What do you do at Mind?
My job title is ‘Information Content Manager’. I manage the team that researches and writes about mental health for Mind. I make sure that what Mind tells the world about mental health is on the mark, factually accurate, a realistic representation and reflects the lived experience of those of us with mental health problems. It’s a privilege and a responsibility to do this. It means balancing the different models of mental health in what we say and making sure we’re living up to the very high standards we set for ourselves. I work with colleagues and contacts to make sure that we’re reaching as many people as we can, from all parts of society. Whoever you are, and however you think of mental health, we’re there for you when you need us.
What does a day in the life at Mind look like for you?
A few meetings, a bit of writing or checking of mental health content (either for us or for another team or organisation), a bit of reading about mental health, a lot of organising on spreadsheets, calendars, chat channels! I work closely with the editorial team, who make sure the information on our website is updated on time, and that what we provide is clear. We’re always looking for new ways to do things and scrutinising our data to find out how effectively we’re helping people who use the website.
What kind of work did you do before working with Mind?
I was at a different national charity, working with disabled people and providing information and advice. Writing web information but also providing it on the helpline and via digital forums. There’s a significant chunk of overlap between disabled people and those who are experiencing mental health problems, and the intersects are significant. Some people with mental health problems will be so affected by them that they meet the equality act definition of disability, and some disabled people will also experience mental health problems on top of or as a secondary consequence of their status as a disabled person. Both groups are also more likely to experience discrimination, isolation, social stigma, face financial difficulties, need information about their health and social care rights and how to navigate health services and employment barriers.
What’s the best part of your job?
I love seeing a new information product come to life and get published on the website, so, for instance, most recently our page on managing feelings about lockdown easing and tips and advice on where to find support. It’s so satisfying to know how thoroughly it was researched and considered, that we can completely stand behind every word that we wrote, and to know how many people have collaborated to make sure it’s as helpful as possible. I also love it when our information pages are mentioned or referenced by other organisations, celebrities, or in news pieces. It means we’re reaching more people, and that those third parties see Mind as the credible voice of mental health and recognise the added value of our content to their audiences.
What do you think would surprise people most about your job?
So, there’s a bit at the bottom of every info page that asks, ‘was this useful?’ and if you click the thumbs up/down button, you are given an option to leave some feedback. I think it might surprise people to know just how closely this sort of feedback is examined and considered. From suggestions on new topics we should cover, emotional reactions to our phrasing, even individual word choices. My team reads everything people tell us; we know that mental health is full of nuance, and it genuinely helps us to get it right for more people.
What are some simple things people can do if they start to feel their mental health needs to be worked on?
I think keeping a journal or diary or using a mood tracking app, can be really useful for getting an overall look at how you’re doing. It’s handy because you can spot patterns or triggers for feeling bad, and that can be a useful prompt for thinking about how you can work on it.
Mental Health is gaining more funding and attention than ever before, how can people help the cause?
It’s true that we’ve made some tangible progress in recent years to lift the taboo around mental health and the general narrative about talking about mental health is so much more established now. But there is still a lot of work to do before we can say that everyone with a mental health problem is supported and respected. Especially for certain groups – for example, children & young people, older people, BAME people and people who have been held under section. Being sectioned means being held against your will under the Mental Health Act, with little or no say over what happens to you. There are lots of ways to support mental health campaigns; via Mind’s campaign page, by supporting local Mind shops and branches, and internationally through the Time to Change campaign. Become an activist, donate, fundraise, volunteer, share your story, and engage with your workplace mental health support structures.
What advice would you give someone who wants to help someone struggling with their mental health?
I would say that you’d be surprised how often just being available is enough. Listening and offering reassurance, staying calm and patient, not making assumptions or trying to ‘fix’ the problem, and maintaining social contact (e. g. keep inviting them to things, and chat about other areas of life) – it’s really basic but it helps. Sometimes it can feel like a very heavy weight to be someone’s ‘person’ and it is vital that you only offer what you feel you can, and make sure you’re taking care of yourself too. There’s also lots of information and advice about supporting someone else on the Mind website!
What advice would you give to people who are worried about coronavirus and coming out of lockdown?
Expect to feel weird about it! Most of us are feeling a bit conflicted, even if we’re also very much looking forward to being able to hug our friends and grab a coffee together. Ease back into non-lockdown-life at a pace that feels right for you and do it gradually. There is no ‘correct’ emotional response to a pandemic, so feel free to set your own terms.
What are some key things people can do to relieve stress and anxiety?
Talking to someone you trust, keeping a diary, or ‘offloading’ worries (e. g. by writing them down and putting them somewhere, or setting aside ‘designated worry time’ in the day) can all help. Taking care of your diet and making time for some physical activity – that’s all good stuff too, and there’s evidence to say it helps. It’s not just one of those things people say!
What are some of your favourite things that Mind do?
Great question! Mind honestly does so many different things and I don’t think I could list them all if I tried – I’m always learning about a new project popping up or a new idea in development. But personally, I’d pick Mind’s script advice service. It’s a service where writers and producers working on films or TV shows can get Mind’s advice and input on storylines which depict mental health. This helps to make sure that the issues being represented are done so accurately, in a way that does not stigmatise mental health and rings true for people who have lived experience of that issue. And, unlike some other organisations who might want a consultancy fee, Mind does this for free, because we recognise the huge social change value in opportunities to influence these portrayals.
We love Crafternoon at Zoella, what’s your favourite craft?
I’m from a very crafty family, so that’s a hard choice! But from a mental health point of view, I’ve always found decoupage to be very relaxing. Cutting up bits of jazzy paper and sticking them onto a box or something like that – it’s great because you have something to show for your time and a sense of achievement at the end, but the activity itself is quite sensory and doesn’t require any thinking or much creativity. That’s my ideal craft!!
What advice would you give to our audience for looking after their mental health this summer?
I think getting through 2020 is going to leave most of us with at least a few mental health bruises and some of us are probably going to struggle. I live with a long term condition that requires pretty vigilant monitoring, and each time I become unwell, it’s horrible but I’m noticing that I can usually learn something new about what works for me and what doesn’t do me any good. So I’d say that being very gentle with yourself, accepting that this is a really weird time and bad spells are entirely likely. Slowing everything down a notch and cutting yourself some slack (you may have more free time but don’t beat yourself up for not learning Latin!) and taking a moment to spot things that do you good, and things that don’t. And hopefully, we can all walk into 2021 with some optimism and armed with some gems of personal wisdom too.
If you find yourself really struggling and need some help, please, please talk to your GP. Mind recently did a survey looking into people’s mental health during lockdown and we found that lots of people feel like they shouldn’t ‘bother’ the NHS right now – which is heartbreaking. I was on a webinar a few weeks ago with a bunch of GPs and health professionals who said their consultations with patients had changed – patients weren’t asking for help for things like anxiety and depression in the same numbers as they were before coronavirus; but that those who were having appointments were struggling with really severe, distressing mental health issues. So, my advice is don’t let it get to crisis point – your GP is there for you, and wants to help, right now. It’s not always easy having that first conversation about your deepest feelings with your GP, someone you may hardly know. Find the Words with Mind’s handy guide here.