Archive | October, 2015

Rational & Humane Approach to Mental Health

29 Oct

It’s Geek Mental Health Week, so here are a few reflections over the biggest unaddressed health challenge that we are now facing.

mental health

Our approach to mental illness over a number of decades has been based on what I would call the psychiatric model. The model has medicalised mental illness and treated it as something to be dealt with using drug-based therapies.

Is this the right approach for this day and age? Social circumstances are obviously a big factor. It is clear that someone who has been made suddenly unemployed might feel miserable and hopeless as a result. The Greek Ministry of Health reported a 40% increase in deaths from suicide over the same timescale and studies have demonstrated how 1000 deaths here in the UK in 2012 could be specifically attributed to the economic crisis. This has several profound implications. It means that our psychological wellbeing is as much a problem for politicians as for health professionals. And it means we need to think differently about mental health itself. It’s obvious how the economic downturn could affect our mental health. It’s clear that someone who has been made suddenly unemployed might feel miserable and hopeless as a result.

These feelings might be so bad that they begin to interfere with other aspects of that person’s life, and it may be that they would benefit from some kind of professional help and support. But it makes little sense to describe their distress as an illness or a disorder. And we need to apply social and psychological – not medical – solutions. This means focussing on prevention and early intervention, on a ‘life-course approach’ and reducing inequality and tackling stigma.

Biological factors, social factors, circumstantial factors – our learning as human beings – affect us as those external factors impact on the key psychological processes that help us build up our sense of who we are and the way the world works. Good mental health is a consequence of how we make sense of and understand the world, primarily our social world. How we make sense of and understand the world is largely determined by our experiences and upbringing. Mental health services should be designed and commissioned to that end. We should simply drop the language of ‘disorder’ and think about we can help people fulfil their potential and maximise their personal well-being.

A more rational and humane approach

We should be commissioning and delivering much more fully integrated services. We should be linking with Jobcentre Plus employment advisers who are delivering what are effectively wellbeing interventions for people. We should be working with the education services. And we should be working with the physical health services. Employers should be involved as there’s plenty of evidence that interventions aimed at improving people’s well-being, not curing their mental illnesses is productive for employers. Evidence-based psychological therapies will be a key part of this picture, but we need a much more thorough-going psychosocial revolution in mental health care. It’s great that mental health is back in the news; and discussed in more positive terms than ever before. This is an opportunity not only to press for greater understanding and investment in science and care, but also to argue for a more rational and humane approach to the problem.

#connectingHRmcr n.8 + Ian’s 50th celebrations

14 Oct

Tonight was the night of connectingHRmcr and I quickly want to jot this down, before I forget what emotions I felt at this successful 8th Tweetup. I’m probably going to sound like a teenager writing in her diary and I might learn the lesson of not writing anything down past 11pm and after a few glasses of wine, but I don’t want this feeling to go.

It was a while since the last #connectingHRmcr and I was so grateful to see the amount of old and new Tweeps that turned up. It is always incredible to see how naturally this happens. Thanks everyone for creating such a friendly atmosphere. I think you could feel the warmth and love in the room.

This Tweetup was a bit unusual from our previous one as we also wanted to celebrate Ian Pettigrew in a special way. On Saturday he celebrates 50 wonderful years and we had to organise something special for him. We had to give some background around Ian and recognise him not just in front of some of his good Twitter friends, but also in front of strangers that were attending their first ever #connectingHRmcr event.

Nearly 3 years ago Ian and I met for the first time, after being Twitter friends for a while. We had many of the same connections and one desire, to meet our HR followers in person. We had heard of Tweetups organised in London and we went ahead and replicated it in Manchester. Since then we have not only met our followers, but we made great friends and connections. In so many ways, so many of our lives changed for the best. It’s soppy, but true.

People that know Ian, know how positive he always is, in fact every night he looks back at his day and thinks about at least 3 things that have gone well. This is a positive psychology technique that some of us use on Twitter with the hashtag #3goodthings. Our one and only Appreciateologist Dawn (yes, that’s one hell of a job title) came up with the fantastic idea of collating #50goodthings about Ian, for his 50th birthday!

The result was explosive (and OF COURSE we got more than 50!!) Thank you to everyone that took part and I’m really sorry for missing some people out.

ians present

A simple idea + a magnificent technology enabler Mike, who with his design skills came up with the fantastic way of displaying the #50goodthings and there you have it: a perfect mix of thoughtfulness and a true account of who @kingfishercoach is. He is all of it: the great friend, coach, the kind and positive person and the beans on toast, the strategic lattes, Happy Valley and Jake + Sue. That is a testament to how authentic he is both online and offline.

I could see that he was struggling to take it all in and I know how it feels. Sometimes, especially in our profession, from business/personal coaches to HR, we are used to make people feel special, giving them the tools to perform better and encouraging them, by pointing out all the great stuff that they have already achieved. We teach them how to give positive and constructive feedback to their team members to get the best out of them and we try and make them feel that they can achieve absolutely anything. It’s hard to sit back and take in great feedback about ourselves.

I realised this when I was one of the 400 people to be nominated as part of out V-Fest at If you haven’t heard what happened, we had a weeks’ long Values Festival to try and define our company’s values. You can read more about it here. One of the activities was to nominate someone that personified the values and to explain why. Not only I was nominated, but I was one of the 10 winners. I have received the video of the Awards ceremony this week and my face and reaction taught me exactly this. We work behind the scene and we do great stuff and our recognition is our work, but boy it feels good (and weird!) to be properly recognised for it. It’s powerful stuff and it can teach us a lot. I most definitely did not expect that and it has been the highlight of my career so far.
Processed with Moldiv

We are humble enablers, that preach recognition, but are surprised to get it. Well take it all in Ian, enjoy your #50goodthings and all the love and appreciation for you at #connectingHRmcr and all throughout this week. You deserve it and happy birthday!