Chair: Martin Gill

Harmeet Anand PCC – Executive Ontological Coach (India)
Pippa Seed – Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) Instructor at Mental Health Training by Pippa Seed (UK)
Philip Ingram – Founder and Managing Editor at Grey Hare Media and Consultant (UK)
Yolanda Hamblen – Account Director at DS Security Operations (UK)

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Key points

Yolanda Hamblen notes that in the world of manned guarding people often work on their own, in roles which require discipline, undertaking diligent duties and routine ones and in times of crisis therefore the need for personal contact and support is greater than ever. Never has it been more important for senior leaders in the industry to touch base at the times when officers are isolated and potentially lonely, when negative thoughts can most easily creep in, such as in the night. Being proactive, Yolanda argues, is also about creating an environment where people feel they can talk about their mental health. At the end she invites us to consider how many staff have self-assessed for mental health issues in this crisis? The answer to that gives an insight into where organisations and society are in dealing effectively with mental health.

Harmeet Anand is a specialist in helping people with their well-being, she is an ontological coach, and helps people to explore their ‘internal landscape’, including at the emotional level. You will witness her discuss the need to approach conversations in business settings differently recognising that many people face personal problems and these can be pushed to the foreground in times of crisis; you have to look for them. Working from home poses challenges, and Harmeet advocates strong boundaries between work and home, and being sure that these are respected, leaders must focus on how people feel, and take time to show understanding. Recognising stress in people from a distance is a challenge and there are techniques one can use such as looking for eye contact and noticing unusual breathing patterns. While some may be reticent about coming forward, it is worth remembering that (in some countries at least) the law protects them. There is also a nod to the value of meditation and yoga.

Philip Ingram notes that mental health issues are very common, that is before people are placed in stressful situations such as those brought about in this crisis. Yet there is a stigma to talking about it, even now, but like any illness by catching it earlier it is easier to treat; it is normal and treatable. The inherent stresses and dangers of the working from home culture of the present day can be managed by: reinforcing boundaries between home and work; having a routine and sticking to it; making efforts to prepare for work in the same way so dressing accordingly; making time for oneself including taking exercise and getting out; and by looking after each other. Those suffering could start by talking to family and friends, trusted colleagues, one’s GP, and there are also many charities, some specialists, who help people. Philip also notes that society needs to get a grip on this issue.

Pippa Seed reminds us mental health is part of overall health, but an area where people don’t do self care quite so often. People are different and so are the problems they face and this impacts on how different people cope. This means we need to be sensitive in understanding mental health. People have broken their routines, working from home may mean the drink with friends or visits to the gym have gone and routines are important, in many ways people are having to adapt to new circumstances. Pippa encourages us to ask deeper questions of colleagues and listen to people and calls on organisations to do more to embrace mental health. The public too need to be engaged. Pippa encourages people to understand individual concerns and to do that before offering advice; help from public sources may be limited but charities are again singled out for being available.   

The advice of this panel should be heeded. The panelists unite on the lack of understanding and support for those with mental health issues. While this permeates through all levels of society, things are beginning to change. And there is a lot that can be done. Identifying problems early, showing understanding, setting good examples, creating supportive cultures are good for tackling mental health issues, but they are also good for business too.

Martin Gill
11th August 2020

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