Mental Health Awareness Week at Housing 21

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Posted 18 May 2020

This #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, Housing 21 are promoting acts of kindness and signposting staff to mental health support services, such as the Employee Assistance Portal (EAP).

Here, one of our colleagues shares their experience.

‘My experience with Housing 21’s Employee Assistance Programme’ - Anonymous

When I first came to the idea of therapy, I had two avenues to go down in terms of counselling - the first, through the NHS, and the second, through my workplace – Housing 21.

Visiting my GP for other health matters, I discussed how I was having low moods all the time, couldn’t muster excitement for anything and felt ridiculously empty. My light was particularly dim, and at twenty two - or indeed at any age - this shouldn’t have been the case.

"...I was having low moods all the time, couldn’t muster excitement for anything and felt ridiculously empty."

They referred me to the ‘healthy minds’ clinic but this is region dependent and every city will offer different services for mental health resources. In contacting them, they did an initial assessment over the phone and then provided a time that a counsellor would contact me to discuss my feelings further - unfortunately the time slots are quite inflexible, which is difficult when you work full time.

Housing 21 also offered a scheme for counselling, through health assured, Housing 21’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). It works in very much the same vein, except being as they’re private, they offer an extended amount of support hours that they can provide - 24/7. I called them late at night when I was having a particularly bad episode, and an assessment was carried out straight away, with a trained counsellor offering support through the phone.

"I called them late at night when I was having a particularly bad episode, and an assessment was carried out straight away..."

The next day, we arranged talking therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) through a face-to-face therapist that they had both set up and funded. The Employee Assistance Programme arranged this based on where was convenient for me to get to, and at appropriate times, considering the long working days I had. They stressed that this was an anonymous, confidential resource and that nothing would be fed back to Housing 21 on what we had discussed. They even extend this support to any family members that might call in.

The limitations with this is that it works on a basis of ‘goal oriented’ therapy - as in, you are offered just five sessions in order to discuss the issues at hand, and then find a resolution. At the end of my fifth session it became clear that, although I had done a lot of good work, there was still a lot that I needed to address. I went on to fund further sessions myself, but having researched, there are opportunities to extend the number of face-to-face sessions on request.

"...therapy is entirely subjective, personal and needs to be tailored to the individual and their requirements."

Both avenues offer CBT therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that is, which puts the onus on skills and techniques you can develop to manage any anxiety and distress that you might be feeling. For me, this is what I felt was necessary in managing my bad funk - addressing my own behaviours and perspectives to bring me peace.  This is not a one size fits all measure, therapy is entirely subjective, personal and needs to be tailored to the individual and their requirements.

If I could offer one bit of advice to someone thinking about therapy, but doesn’t know to start looking because really, well, it’s all a bit overwhelming at the exact time you don’t want to deal with anything taxing - take advantage of all the options available. I put off pursuing therapy for so long thinking it would be too hard and expensive to organise myself - but there are resources out there, if for a little bit of investigation.

"If I could offer one bit of advice to someone thinking about therapy, but doesn’t know to start looking...take advantage of all the options available."

As an employee of Housing 21, I’m terribly grateful for the assistance programme, and still occasionally use the help line when I’m feeling a little bit lost. There is no judgement, a lot of understanding, and having qualified voices to discuss legal, health and career matters is a reassurance.

It can take a long time to realise how much you may be struggling, and even longer to realise that it doesn’t have to be that way.

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