• Dr. Natalie Kemp CPsychol

Salomons Clinical Psychology Trainees First To Work On Practitioner Self Care / Mental Health Plans


In the light of the 2015 Staff Wellbeing Surveys by The British Psychological Society (BPS), The New Savoy Conference (NSC) and University College London (UCL) showing psychologist mental health and wellbeing was of concern, I set up the in2gr8mentalhealth website to support those mental health professionals with lived experience of mental ill health who, like me, have felt stigmatised and silenced, because the commonly shared experience of mental ill health in our humanity, is not supposed to apply to those who practice. The helper must forever be the helper, be well and immune from human struggles even when difficult things happen in life. This though is an untenable position, not least because we are humans first and practitioners second, but also we work in services which continue to remain over-demanded and under- resourced. The pressures of conducting work with distress in settings where clinical supervision may be short cut or deemed less/un necessary, where safe team bases of peer support may have been replaced with hot-desking and increased lone working, and where lived experience of mental ill health is stigmatised and consonant with competency problems instead of leading to normalised, compassionate routes to support at first signs of squeezed capacity; all this leaves us increasingly vulnerable to burnout and distress. Staff well-being will continue to be the 'hot topic' of 2018.

Wellbeing projects and good practice across UK Trusts are being shared through the Collaborative Learning Network of the BPS and the NSC. It is essential to promote open conversations about mental health, not only in the wider community as we are seeing through the 'Time to Talk' and 'Heads Together' campaigns, but also within mental health staffing itself. Lived experience of mental ill health, whether past or current is to be normalised as part of the human spectrum of experience, and stigma about struggling needs to be stamped out. Professionals themselves need to have confidence in supportive systems, whereby they can seek help without judgement and with compassion. The earlier staff feel able to speak out, without fear and guilt, the better for their wellbeing and the smooth running of the system of supporting others. Supervision, case management, flexible working, rest and recovery, advocacy and employment rights need to be simply accessible and understood.

During a workshop I was giving recently, to first year clinical psychology trainees at Salomons, Canterbury Christ Church University, I asked the trainees to help discuss various self care plans and sharing options. To see them working so thoughtfully on something I hoped I would be able to return to implement when I was ill, was very moving. It was happening. I am happy to say I have found funding to make the personal mental health and wellbeing guidebooklet for trainees that I had planned in my head and it will be disseminated to all DClinPsych training courses. Trainees may decide whether or not to use it to support conversations about wellbeing in supervision. I have upcoming trainees in mind who will continue to fledge into the challenging environment of an increasingly pressurised NHS. These trainees did such a wonderful job, that with their permission we took photos of the work and I will add their thoughts with all due credit to the designing of the booklet in the first quarter of 2018. I hope to be able to speak to the Group of Trainers in Clinical Psychology about how the booklet could help on the course.

As the members of the in2gr8mentalhealth forum see it, the way forward is to normalise of the experience of mental ill health amongst us all, to do this at the earliest opportunity in training, to speak to regulators about the stigma that is felt and ask them how they can help, and to strive to harness all knowledges (lived and trained experience) about mental ill health, so we can develop better services and wellbeing for us all. We are strongest together.

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