When I completed my Mental Health First Aider training back in November 2019, I knew that it would be a valuable skill that would benefit the team. Little did I know just how important having a mental health first aider would become when lockdown was implemented 2 months ago.
Everyone at Studio 24 began working remotely on 17th March. Remote working has always been something we’ve been able to do, so we were already in a good place for everyone to transition to it. However, choosing to work from home is very different to being required to work from home due to a global pandemic.
Aside from the change in our work environment, the lockdown has had a wider impact on all our lives: concerns for our health and the health of family members, childcare & education disruption, and how to get essential supplies safely. When you add this mental load to everyday challenges, it quickly becomes clear that we’ll need more support than normal.
This week is Mental Health Awareness week, and I’d like to share some of the ways in which I’ve been able to support the team through the changes.
As a mental health first aider, I’ve needed to adjust how I go about supporting the team. Normally in the office environment, I can observe visual or verbal clues that someone is in need of help. When everyone is working in separate locations, this becomes much harder to spot. We use Slack as a conversation tool, and this has been vital for us as a means for communication. I make sure to check in with everyone on the team at least once a week, to find out how they are doing and see if they would like to talk about anything.
Before social distancing, if anyone wanted to talk to me about an issue, we would usually find a quiet room in the office to talk privately. One benefit of working remotely is that there’s no need to try and find a spare meeting room, we can just arrange a private call. Video calls are best, as you can gain so much from virtual eye contact. But talking on the phone or even just exchanging messages via an online chat tool can be helpful when someone is having a hard time.
Part of my function as a mental health first aider is to raise awareness of mental health, so I started ‘Mental Health Mondays’. At the beginning of each week I share web links, blog posts or action points on a Slack channel that will help signpost people to resources that might be useful. This has gradually built up a wealth of information, which hopefully will give everyone tools that could help their mental wellbeing.
We all look forward to the day when we can return to the office and see each other in person, but in the meantime we have found a good way of working and supporting each other. Providing mental health first aid is possible, even at a distance.