Finding Time to Talk is now more important than ever

Posted on: 02/02/2021

On Time to Talk Day 2020, who could have predicted what the next year would bring?

After almost 12 months of lockdown; restrictions essential to keep us all safe but separating us from those we care about, making Time to Talk and having open conversations about how we’re feeling and our mental health is more important than ever.

Every one of us has been impacted by Coronavirus in some shape or form.

Some of us will have been affected by this terrible disease or know someone who has. And some of us have lost loved ones.

From anxiety over what it means for work, for our communities, and until the beginning of the vaccination programme, no idea when we may see life return to normal – it’s likely we have all struggled with the helplessness of the situation at times.

With many us unable to see family, friends and even colleagues being the other side of a computer screen, it is easy to feel isolated and cut off from the world. Social isolation can have a significant impact on how we feel and on our wellbeing. But to beat the Coronavirus, we must embrace isolation!  And for most of us, the impact of Coronavirus on our mental health will be its longest lasting effect, underlining why it is so important for us all to be more open about it.

While much progress has been made in recent years, the way we talk about our physical health compared to mental health still differs greatly.  Gas engineering is a physical job, and it’s easy – perhaps even a mark of honour – to say you’re ‘whacked’ or ‘worn out’ after a long day. Fewer colleagues, whether in the office or operations, would be just as open if they suspected they were living with anxiety, or depression – two of the most common mental health disorders.

We know we can’t change this on our own, but we’re committed to doing everything we can to let Team Wales & West Utilities know that they can be open about their mental health.

Our weekly Wellbeing Newsletter was introduced soon after the first lockdown last March. Each edition is packed with advice on taking care of ourselves, friends, family and colleagues. And they’re also a great outlet for colleagues who feel comfortable to share their experiences. We feel this proactive approach shows colleagues – even big burly gas engineers –  that they’re not on their own, and encourages people to speak up. For example, Josh, one of our emergency gas engineers, found Time to Talk with his own blog post on how he dealt with anxiety and depression. Most people learn better by watching and doing – hopefully Josh’s openness will help encourage other members of our team to address their mental health head on.

Alongside our newsletters, we’ve tried to encourage colleagues to have small conversations about mental health, even though they can’t be face to face.  We know that the more conversations we have, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down, helping to end the isolation, shame and worthlessness that too many of us with mental health problems are made to feel. Virtual wellbeing café sessions have been a chance for all our team, from engineers to administrators and everyone else in between to get together with a cuppa and a chat, something that I know is sorely missed by many. A problem shared is a problem halved and we’ve found the wellbeing café to be a great avenue for colleagues to talk about what they feel is weighing them down.

Today is Time to Talk day and usually, back office and operational colleagues would marking it by getting together, taking part in workshops, coffee mornings, and simply chatting to each other, whether at HQ in Newport or in one of our operational depots across Wales and the south west of England. 

We’ve kept the gas flowing safely in challenging times, and it’s just as important to keep conversations going too. So, this year we’re reminding colleagues that they can access extra support if they need it, and encouraging them to take Time to Talk virtually.

We’ll also be joined virtually by speakers from Marie Curie, talking about bereavement and loss. Although it can sound trite, we’ve all lost something in the last twelve months. Missed Christmases and birthdays, delayed weddings, cancelled graduations – they may sound insignificant, but they all have meaning. It’s important we all try and develop the skills we need to deal with the emotions of the last year.

Alongside helping our team deal with their own challenges, Marie Curie will be reminding us how to communicate with customers in the same position – sensitively and in an understanding way: ‘We’re all in this together’ has never been as true as it is today.  

Make sure to keep an out on what we’ll be sharing on Facebook & Twitter so you don’t miss how we’re supporting each other in these unprecedented times. And remember, a small conversation about mental health has the power to make a big difference.

Author profile

Sandra Morse-Weaver

Sandra is the Occupational Health Manager at Wales & West Utilities