Gearing up to support staff with mental health

UNISON members on the Isle of Wight have been getting equipped to support themselves and branch members

IOW members training on Teams

Health staff are suffering severe mental health problems such as panic attacks and having sleepless nights because of the pandemic, according to a recent survey undertaken by UNISON.

The findings reveal almost half (48%) of health employees including nurses, porters, paramedics, healthcare assistants and A&E staff across the UK have struggled to cope. In response to these worrying findings, the Isle of Wight Health Branch of UNISON decided to team up with the Isle of Wight NHS Trust Occupational Health Team for a training session on how to help members cope during the pandemic and beyond.

UNISON branch secretary and staffside lead Jay Chappell said: “Referrals to Occupational Health have really gone up during the pandemic, perhaps due to the mental and physical bombardment we have faced.

“As a branch, we wanted to equip ourselves to effectively support each other as a branch team and to better support our members facing difficulties.”

The specially designed course was delivered by Steve Sergeant, the mental health practitioner in the Trust Occupational Health team.

The training session covered

• How stress manifests itself and people’s responses to stress (both those which are positive e.g. stress management, diet, establishing sleep pattern/rhythm and those which are unhelpful e.g. increased caffeine intake, alcohol, sugar, reduced activity)

• The 5 levels of psychological wellbeing; physical; cognitive; social; emotional; spirituality (religion and/or hope) and how a breakdown in two or more of these can result in problems developing.

• The importance of diet, drinking enough water, eating a healthy breakfast and healthy snacks to both wellbeing and sleep patterns

• Assessing levels of anxiety and depression

• The impact of Covid on existing conditions such as PTSD

Jay added: “The mental health of so many health workers has been profoundly affected by the pandemic.

“UNISON Isle of Wight Health wanted to make sure that we are best placed to support our members who have had to live for over a year with the stress of seeing patients suffer and the constant worry about catching Covid themselves and passing it on to others.

“We hope that this training will help us really support our members throughout the next challenging phase and we would like to thank Steve Sergeant for his invaluable help.”