St Helena encourages staff to take time to talk

This Mental Health Awareness Week, St Helena has introduced two new roles to encourage all staff and volunteers to take time to talk and express concerns: a Mental Health First Aider; and a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian.

The role of a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) is to support people in how to spot the first signs and symptoms of mental ill health and to provide help on a first aid basis. They will listen, reassure and respond, just like physical first aiders do, and will provide short-term help and support until they can signpost the individual to professional help.

The Freedom to Speak Up Guardian (FTSUG) is the point of contact for anyone wanting to discuss a bullying or misconduct issue or concerns relating to patient safety and experience. If an individual doesn’t feel comfortable talking to their line manager about an issue, they can go to the FTSUG who will work with them to advise, guide and help them to seek a resolution, or can signpost them to the correct person to deal with the issue, or in some cases, can take the issue forward on their behalf.

Jo Tonkin, St Helena’s Director of Care, said: As an organisation committed to supporting our staff and volunteers, we want to ensure we are looking after their mental health, in the same way we do their physical health. We also want to provide a working environment where people feel safe to discuss any issues or concerns, whether that be around mental health, bullying, misconduct or patient safety.

Our organisational values include ‘respect’, ‘valuing conversations’ and ‘showing appreciation for all’ and we’re keen to drive home these values as much as we can in everything we do � and introducing these new roles is a part of that.

In the future, all businesses, as well as charities, should have staff trained in these areas and at St Helena we’re proud to be at the forefront of this, leading other hospices, charities and organisations in introducing these roles.

Jacquie Pamphilon, St Helena’s Performance and Staff Development Officer, has taken on the role of FTSUG, which is a role that is recommended by the CQC and National Guardians Office. She said: As the organisation’s coach, people already recognise that I have many confidential conversations, and I am happy to listen to and support individuals. Also, in my position, I work with all departments across St HHelena, and therefore have a good understanding of the organisation as a whole.

Laura Shukla, St Helena’s Head of Clinical Operations, has volunteered to be the MHFA. She said: I spent 13 years of my clinical career as an occupational therapist working in mental health so it seemed fitting for me to take on this additional role, helping staff to stay mentally well.

To spread the word internally about the new roles and to encourage staff and volunteers to speak up, Laura has organised ‘Chat & Cuppa’ informal drop-in events across St Helena’s different sites, which all staff and volunteers are welcome to attend to share concerns or find out more about how Laura can support them now or in the future.

St Helena has also displayed posters about the role around its different sites and is sharing updates regularly on Workplace, its internal communications forum, about the two new roles, as well as advice and tips on how to improve mental health and reduce stress.

Source: St Helena Hospice

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