According to mental health charity Mind, at least one in six workers can experience common mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. To mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October, we spoke to two of GHA’s mental health first aiders, Joyce Garratt, Contracts Manager and Rob King, Associate, to find out more about the crucial support they provide for our staff.
Joyce explains what being mental health first aider means for her: “We work in a demanding sector so it’s important to have a support network. I’ve been at GHA a long time and lots of people know me and feel comfortable talking to me. My reason for wanting to help others was very personal, and simply that when my own mother got seriously ill and her health got worse, I realised what a toll that was taking on my own mental health and how the support and understanding of colleagues, family and friends really helped me get through it. This made me appreciate how crucial it is that we have support in the practice to help individuals through difficult times, regardless of their position and how long they have worked with us.”
Rob points out that being a mental health first aider has improved his own awareness and made him question his own pre-conceptions: “We attended a Mind training course and learned how one in four people experience some form of mental health issue – although I think it’s probably higher than that. When we did the course it was for as much for our own circumstance and benefit as well as aid the office. This made me realise that our colleagues’ mental health should be seen to be as important to their wellbeing as their physical health.”
Joyce says they’ve helped a number of people over the last year: “We are here to listen and help anyone who has any type of problem. That could be anxiety, stress, depression or financial worries and we’ve helped several individuals seek help from the Architects’ Benevolent Society. It’s great that with some support and advice we were able to help people who would have otherwise just struggled along by themselves.”
Work-life balance within the practice is important for everyone Rob says, “Everyone comes to work with some form of responsibility or stress, it’s a part of everyday life now. I think a big part of our role is to help people who are struggling achieve a balance. Also, Covid has made people realise they may not be as resilient as they first thought as it’s forced them to change the way they live their daily lives.
We are fortunate at GHA to have a fantastic team and before Covid hit us we regularly organised de-stressing activities such as football, softball, family days out and art club, which forced us to leave on time and have some fun with our colleagues outside the office.”
Joyce sums up: “We like to think of ourselves as a GHA family and creating that second family support network is a really crucial and positive thing within the practice.”