A few weeks ago I was approached with the opportunity to attend CoLiberate’s Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course. Since getting into tech in 2015, I have noticed that mental health seems to be a pretty open and common topic in the industry. Investing in employees' wellbeing is important at Ackama - in the last year we have hosted workshops such as:
- Workplace Sexual Harassment workshop, run by the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network
- Human Skills: Emotions & Boundaries, and
- Human Skills: Trust & Empathy in Teams run by Ming from Enspiral Dev Academy
- Communication and Conflict workshop run by Sarrah-Jayne from Enspiral Dev Academy
Improving my understanding of mental health seemed like an excellent string to add to the Ackama bow, and so off I went to the BizDojo.
The MHFA workshop took place over two days with around 13 attendees, and was facilitated by the brilliant Tamara and Rachel. The course had a focus on identifying and helping people that are developing a mental illness, specifically Anxiety, Depression, Psychosis and Substance Misuse. A common thread amongst attendees was that while they had wanted to help people struggling with mental illness in the past, they weren’t sure how to go about starting the conversation, let alone how to be an advocate for the person in need.
We went through each section of the course, discussing what mental illness can look like and how it can feel for people suffering from it, and we were given exercises to role play how to start these conversations in a safe space. As the topics were heavy-hitting, attendees were able to opt out of exercises as and when they needed, and we were able to signal to our facilitators at anytime if we needed a break or more support.
Here are some other ways that Ackama supports wellbeing:
- By providing EAP services - any Ackama employee is entitled to three free visits to EAP, where they can choose from a variety of councillors to talk to. Appointments are anonymous, and EAP services can apply for further sessions for someone if necessary.
- Stewarding and Mentorship.
- Care plans - employees are encouraged to create one of these to help coworkers recognise the individual's symptoms of stress and how best to help.
- One-on-one meetings with a member of the Ackama leadership team every two weeks.
In summary, the two days were tough but rewarding. A small group and active facilitators created a safe space to share experiences, ask the difficult questions and discuss ideas on how to help those who are struggling with mental illness. The group was from all kinds of backgrounds, and it was powerful to listen to a diverse set of experiences and ideas.