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Kindness just a hashtag??

 

Encouraging as it is to see so many businesses and leaders posting about kindness towards each other for Mental Health Awareness Week. Should we not also see posts on how their business will apply this?

Do we not have a responsibility to apply corporate kindness to staff, customers and others? Corporate Kindness which is a key element of corporate values and ideals that shape how an organisation is perceived by employees, customers, and others.

Many successful companies adhere to a set of well defined core values and beliefs that align with behaviours rather than contravene them. In doing so they create a culture that promotes open, honest conversation in a conducive, creative environment where productivity and empowerment are defining characteristics and costs are reduced along with absenteeism, accident rates and work related stress.

All too often a business believes it has mindful core values or beliefs but the behaviours or structures do not support this and the impacts are felt from absenteeism, accident rates and work related stress to costs.

Is this the opportunity to take a mindful approach and get a business case for corporate kindness or is kindness just this weeks hashtag?

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Brett Townsley & Chris Lemons Q&A on Mental Health in his Working Environment

 

With 1 in 4 people within the UK presenting mental health issues and this expected to rise exponentially post COVID-19 due to isolation, decreased job, financial security and concern for loved ones resulting in stress, anxiety and depression we decided to talk with Chris Lemons who told us “Isolation and dealing with the mental difficulties which come with being confined are issues I am definitely familiar with.”

 

Chris thanks for taking the time to talk to us today, you are an experienced saturation sea diver can you tell us a little bit about the mental health aspects of the job? 

“I have long felt that the diving is the easy part of the job, an opportunity to pop the cork on the mental pressures and strains of living in such an unusually claustrophobic environment for 28 days at a time.  

The principal challenge is without doubt the nature of the confinement itself.  Once the door is closed and the chamber is pressurised, often to well in excess of 100 metres, there is no escape.  The death of a parent, a burst appendix, a sudden desperation to breathe fresh air; none of these things will allow you to circumnavigate the days of decompression required to return to the surface.  It’s an overly flattering analogy, but it is true to say that it is quicker to get back from the surface of the moon than it is from being in a Saturation system pressurised to 150 metres.

This can undoubtedly bring pressures to bear on ones mental health.  The feelings of isolation can often be palpable, and the absence of an ability to exit the situation if you feel uncomfortable in any way, can leave you feeling caged and helpless.

To this you can add the almost unique pressures that come with living in extremely close confines with other human beings, whilst simultaneously having every second of your day monitored by the watchful eyes of the systems cameras.  Need to have a private phone call with people at home?  Forget it.  Not comfortable with having someone watch you take a shower or go to the toilet?  Better find another job.  Privacy is almost non-existent, and there is no escaping the five other men who are all sleeping within an arms-reach of you, even if you can’t stand them.

The standard pressures which can affect our mental health at home are also exacerbated whilst locked in the chambers.  Because the gas we breathe is principally made up helium, and because the pressure has an affect on our vocal cords, we can be almost unintelligible over the phone, making speaking to people at home very difficult.  Problems such as paying a bill, resolving a conflict with a loved one or consoling an upset son or daughter can prove almost impossible, and this feeling of helplessness can become overwhelming.

To all of this you can add the pressures of the job itself.  Our ship usually has over 100 people on board, who along with the army of engineers and staff on shore are there with the sole purpose of delivering two divers to the seabed to complete the work.  Combine this with the financial pressures of a boat which is being hired for £150,000 per day, and every one watching the every move of your hands on screens throughout the vessel, and the toll of the mental strain can quickly add up.”

 

What kind of techniques do you use to maintain your mental health during operations?

“Principally I make attempts to normalise my environment as much as possible.  There is no escape from the confinement of the decompression chambers, and so you have to be able to accept that and make a concerted effort to make the best of it.  Whilst the nature of the work already enforces a pre-determined routine on ones day, I find it helpful to ensure that I follow my own personal routine as much as possible.  Small disciplines such as getting out of bed in the morning to have a cup of tea and watch the news, having a time to stretch or exercise, or taking 15 minutes to do a crossword, all give the day structure and some element of normality.  

