Meet your Mental Health First Aiders

Helping others motivates Executive Assistant Sarah Gascoigne…

Going that extra mile for colleagues is something Sarah Gascoigne is used to doing.

As an existing member of our Staff Partnership Group (SPG), stepping forward to be a Mental Health First Aider seemed a natural move.

In fact, this is something she has in common with a number of her fellow first aiders.

The SPG, open to all staff, holds meetings once a month and works together to find ways to make working at the CCG the best experience it can possibly be.

One of these initiatives was signing up for Time to Change, which focuses on improving attitudes towards mental health.

Having first aiders within the workplace, to offer a friendly point of contact and help offer guidance to anyone struggling in any way, is part of that pledge.

Sarah, Executive Assistant to the Director of ICP Development and Transformation, job shares with fellow Mental Health First Aider Jacquie Clements.

And like Jacquie, Sarah had also previously been a contact officer.

She has worked for the CCG for 15 years.

“I started in an admin role and then moved to PALS.

“I also supported the mental health transformation team, so I had some experience in that.”

Sarah says she initially signed up to be a Freedom to Speak Up Champion, a role which also seeks to help people speak out when they find themselves in difficult and stressful situations.

“I could see there might be some similarities, overlaps in some of the work as a Freedom to Speak Up Champion and so I thought if I was doing that, then being a Mental Health First Aider would be a good idea.

“There might be situations, for example, like where a person might be bullied or suffering stress that both roles might be needed.”

Sarah, who lives in Ongar, said the most important aspect for her was being able to help anyone who came to her.

“I wanted to be able to be the person who could give the right advice and help, particularly if whoever comes to me has really had to pluck up the courage to make that call in the first place.”

She says this concern for others certainly began when she was a contact officer, a fore runner for the roles of Freedom to Speak Up Champions and Mental Health First Aiders.

The two-day training, says Sarah, was hugely informative – but tough going at times.

“Some of it was a bit distressing, but obviously those were extremes.

“We have to be prepared.”

The six first aiders are not restricted to just helping those in their department – you can approach whoever you feel most comfortable speaking to.

“I think if it was me, it would be easier to talk to someone I didn’t work with all the time so that is an important point to make.”

“Mental health issues have been a taboo for too long, I think it is so important to be open and transparent about these things,” says Sarah who fully admits coming into the office during the lockdown has been something which she has needed to maintain.

“I work part-time and so coming into the office was always a really important part of my week, that I looked forward to.

“I don’t like how quiet it is if I am working at home on my own, I needed to keep coming into work when I could.”

You can email Sarah or any of the other first aiders for a chat, support and guidance.

Sarah’s fellow first aiders are Steff Monk, Naomi Hunt, Anita Root, Emma Harnett and Jacquie Clements.

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