Mental Health Awareness Week: reconnecting the disconnected
For Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May), Conference News spoke to Laura and James Capell-Abra, founders of Stress Matters and Helen Moon, chief executive of EventWell, to understand what resources are out there to support eventprof mental health.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time. Considering this, we ask Stress Matters how to support eventprofs who may feel lonely. “One of the remedies for loneliness is connection,” says Capell-Abra.
“In an industry where our job is largely to connect people and businesses together, it can be even more unbalancing when we feel disconnected from those around us. It happens to all of us and the more we can learn to recognise the signs of it starting to happen, the more empowered we are to support ourselves and others faster,” they add.
Breaking the stigma
Looking at mental health as a whole, we ask Stress Matters and EventWell what are the key challenges when discussing mental health? “The problem with mental health is the stigma around mental health. Breaking down the stigma takes time but it's also something we can each play a part in,” says Capell-Abra.
“For example, sharing stories, listening to ourselves and one another, learning to spot the signs and symptoms of someone who is struggling, promoting open conversations around mental health and using weeks such as Mental Health Awareness Week, can get that conversation going. The more we talk, the more we break down stigma,” they add.
Another factor Moon raises is the spectrum of mental health. “We all have mental health and it's important that we take care of it. In the same way that each of us are on a physical health spectrum/continuum it's the same for our mental health. There are not two camps for people with ‘good’ or ‘poor’ mental health,” she explains.
Top tips and tools
Whether you’re taking care of your own mental health, or supporting a friend’s or family’s mental health, there’s a range of things you can do. “We all know what we need to do to take care of our physical health, and doing these things for our physical health; exercise, nutrition and sleep is great for our mental health too. There are additional elements like rest and recuperation, taking breaks - especially lunch breaks, to allow our brains and minds a bit of respite are also really important,” says Moon.
Moon reminds us that it’s important to be a good mental health ally at events too. “It’s all about modelling good behaviours, take breaks, each lunch, drink plenty of water, don't work 'unnecessary' long hours. “If we do it as individuals it creates a culture that then impacts and influences on our colleagues and peers as well. Being a good ally is all about taking care of your own mental health and being super charged when it comes to your own self-care, if you do it it makes it ok for others to do it.”
Moving onto tools, what’s out there to support eventprof mental health? “As a team, we have daily blogs being sent out to all our newsletter subscribers this week with lots of tips to build connection, the team have developed an course you can work through at your own pace - specifically for event professionals,” reveals Capell-Abra.
“At EventWell, we train mental health champions in event businesses, and we provide onsite event quiet rooms and sensory spaces to support mental wellbeing and neurodiversity as part of an event inclusivity and accessibility policy and strategy. “We also provide event professionals with essential financial support via grocery shops, hardship relief grants and talking therapies to help prevent mental decline caused by life events and traumas they may have experienced,” says Moon.
Both Stress Matters and EventWell also recommend training to be a Mental Health First Aider, or talking to one. “They can signpost you to support and at the most basic level, just take some time to sit with your own thoughts and ask yourself how you're doing. It's one of the most powerful questions - how are you doing right now?,” says Stress Matters.
Moon agrees and echo’s this view: “Watch out for one another. If you see a colleague is struggling, their behaviour has changed, they seem quieter (or louder) than normal, then check in and ask them if they are ok? They may say they are fine, but you have planted the seed and opened a door for them to come and chat to you when they are ready, and feel safe to. There is nothing more powerful than that.”
“If your organisation does not have one then ask why not?,” adds Moon.
Other resources include