The nature of the confinement could potentially be a little overwhelming, and so I find it is very important to maintain a positive frame of mind.  I make a concerted effort not to count the number of days left, particularly during the early stages, and instead I concentrate on smaller milestones such as getting through the first week, first 10 days etc.  As mercenary as it sounds, I sometimes count the money I’m earning rather than the days I have left, simply to try and a put a positive spin on a timeframe which could otherwise appear a little depressing.

I also always try and use the period in Saturation as an opportunity.  Rather than think of it as being locked up for a month, I tell myself that this is a chance to learn a new skill, read some interesting books, write that novel, or even just catch up on the sleep that a 3 year old deprives me of at home…

I find that one of the key elements to coping is to make use of the people around you.  Some divers will cope with being locked up by confining themselves to their bunk with the curtain closed as much as possible.  I have always found it helpful to force myself to go and talk to people, partially for the sense of normality that this can bring, but principally because it can be cathartic to discuss the stresses and strains of captivity with others in the same situation.  The solidarity of people who you quickly find are suffering in similar ways to yourself, can be very comforting and ease the feelings of loneliness and isolation that can quickly develop if you choose to shut yourself away.”

 

Are there any specific requirements (tests, assessments etc) either from legislative or employer perspective that someone must complete in regard to mental health?  

“The medical testing of divers is fairly rigorous, partly due to the physical nature of the job, and partly because access to medical facilities and personnel is severely restricted during our periods of confinement.  As such there is a thorough annual medical, which includes a broad range of physical examinations, including ECG’s, assessment of lung capacity, hearing, fitness etc. We also undertake a truncated version of this medical examination on site, in the 6 hours prior to entering into Saturation.  However, at no point in any of this is there any element of testing or assessment of mental health.  As with many professions of this nature, the diving industry appears to be behind the curve when it comes to enlightenment on this issue.  People often assume that Saturation diving will have some form of adverse affect on your long term physical health, but I have long felt that the damage being done is far more likely to be to ones Mental Health.  The long periods of confinement undoubtably have an effect, and some of the older divers certainly show signs of being institutionalised.” 

 

You went through an emotionally traumatic experience during a specific operation could you tell us a little more? 

“Back in September of 2012 I was involved in a diving incident aboard a Dive Support Vessel called the Bibby Topaz.  My colleague and I were working on the Huntingdon Manifold which is located about 90 miles due East of Aberdeen, at a depth of 91 metres.  At around 10pm, and in the midst of a 35 knot wind and 5 metre seas, the Topaz suffered a catastrophic single point failure of its Dynamic Positioning Computer.  This is a system which allows the ship to maintain position over a particular point on the seabed, so that the divers can work safely without fear of being dragged around by the boat.  With this failure, the Topaz began to drift at the mercy of the wind and waves, pulling my colleague Dave and I along with it.  Unfortunately, my umbilical (a series of intertwined hoses which provide us with Breathing Gas, Heat, Light and Cameras) became snagged on the exterior of the sub-sea structure.  I effectively became the anchor to an 8000 tonne ship, and there was only ever going to be one winner in that situation.  My umbilical duly snapped, leaving me stranded in the absolute darkness of the seabed with only the emergency supply of gas that we carry on our back left to breathe.  We estimate that this supply lasted for around seven to eight minutes, but unfortunately it took nearly forty minutes for the crew to regain control of the boat and be able to come back and rescue me.  After a lonely few minutes on the seabed, thinking that my death was imminent, I slipped into unconsciousness.  Miraculously, nearly 40 minutes later, I was dragged back from the seabed by my colleague Dave, hauled into the diving bell and resuscitated, seemingly unharmed.”

 

 

How have you learned to deal/cope with the experience? 

