being objective and non-judgmental irrespective of how or why the individual is in the situation they are. Being there to offer a “listening ear” and giving the individual your undivided attention goes a long way in making him or her feel supported – so patience is important, but as MHCs we also recognise we are not qualified to offer clinical resolutions and also need to look after our own well-being as well.
I’m proud to be a Mental Health Champion, and together with the other MHCs across the organisation, believe we can continue to make a difference in terms of raising awareness of mental health, promoting well-being, and being there to provide guidance and support for colleagues who may be going through challenging circumstances. I would encourage anyone who believes they can make a contribution, to consider volunteering.
Head of Employee Experience & Inclusion