After more than a year of working-at-home for many people, Maria Sekertzi, a Mental Health Advocate, shares her experiences of supporting colleagues remotely.

Maria Sekertzi
Associate Relationship Manager
10 May 2021
2 min read

I’ve always found that people open up to me, perhaps because I’m a good listener. So becoming a Mental Health Advocate was a really natural role for me to sign-up to.

The role of the Mental Health Advocate is about raising awareness and sign posting colleagues to internal and external support routes. So far, the programme has 2,000 colleagues signed up as Mental Health Advocates which will eventually grow to 2,500. That’s roughly one advocate to 30 colleagues.

The Advocates training programme has been developed and delivered alongside our charity partner, Mental Health UK. The programme, co-developed with colleagues, looks at the main issues affecting colleagues and equipping them with the skills and knowledge to protect their mental health.
 

The impact of coronavirus

The pandemic has derailed everybody’s lives, throwing us all into unprecedented uncertainty and worry.

I’ve noticed an increased need for support by colleagues. Consistent signposting to various resources has been key to reach as many colleagues as possible. We’ve done this through a range of virtual methods, like email, video messages or on team calls.

Of course, the main fundamentals are still the same as when we were in the office - being a good listener without judgment and showing empathy.
 

Maria teaching a tai chi class to colleagues in 2017.

Before the pandemic, I’d be holding regular tai chi and meditation sessions for colleagues in the office, at team meetings and internal conferences. The combination of meditation and tai chi helps colleagues to switch off, relax and regain focus.

Since lockdown began in 2020, I’ve begun running these classes bi-weekly at lunchtime to get people away from their screens,to move, stretch and have a laugh.

 

As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I’ve shared three simple tips for how colleagues can look after each others wellbeing remotely.

  1. Observe and listen. When talking on the phone or video calls, it can sometimes be difficult to judge a person’s body language – that’s why it’s even more important to be a present and active listener.
  2. Offer a chat over a virtual coffee. It can make a big difference to everyone’s day. The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year is nature, so why not take time to get out outside, and chat whilst you walk.
  3. If a colleague is really struggling, point them in the direction of some internal or external resources. Mental Health UK have a wealth of help and information on their site which might help.
Two women sitting talking in a meeting room

Your mental health

If you have a concern about your own mental health, or the mental health of someone you know, there are lots of places you can go for confidential help and support.

Visit the Mental Health UK website for more information.

Find help and support

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