“To some extent I have always tried to be pragmatic about it, although I think it actually took several years before I began to properly reflect on what happened.  At the time I think we were riding on a wave of Euphoria, having extracted ourselves from what seemed like an impossible position, and slightly oblivious to the magnitude of what had taken place.  I think we were perhaps slightly more concerned about getting back on the horse, rather than taking any time to properly consider how it had affected us.  It was only really during the making of the film ‘Last Breath’ that I was almost forced to reflect on how it had affected not just me, but all those involved both on the ship that night, and my friends and family at home.

To some extent coping with it has been a necessity, as this is my profession and not to do so would mean being unable to pay the mortgage.  I often try and put it into perspective by telling myself that essentially I emerged completely unharmed, my suffering was fleeting, and the number of people who suffer and cope with traumas far worse than this are legion.

In many ways, the unusual nature of what happened to me, and the environment in which it happened, have proven the key to my being able to deal relatively comfortably with what happened.  Because it is a story that interests people, I have spent the best part of the last 8 years recounting the tale which has prevented me from bottling anything up or repressing any potential post traumatic trauma.  I am lucky to be surrounded both personally and professionally by strong and supportive people, and the frank discussions I have had with all of them have undoubtably allowed me to minimise any mental repercussions.  

I think I’m also lucky in that the nature of my job gives me the confidence to be able to talk reasonably openly about my feelings and anxieties, without ever really worrying about whether people might consider me weak or inferior, so I am thankful for that.”

 

Do you experience any forms of mental health issues due to the experience? 

“I don’t think I have, but I’m possibly not the best person to judge.  I feel as though in many ways it has been a positive experience in my life, and I never really consider myself to have suffered a trauma.  I do feel that I have a more acute awareness of death, and it is certainly something I think about more these days, although age may also play a part in that.  I like to think that I am reasonably stoic in nature, but that has a downside in that it is possible that I suffer without even realising it.  Overall though, It’s not something that I regret happening in my life, and in many ways I feel it has made me stronger both mentally and professionally.”

 

Due to COVID19 the general public is currently undergoing lockdown which is creating social isolation, do you think there are any specific issues we should be aware of as a result of long periods in isolation? 

“There is little doubt that prolonged periods in isolation can have a significant bearing on ones mental health.  The inability to have direct contact with loved ones, and the massive benefits this can have on our mental well-being, is undoubtably at the top of the list.  A sudden lack of routine or purpose to ones days can also prove very challenging, which can also lead to a sense of disappointment or worthlessness if you don’t manage to fill that time productively.  The removal of ones liberty and freedom, something we often all take for granted, can often prove more distressing than you may have realised.  The other danger is, I feel, that the longer lockdown continues, the more people will get used to it, and the harder it will become to return to the chaos of normal life.”

 

Do you have any advice on ways to cope?

“There are many clear parallels between the current lockdown and life confined to a hyperbaric chamber, and therefore many of the coping mechanisms I suspect are the same.

Routine is king.  Lockdown can quickly feel like groundhog day, so it is important that even though you don’t necessarily have to get up in the morning and have a shower, you do so.  Build or timetable a structure to your day to avoid drifting into directionless periods of inactivity, all of which can have a detrimental effect on your confidence and mental well being.

Set yourself targets for the day.  Even if you don’t achieve them, it will give your day purpose and focus.

Try and treat the experience as a positive.  This is an opportunity to learn new things that you may never otherwise have.  The modern world is a frantic one, so look at this as a rare chance to reflect and refresh.  Take the time to get yourself healthy, to read those books that you have always meant to read, to get the garden looking pretty or repaint the walls of the flat.  Tell yourself that you will come out of this experience and not view it as having been wasted time.

Communicate.  You suddenly have time, so use it to catch up with people.  We are all in this together so it can be comforting to take solace in others going through the same things, and to share how we are all feeling.  There is no disgrace in feeling isolated or lonely, because you very much are not alone in feeling that.  Talking to people can quickly bring perspective and humour to the situation.

