Colleagues from across the English Institute of Sport (EIS) came together virtually on Thursday 4 February 2021 to mark Time to Talk Day with an open conversation around the small things that can be done to encourage positive mental health.
Led by Sam Cumming, Acting Head of Mental Health at the EIS, and members of the Mental Health Expert Panel, the intention of the session was to provide an informal chance for staff to check in with one another and perhaps take away some practical tips to support their own mental health.
The Mental Health Expert Panel was formed by the EIS and UK Sport in December 2018 and was set up with the aim of providing advice and guidance to the whole of the high performance system on matters relating to mental health, whether that is working with an athlete, or supporting a sport with their mental health strategy or plans.
Joining the discussion from the panel were:
- Professor Alan Currie (Psychiatrist) – NHS Consultant Psychiatrist and Lecturer. Alan has worked in sport for almost 30 years, including with the International Olympic Committee.
- Dr Allan Johnston (Consultant Psychiatrist specialising in Sports Psychiatry) – also works with the League Managers’ Association, supporting the mental health of Premier League and WSL managers.
- Dr Amanda Gatherer (Clinical Psychologist) – current director of Psychological Services at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and mental health practitioner for ParalympicsGB.
Each of the experts started by sharing one thing they recommended to help aid positive mental health, with Professor Alan Currie encouraging everyone to try and find some separation between work and home during the ongoing pandemic.
He explained: “It’s very individual, because everyone’s home environment is very different, but one of the key things is remembering to finish work at the end of the day. There is something quite symbolic about putting your work away in a box and putting on the lid, a tiny little detail like that can make a real difference to someone.”
For Dr Allan Johnston, it was the importance of goal setting, whether in your personal or professional life: “Whatever it might be for you, it could within a relationship, something financial or physical, but setting small, achievable goals and monitoring progress towards them is something that I find really helpful.”
Dr Amanda Gatherer said finding new challenges had been key for her, but she also shared the merits of keeping a physical diary of her daily activities: “Just having that day written down and structured has enabled me to have a better sense of achievement and helped me to realise that I was still achieving while I was working from home. It can be hard to feel that sense of value in what you’re doing and you can feel isolated, so writing it down helped me to assess what I was doing and achieving day to day.”
Following further discussion and questions, Sam Cumming concluded by encouraging everyone on the call to take some time out of their day to check in on someone else:
“Protect some time in your day to connect with someone you’ve not spoken to in a while and just ask how they are, whether you give them a call or drop them a text, I would urge you to find the time to do that. It’s those small things that can make a big difference.”
Find out more about Time to Talk Day here.