It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is kindness – something we all need during these challenging times.

Here, Health and Safety Advisor and Mental Health First aider Zoe, tells us how she’s been helping colleagues improve their wellbeing during the pandemic.

Health and Safety Advisor Zoe Verhaeren-Roper

“I think it’s important to reach out to someone and let them know you’re there for them during the pandemic. Show them some kindness and consideration as you never know, you could be the one person that day who really makes a difference to the way they feel.”

 

What does your career at South East Water involve?

I’m one of the Health and Safety Advisors for the company, but I’m also a Mental Health First Aider. I’ve worked for South East Water for 10 years, and this year in particular I’ve seen attitudes change. It’s absolutely amazing and means that my role has also developed. I now get to champion mental health and wellbeing every day, something I’m extremely passionate about.

Why is it important to look after our mental health and wellbeing during this time?

It’s always important to look after our mental health and wellbeing, but especially during this challenging time. Our lives have changed significantly and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact this can have on us. As one of 31 Mental Health First Aider across the company, I’ve recently had lots of staff contacting me regarding their mental health. Thanks to all the hard work the company has put in surrounding wellbeing, I think colleagues now understand that it’s ok to not be ok, and they can come forward and ask for the help they need.

Sometimes just lending a non-judgemental ear is all that’s needed to help someone, but we can also signpost our staff to other external services.

How is South East Water looking after employee’s mental wellbeing?

As a company we’ve understood the impact the current climate can have on our colleagues and have been looking at different ways we can support them. We now have a wellbeing hub set up on our intranet with loads of great ideas of things people can do – not just for them but for their families too. This includes virtual zoo and museum tours, learning a new language or our very own online game show and a talent showcase. We’re also running a step competition called #WalkThisMay. This include prizes for the top steppers along with a prize for the best nature photograph. It’s a great way to make everyone feel valued and engaged, as well as improving our health and wellbeing.

One of our colleagues Margaret has also been doing daily phone calls to staff to check up on how they’re doing, and our Mental Health First Aiders are always on hand to listen to employee’s concerns.

Can you think of a story of a really nice example of kindness, at work or at home?

When talking with my colleagues lots have said to me that the hardest thing at the moment is not being able to see their friends and family. We’re all human and we thrive on human contact. It’s especially hard for those of us who live alone.

I recently popped into our head office and had a social distance chat with a colleague. She told me that because she lives alone she relies on her friends for hugs and so hadn’t had one in a really long time. I felt really bad as anyone who knows me knows that I’m always offering hugs to people who need one. However, because of social distancing I was unable to do this. When I got home I stumbled across ‘a hug in a box’ online and as a small gesture of kindness I sent one to the lady I spoke with in the office. It may not be as good as a real hug but I’m hoping it will put a smile on her face.

Do you have any tips to improve your wellbeing?

I think it’s important to reach out to someone and let them know you’re there for them during the pandemic. Show them some kindness and consideration as you never know, you could be the one person that day who really makes a difference to the way they feel.

Some of the wellbeing tips we’ve been suggesting to colleagues are:

  • Stay connected
  • Keep to a routine
  • Find ways to relax and be creative
  • If you’re feeling anxious or low try to find ways to bring comfort to yourself and seek help if you need to
  • Take care with news and social media
  • Try to keep active
  • Feed your brain

We can get through this. Together. One day at a time.

 


“It’s always important to look after our mental health and wellbeing, but especially during this challenging time. Our lives have changed significantly and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact this can have on us.”

 

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