Mental Health Awareness Week: Heathcotes Group discuss the measures we can take to support good mental health

On Mental Health Awareness Week (10th-16th May 2021), Tom Matthews, HR Business Partner at Heathcotes Group, discusses the impact of the past year and the measures we can take to support good mental health.

You can find out what Chesterfield Champions are doing to mark the occasion and raise awareness locally throughout the week here. 

The past year looms large in any discussion about mental health. The pandemic has been a cause of stress, anxiety, isolation and grief for communities across the world. Covid has been an unprecedented challenge for care providers, and on behalf of Heathcotes I am incredibly proud of the collective effort of our colleagues who have pulled together to meet this challenge. Our Support Workers, Team Leaders, Service Managers and central functions have shown unwavering dedication in support of some of the most vulnerable individuals in society, at a time when they needed that support more than ever.

The lockdown presented especially difficult circumstances for the individuals that we support. The sudden disruption and restrictions of the pandemic had the potential to have an extremely disturbing and stressful effect on individuals within our care, who have a variety of different needs.

Typifying Heathcotes’ person-centred approach, our services worked together to plan personal arrangements for each individual in our care, providing variations of established routines that were no longer possible in lockdown. The staff were amazingly inventive in coming up with ways to maintain engagement and contact with family members and help the people we support to cope. Our services nationwide arranged all kinds of initiatives, including talent contests, baking contests, photo shoots, rainbow-themed parties, art galleries, newsletters, garden makeovers and numerous other activities and events. Looking back over the past year, their efforts made an enormous difference in helping everyone to manage everyday life and maintain good mental health in the shadow of Coronavirus. They continue to do so as we tentatively approach a return to normality.

In our specialist provision of social care, there is a strong focus on the mental health of the individuals we support, but the wellbeing of our workforce is vital too. The workplace is hugely influential on mental health and organisations have a duty of care to ensure that this environment facilitates wellbeing.

Andy Bell, Deputy Chief Executive at Centre for Mental Health, said: “Work is – on the whole – good for our mental and physical health. However, mental health difficulties are both common and serious, and for a lot of people the places they work can have a big impact on their wellbeing. Companies, large and small, that take mental health seriously and create a mentally healthy environment to work in will benefit from being safer, happier and more productive.”

In any industry or sector, supporting good mental health starts with a culture of communication. There is no doubt that the national conversation around mental health has advanced in recent years, addressing the perceived stigma about discussing our problems, but many people are still uncomfortable about sharing their struggles and asking for help. Due to social conditioning, that reticence is more common amongst men. A survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation found that men are far less likely than women to seek professional support, and less likely to disclose a mental health problem to friends and family.

At Heathcotes, we’re proactive in changing attitudes, inspiring and empowering colleagues to feel comfortable about opening up and seeking support. This can encourage conversation in the workplace and educate and enable champions from across our organisation to access support and keep people safe. I’m really proud of our commitment to mental health safeguarding through upskilling, with access to accredited Mental Health First Aid training enabling employees to recognise the signs of colleagues experiencing a crisis and offering appropriate support.

In the past few months, Heathcotes have developed an employee assistance programme with a key emphasis on mental health and wellbeing, which we feel is vital to recognise following one of the most difficult years many of us have faced in our lifetime. It includes 24/7 access to a support team to discuss any matter, and access to expert counsellors providing confidential advice and support for depression or anxiety.

The programme also includes a range of online resources and apps providing lifestyle assistance, including diet and exercise planning, budgeting and physical and emotional wellbeing. Having a robust structure in place will make it easier for our colleagues to manage day-to-day aspects of their personal life, work life and wellbeing. It will also make it easier for our colleagues to reach out in their time of need.

While organisational leadership is essential, we can also make a crucial difference on a personal level. In busy environments like social care, it’s easy to let a working week pass by without taking time to discuss the worries and pressures in our lives. Regardless of your industry, if you suspect a colleague is struggling in silence, ask them how they are feeling. Simple gestures can make a huge difference in helping people to feel comfortable about speaking up.

The pandemic has given us a greater appreciation of the importance of observing and attending to mental health. At Heathcotes, we look ahead to more positive times with a greater understanding of how to look after ourselves and how to look out for others.

Heathcotes Group supports the marketing and economic growth of the town through Chesterfield Champions, a network of over 180 organisations across Chesterfield and North Derbyshire.

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“We now have a chance to get back to our high streets and show our support upon their re-opening”

In his latest blog, Destination Chesterfield Chairman Peter Swallow has shared his thoughts about the reopening of non-essential retail in Chesterfield, along with providing an update on several regeneration projects taking place across the town.