Try and enjoy it.  How often can you watch Only Fools and Horses all afternoon and not feel guilty about it?”

Brett Townsley & Chris Lemons.

 

 

 

The documentary Last Breath can be found here https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80215139 

It truly is a remarkable watch.

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The Effects of Social Media by Kirstin Murie

(Anti)Social Media

The days of your mum yelling at you to get off the internet so she could use the phone seem so far away, yet that was only at the start of the Millennia: A time where broadband installation discs were everywhere, silver coloured computers were all the rage and 1mb download speed was a luxury. As technology has improved over the years, so has internet accessibility and our connectivity to others. Today we are reported to spend 2h24m per day on social media, with 3.75 billion of us connecting with phones. It appears as though we are more connected than ever, yet this can bring about its own set of problems:

Always On

It used to be that you could clock out, leave your computer and emails behind, and completely separate your home and working life. Now more than ever, these lines are blurred. Phones have evolved from playing snake to being a miniature computer in your pocket: able to browse the internet, connect with the world and answer emails. It can be difficult to truly relax when a notification ping can happen any minute. This is coupled with instant gratification: we now expect things to be done within minutes of us requesting it.

Instant Gratification

As technology has improved, so has the speed at which we expect tasks to be completed. Many purchases and actions these days are instant: buying a new game, uploading a new picture to Instagram and video streaming to name a few. (Bonus fact: back in the day, you had to pause the YouTube video to let it load before you pressed play.)

This has also impacted the physical world, where we now seem to expect others to instantly respond to us and be at our beck and call; we expect our items to be delivered within 24h of ordering. Yet having to respond to others so quickly as expected may create a feeling of anxiety and one of missing out.

 

 

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Related to Always on and Instant Gratification is FOMO. Perhaps we are always checking our phones just in case we miss something and miss reacting to it. The advent of the infinite scroll only seems to make this worse as there is no endpoint, no time where you can be certain there are no more things to see or react to. To this end, we are always on and unfortunately seem unable to seek reprieve from this triad.

 

 

 

To enable you to switch off from social media there are a few techniques which can be used:

Install an App

There are a wide range of apps available which are able to block off social media, helping to give you space for a few hours to be mindful in the physical world.

Set Timings

Similar to installing an app, you may wish to set a specific time where you no longer look at work emails, helping to separate the home-work environment and help you feel more relaxed.

Expect Less

Understand that others are likely as overwhelmed with the amount of connectivity and would also like a break. If they take a few hours to respond to a message, that’s ok.

Take a First Aid for Mental Health Course

OSI offers a range of distance learning courses which not only help you identify and manage stress but are also recognised qualifications in the workplace. More here https://www.omniscientsafetyinnovations.com/distance-learning/

 

 

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Our First Billboard Campaign Aberdeen, Edinburgh & Glasgow

We are proud to be able to showcase are billboard via Ocean Outdoor screens across Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow

Systemic Mental Health Solutions is just one of our mental health services

Design created by Kirstin Murie, we are extremely proud to present this

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Mental Health Post Covid-19

MENTAL HEALTH POST COVID-19

         

With the inevitable surge in mental health issues expected after COVID-19, how prepared is your organisation?

When we leave isolation, return to work and begin the new normal post COVID-19 the collective mental health of the UK’s workforce will be unsettled at best.  The impacts of sustained periods of isolation, extreme levels of anxiety and stress coupled   with significant changes to our lives, whether that be loss of loved ones, job losses or financial loss will mean organisations that   wish to survive and thrive in this post COVID-19 environment will need to adapt to the new needs of their workforce.

Proactive Vs Reactive

With current estimated figures of at least 1 in 4 presenting a mental health problem expected to rise significantly in the coming months, will employee assistance programs be suitable or adequate to cope with the ever-changing circumstances.  These programs tend to operate at crisis or struggling stages, when an employee is no longer able or experiencing extreme difficulty in functioning normally, a purely reactive measure that is heavily reliant on the employee to be able to identify the key signs of the issue within themselves.  However, if the organisation does not provide the education required to arm the employee with the required skills to identify the signs of mental health issues, then what do we really expect.

