To increase productivity in the workplace and prioritise staff wellbeing organisations need to implement prevention services as much as treatment services when supporting staff mental health.
FD Consultants is a global psychological health consultancy. We find that organisations use our services after an incident occurs to offer ‘treatment’ services to staff to help the organisation and individual recover. This is an important part of mental health support.
But at FD Consultants, we want to do more than treat crises. We want to encourage organisations to invest in ‘prevention’ services, to build a stronger and more resilient organisation and workforce. Preparing staff for the journey ahead, by providing strategies for resilience building and informing them of the stress signs to watch out for, will reduce the risk of mental health issues in the workplace.
Working and living through a pandemic is challenging and people have shown how adaptable they can be. Individuals are feeling the impact of this on their mental wellbeing; the longevity and uncertainty of surviving through a pandemic erodes our personal resilience. Coronavirus has forced into the limelight the importance of psychological support services for staff. Therefore, through this crisis organisations are offering their staff more preventative services such as our, ‘Stress Management’ workshop, ‘Mental Health Awareness’ workshop for managers, and out ‘Vicarious Trauma’ workshop.
At FD Consultants our ‘crisis response’ services make up the majority of the work we carry out. Organisations reach out for our support when managing a critical incident. We can offer ‘crisis management support’ to senior managers, ‘psychological debriefs’, ‘psychological first aid’, and ‘trauma specialist counselling’ (including ‘traumatic grief counselling’) to help the organisation and individual recover from a major crisis. We specialise in trauma care and have therapists trained in EMDR and TF-CBT (trauma approaches recommended by WHO, APA, NICE).
Our prevention services make up the minority of the work we do; this consists of several training programmes such as, ‘stress management’, ‘trauma awareness’, ‘mental health awareness, and ‘psychological first aid peer support. We also offer ‘pre-deployment consultations’ and ‘yearly mental health screening’ for staff. We want to encourage organisations to integrate prevention measures to support staff into their framework. This can improve an organisation’s culture and create a healthy and resilient organisation. By giving staff the tools to recognise the signs of stress, trauma, burnout or compassion fatigue, we enable them to reach out for support when necessary. Research has shown that the earlier someone gets support, the quicker they will recover and can prevent long-term illness.
In our workshops staff learn how to manage healthy boundaries and identify destructive communication patterns, enabling them to take some responsibility in their own self-care. The research I conducted when writing my book “Psychosocial Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Roadmap of Trauma and Critical Incident Care” (Dunkley, 2018) highlights that emergency first responders and aid workers often ‘overlooked their own self-care for the greater cause.’ To change an organisational culture our approach needs to be ‘bottom up and the top down’.
‘Top down’ is where senior leadership role-model good self-care and prioritise implementing best practice mental health services for staff. Stress, anxiety and trauma are contagious, if senior managers are struggling it will cause a ripple effect throughout an organisation. Which is why FD Consultants offer mental health awareness trainings specifically for managers.
‘Bottom up’ change recognises that all staff are responsible for managing their work/life balance and healthy boundaries. Individuals need to be empowered to take responsibility for themselves and give themselves permission to say ‘No’ when work is unsustainable, rather than work themselves into the ground. If we take a helpless, victim role, and focus all our energy on expecting ‘top down’ to change or ‘save us’ we will only be left feeling resentful and make ourselves ill. Our workshops make sure we cover ‘top down’ as well as ‘bottom up’ strategies for building resilience.
Staff who are exposed to traumatic material through their work, whether directly or indirectly, are at risk of developing vicarious trauma. Staff who work in emergency first response, mental health charities, journalism and media, counter terrorism, IT social media analysts, and the humanitarian sector often have high-pressure jobs, with demanding workloads, including unsociable hours or shift work. Therefore, we recommend all staff attend our half-day ‘stress management and resilience building’ workshop as part of their induction process . Additionally, members of staff whose work exposes them to traumatic material, directly or indirectly, should attend our half-day ‘vicarious trauma and trauma awareness workshop’.
Instigating ‘mental health peer support’ programmes into an organisation can help challenge stigma and create a healthy organisational culture. Peer support programmes are cost effective and can help reach staff that are in remote locations or have limited access to psychosocial support. Additionally, ‘yearly mental health screening’ programmes will safeguard staff from the risk of developing mental health issues due to the nature of the work. This service will also highlight when an individual may need additional support. Identifying mental health risk early can improve recovery rates and work performance.
Make this year the year your organisation implements high quality, best practice, psychosocial support services for staff.
If you would like to discuss any of our services further, then please contact us on [email protected]