As the results of the 5th annual wellbeing and mental health survey of the psychological professions are released at the New Savoy Partnership conference... important questions are being asked about how we go forward in supporting our workforce.
in2gr8mentalhealth is a Pathfinder site for staff wellbeing, a part of the British Psychological Society and New Savoy Partnership foray into understanding the wellbeing needs of our mental health workforce. What do we want? Is it enough to raise awareness and destigmatise? What about some structural changes or additions to what is offered out there to those in our workforce who are being challenged by difficult times?
A dedicated service, I feel, could offer a stratified range of support, from peer support to formal sessions. Where psychological formulation was offered, these could usefully include not only a mapping of personal pain, but also the impact of deleterious work environment factors (as burnout is rife in our underresourced workplaces and triggering) and also the impact of the stigma of being a healthcare professional asking for help (see findings from UCL's Stigma Research unit). A good psychosocial formulation could take these factors into consideration...let's do this properly!
But it's not just how the service met the individual in understanding their distress in current social contexts that would be important, it's also how it could become a hub for problem solving issues currently under the spotlight, as confidentiality during referral and support to secondary or inpatient care. I understand that pathway agreements are not consistent or always formalised across the country, nor has it always been easy to manage staff privacy if you are in need of further support and live and work locally. Perhaps being met compassionately by a colleague at a time of great distress on a ward may be restorative to some, but difficult for others, also colleagues knowing you are in distress might be ok on one level, but potential hearing of the nuts and bolts of your personal history? Another matter. For some, complete privacy may be important.
So, when it comes to thinking of what do we need, there are many things that could cluster around how a service might support: formulations of distress taking stock of the research and issues on what it's like being a mental health professional accessing help, and potentially a working hub to further expound a UK-wide strategy critiquing and advising on integrated thoughtful referral pathways.
What are your thoughts?
Dr Natalie Kemp