An independent study by the House of Lords found that investment in proactive mental health workplace solutions was actually beneficial for business, by reducing costs and absenteeism while increasing productivity and morale.  In fact, it was estimated to create savings of around 30%, in the post COVID-19 work climate these savings could increase massively.  Essentially the adage rings true prevention is better than a cure, if we tackle mental health issues at work in the coping stage, we will have a far greater success rate.

Trust

The Health & Safety Executive reported that stress, depression or anxiety are accounted for most days lost due to work-related ill health at 12.8 million in 2018/19.  On average, each person suffering took around 15.1 days off work.  While theses statistics are extremely high, how accurate are they, after all how many people do not report genuine mental health issues as the reason for absenteeism.  Our work with Bath University Health Psychology actually estimates that 30-40% of all absenteeism can be linked to work related mental health issues, so when assessing your companies absentee data consider taking a second look using the 30% as a marker to get a more accurate picture of root cause for the sickness rate.  The barriers to honest data, include stigma, a lack of knowledge and understanding, perception blindness, call out culture and corporate cognitive dissonance.

The Employee Wellbeing 2018 research study found that of all employees (questioned) 95% when calling in sick with stress would give a different reason, and 58% would trust strangers before their line management when declaring stress issues.  These are only set to worsen as we return to the post COVID-19 workplace unless organisations take proactive measures.

It’s very clear from the statement by Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, that we must now move towards preventative measures “The HSE needs to do much more in looking at how organisations either prevent emotional hazards or recognise their causes early so mitigations can be put in place,” he noted “This is so much trickier to achieve when anyone’s mental health is a pendulum on a sliding scale from healthy, to coping, to struggling and then ill health.  Being preventative means we must find applications at the coping stage, not wait to the struggling stage, when existing popular controls kick in.

“More than this, we need to look for emotional mitigations, rational and more typical controls such as policy, procedure and process are not necessarily the most effective. The HSE needs to start to analyse and enforce on organisations if they have inadequate preventative measures in place. After all, mental harm from emotional hazard does fall under the HSWA.”

Talk to the team at OSI about creating a bespoke mental health workplace solution that can create a thriving, productive and healthy post COVID-19 environment

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Distance Learning First Aid for Mental Health

We have adapted our skills and added distance learning to our website.

With lockdown being extended due to COVID-19, isolation will be having an impact on all of us. Our loved ones, peers and work colleagues maybe struggling with mental health and wellbeing.

Our distance learning courses are designed to help you recognise possible mental health concerns and how to approach those displaying symptoms, not only in the workplace but personally too.

Booking online could not be easier and can be started as soon as registration is complete.

  • Level 1 Awareness of First Aid for Mental Health
  • Level 2 First Aid for Mental Health
  • Level 3 Supervising First Aid for Mental Health

Courses are broken down into self-learning and trainer supported sections.

Resources include,

  • Webinars 
  • Slide Presentations
  • Reference Material
  • Videolinks 
  • Professional Discussion Video Assessment

More information can be provided upon request.

 

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We Went Live With Mini Medics

    

After recently holding our Mini Medics intro session on our Facebook page we were overwhelmed by the response we received.

With COVID-19 rapidly changing the lives of us all we wanted to provide a much needed break from the current pandemic.

Brett our Director put together an intro session to share some very important life saving skills with the children.

but we did not anticipate the response to be quite as successful as it was.

It really has brightened our day receiving images of the young ones getting involved and taking part.

We hope to see many more of you on our next session.

Look out for the event on our Facebook page.

 

 

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Abi Clarke from MISS (Miscarriage Information Support Service), First Aid for Mental Health

At OSi we realise the importance of not only effective mental health workplace strategies but also the benefits that well planned effective approaches can bring to charities and peer support groups.

