We all have mental health in the same way we all have physical health - it's important to look after both

By Lydia Hopkinson

Our Customer Service Advisor, Lydia Hopkinson, explains the very personal reason why she first volunteered as a Mental Health First Aider – and how important it is that we all #KeepTalking.

I decided to volunteer as Mental Health First Aider for two quite personal reasons. 

Firstly, my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the very young age of 58. I had three young children at the time, one of whom was still only a baby. It was a difficult time for our family, but I was very lucky with the support I received from both my doctor and Centrica. I received counselling which helped me significantly – and then in turn, helped me to support my mum. It made me realise the importance of talking about things and asking for help when you need it.

Secondly, I did some volunteer work for Witness Support and I found that I really enjoyed talking to people and that they seemed to enjoy talking with me and opening up about themselves. This, coupled with 23 years’ experience chatting with customers and colleagues at British Gas seemed like a good combination to put myself forward.

I’ve always had a healthy outlook on life and tried to balance my work, family and health. I’ve discovered through my own experiences that if one side of the work/life balance tips in to the other, it can have an increasingly negative impact on your wellbeing.

I have noticed that our company always tried to encourage employees to maintain this balance; eat more fruit, have a hobby outside work, get a good night’s sleep etc… so having mental health support seemed like the clear next step. Being part of Centrica and working in the Leeds office, it’s always been clear that they embraced their mental Health role from day one and set support up very quickly. As a site we have also moved from 4 mental health advisors to 7 since the launch. 

Personally, the thing I enjoy most about the role is visibly being able to see the relief on someone’s face that they have been able to unload their concerns and know that someone else has listened. One of the things I hear over and over again is that people just want to talk but feel like they are being a burden on friends and family if they mention they are struggling. Some people, especially men, worry that they are showing a weakness if they ask for help in any way, so it is rewarding to see them chatting in a confidential environment and getting the help they need. 

I’m looking forward to continuing to help my colleagues as best as I can in my role and I will continue to contact those that need help with advice in the future.

 

Notes

*It is important to recognise that MHFAs do not provide therapy or clinical intervention/diagnosis and are not able to offer ongoing support.  If ongoing support is required, MHFAs can signpost to the relevant professional services.

The role of a Mental Health First Aider involves:

  • Promoting positive mental health by encouraging people to talk openly about mental health issues

  • Spotting the early signs and symptoms of mental and /or emotional distress

  • Encouraging people to access appropriate support services (both internal and external) and escalating where necessary