With the gentle easing out of lockdown and the continuing success of the vaccination programme, the future is definitely looking brighter for everyone.

The re-opening of non-essential business is another positive step forward for the town. We have all been deprived of the things we enjoy doing whilst lockdown measures have been in place, such as shopping, attending events and eating out.

With Chesterfield’s wealth of independent shops and eateries, we now have a chance to get back to our high streets and show our support upon their re-opening. Just a few pounds spent in local shops will make a huge difference to these businesses and I personally feel it is a far more enjoyable experience to visit these outlets as opposed to clicking on a website.

The re-opening of the high street also coincides with the launch of the brand new Love Chesterfield Awards. They celebrate the town’s favourite food and drink and retail businesses, local entrepreneurs, regeneration projects, community contributions and sustainability. Nominations for the awards open in May, If you know of someone or something in Chesterfield that deserves recognition, please do put them forward for an award.

We also got the chance to recognise success across the borough at this year’s Celebrate Chesterfield event- and it was indeed a celebration. We celebrated our resilience as a town during the pandemic, we celebrated our community that continuously pulls together and we celebrated the positive future ahead for the town we love.

Part of Chesterfield’s success is its ability to join forces for the good of the town, and the launch of the town’s new Construction and Property Group at the event demonstrated this perfectly. The Group represents the coming together of public and private individuals and organisations in our town who, together, are committed to driving forward collaboration, investment, sustainability and skills within Chesterfield.

In spite of the pandemic, developments in Chesterfield have continued at pace and there are many more on the horizon. Most recently construction has begun on a McDonalds restaurant and drive-thru on the site of a long-derelict former multi-storey car park at West Bars. Staveley has also received £25.2 million from the Government’s Town Deal programme, which will help deliver inclusive growth opportunities over the next five years.

It is schemes like these as well as Chesterfield Waterside, PEAK and Northern Gateway that are creating immediate and future opportunities for our young people ensuring they are able to acquire skills that will help them achieve their future ambitions.

The past year has shown just how strong we are when we pull together and I know that is this strength and determination that will continue to drive us forward into our bright future and beyond.

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December blog- Peter Swallow, Chair of Destination Chesterfield

Destination Chesterfield chair Peter Swallow has provided an update to businesses and residents in Chesterfield, as we take a look back on the positive developments which have progressed in the town this year and look ahead to Christmas and 2021.

Peter Swallow Chair of Destination Chesterfield

Despite the challenges that 2020 has thrown at us all, we end the year on a positive note and a message of hope.

It would be very easy to write-off 2020 as an unmitigated disaster. We have all been bombarded with Covid-related bad news throughout the year. However, amongst the doom and gloom there has been some good news, and a common thread of hope throughout the year.

Development and investment, which will lay the foundation for future jobs in the town, has continued throughout 2020. Significant headway has been made on the new Enterprise Centre being constructed on the donut car park, and construction of the new ‘grade a’ offices at Chesterfield Waterside got underway.

Despite the imposed social distancing, I believe that Chesterfield’s communities have become closer and more supportive of each other during the pandemic. Although there are high hopes for the vaccine which has recently been announced, it is important that we maintain the Shop Local momentum over Christmas.

Chesterfield is a resilient and adaptable town and nowhere is this more evident that on our high street.

We have seen businesses adapt overnight – from doorstep deliveries of beer, tea and coffee, drive and buy fruit and veg on the market, to website launches and takeaway gourmet meals to cook at home. These small things have kept us all connected and smiling!

Non-food retailers, restaurants, bars and cafes have had it particularly tough. However, we have embraced the Shop Local message and gone out and supported local businesses enabling the survival of many.

In these challenging times it has never been more important to support each other. I am delighted that Destination Chesterfield and Chesterfield Borough Council have continued to work collaboratively this year on the Christmas in Chesterfield Campaign. Combining our efforts will reinforce the Support Local message.

We may not be able to physically get into the high street businesses, but many independent retailers, restaurants and cafes offer us access to their products and services from the comfort of our homes using our laptops, tablets, telephones and perhaps even carrier pigeons (OK, maybe not carrier pigeons——!)

Making the decision to choose an independent retailer for your gifts and food both now and beyond the pandemic will make a huge difference to our high street.

As we look to 2021, there can be no simpler message for the town other than ‘support each other.’

I wish you all a happy and HEALTHY Christmas and New Year.


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