That is why for the last few months the dedicated team at MISS the Miscarriage Information Support Service have undergone level 1 and 2 training in Mental Health First Aid.

It’s been a pleasure to help this team develop skills they can apply in their roles

We are pleased to open our blog to Abi from MISS to explain a little about what they do.
“My name is Abi Clarke and I am Chairperson/Founder of the charity, MISS (Miscarriage Information Support Service).
MISS is a support service for women and men who have suffered a miscarriage,
As well as Director for events management and wedding planning business, AC Weddings & Events.
MISS has two monthly support groups, a 24/7 phone service and active social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and instagram.
We have also recently started support for “Next Pregnancies”.
I approached Brett Townsley, Director from Omniscent Safety Innovations as we were keen to study and learn about Mental Health First Aid.
Brett was also highly recommended by local businesses and colleagues.
We were particularly interested to do this for our members, telephone service and support groups.
I am delighted to say that myself, Anna Rist and Claire Taylor have passed the Level 1 and 2 training.
MISS highly recommends Omniscient Safety Innovations ltd,
This training – plenty of case studies and life experiences as well as explaining how it relates to MISS. We enjoyed the role play and learned on areas we need to improve”
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The Sam Lobban Trophy by Liam Cronin

We have opened up our blog to our guest Liam today.

Liam has gone above and beyond in trying to help remove mental health stigma and raising funds to support CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) & Mental Health Aberdeen (MHA).

We have been able to provide Liam with donations for the raffle and continue offering support for the event. If you can help in any way please see the bottom of blog for contact details.

“My name is Liam Cronin and I am the organiser behind The Sam Lobban Trophy.  A sevens style rugby tournament hosted annually in Aberdeen at Aberdeen Wanderers RFC home ground, in order to raise funds for Mental Health Aberdeen MHA.Sam was a great friend of mine, he was an incredible individual and a truly amazing friend. Sam sadly passed away in 2018 following a battle with his mental health.  Male suicide and mental health is a big issue that can’t be ignored any longer. It’s unacceptable that so many men are dying from suicide on a daily basis.

I wanted to do something to not only celebrate his life but also try raise awareness and funds in his name.As Sam was a big rugby fan and an exceptional player, I felt it was only right to organise a rugby tournament in his honour.

The event grew in its second year due to the massive amount of support shown through sponsors and donations.

Special thanks to all those that have made this possible; Aberdeen Wanderers RFC, Russell Gibson Financial Management, Mental Health Aberdeen, Specialist Valve Services.

Being able to include the Mental Health Aberdeen logo on the team shirt, really helped to bring home what the day is all about.

An incredible total of £3000.04 was raised for Mental Health Aberdeen (MHA). Which in turn is the equivalent of 75 individual counselling sessions.   

This year I’m looking to expand tournament further, including bringing more teams to the tournament itself. 

On the event day we hope to have a food area, beer tent and music. As well as providing a family friendly area for the younger spectators followed by a raffle to finish it off.

The selected date is the 25th of July. The event starts at 12pm and the first kick off will be 1pm. 

It was decided that moving forward with this tournament that Mental Health Aberdeen (MHA) would be the chosen charity partner. MHA played a massive part in the success of last year’s event.

As this is a local charity it means all the money raised in Sam’s name will go back into the area and help those in need. This year marks Mental Health Aberdeen’s 70th birthday, so please join me and help make this year’s tournament a success and help raise as much funds as possible for this fantastic charity and help make it a special birthday. 

For regular updates on this year’s tournament please visit the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/540414649888934/?notif_t=plan_user_joined&notif_id=1578649455207873

If you wish to make a donation for the raffle or would like to hear some more information about the day or sponsorship packages available, please email myself at thesamlobbantrophy@gmail.com 

If you sadly can’t join us on the day or simply wish to make a donation, please do so using this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/slt2020

Finally, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

I hope you can join us on the day and fingers crossed we get good weather! Please remember that it’s ok to not be ok.

Liam”