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What keeps you well?  And what inspires you when life gets tough?  City Women focused on these important questions, identifying the practical ways in which we help ourselves to maintain or regain mental health, through stressful times.  For some, it might be a conversation with someone we trust, space to listen to how we are feeling, a walk or a run, beautiful scenery, or a practical gesture of kindness like someone bringing round a meal or a cake.  I wonder what touches the spot for you…

Our lunchtime discussion was led by Carol Wilson, Head of Spiritual Care at the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust on 12 October.  In World Mental Health Week, we focused on “Something Inside So Strong – Maintaining Wellbeing in Times of Stress”.

What are the signs when a work colleague’s mental health is suffering?  It’ll be different for each individual, but the biggest clue is when there is a change of patterns for that person, for example working more or less than usual or eating more or less than usual.

If you are concerned whether a colleague is alright, there’s a real possibility that they may not be.  Carol Wilson encouraged us to find appropriate ways to ask someone how they are: asking the question won’t of itself make them worse.  And there are simple, practical, helpful things we can do:

  • Listen – and listen and listen and listen again! – without judging, without fixing it, without fading, without questions, without advice.
  • Give reassurance.
  • Encourage self-help.
  • Where appropriate, encourage professional help via the GP.
  • Stay in touch.

The facts and figures emphasise the prevalence of mental illness, with 1 in 4 people experiencing mental illness at some point in their lives and at least 20% of sickness absence in the workplace being due to depression.  These statistics should encourage us to break the silence and to see an end to the stigma that surrounds mental illness – it will help our colleagues, our friends, our families, ourselves.

Carol Wilson emphasised the central message that “you are not alone” if your mental health is challenged.  Talk to someone.  And if you need professional help, a conversation with your GP is a good first step.  Also there is information and help available on the web:  www.mind.org.ukwww.bsmhft.nhs.uk (our local mental health service) and  www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk.

Within our new ChaplaincyPlus strategy, this session is a strong example of partnership working with Carol Wilson and her colleagues in the chaplaincy team at the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, Sharon Watkins and Pam Turner.  We are really grateful to Carol, Sharon and Pam for helping us to enter the deep water of health and wellbeing without fear, with the assurance that there is support in navigating a path forwards through mental illness.  And we are also extremely grateful to Jo Pearson and Barclays for making the Latitude Club available to us.

Following on from this session, which opened the door, we plan to collaborate in offering a “Mental Health First Aid England” session to the ChaplaincyPlus network, as a next step. Look out for more information on this.

And finally, a Celtic blessing, which Carol used to finish the City Women lunchtime event.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ

Go with you wherever he may send you;

Guide you through any wilderness;

Protect you through every storm;

Bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you;

Bring you home happy, safe again within our doors.

Amen.