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Marsh Finance is passionate about promoting positive well-being for our employees and customers alike, which is why we’ve recently trained up a team of mental health first aiders who can provide a pillar of support to everyone.

Our very own Amy Roberts is a qualified mental health first aider who offers fantastic support throughout the business. At Marsh, we believe in our staff and want their experience at work to be the best possible. We recently sat down with Amy to discuss her experiences, including why she became a mental health first aider and how her role can help others, keep reading to find out more…

Why did you become a mental health first aider?

I have struggled with mental health throughout my life and live with bipolar disorder and BPD diagnoses. Throughout my ups and downs in the workplace, I’ve learnt (and experienced) so much.

Having worked in organisations that provide no support for individuals suffering from mental health challenges, I know the true value that mental health first aiders can bring into an organisation. I am highly passionate about breaking down the stigma that still exists in workplaces here in the UK.

How has having bipolar disorder affected you in the workplace?

In my early twenties, I was very much a Guinea pig, changing medications frequently, which caused my emotional regulation to be quite unstable. But with lots of therapy and the right drug cocktail, my quality of life and ability to work has improved dramatically.

Throughout my career, I have picked up techniques to help me manage my illness better and make it less noticeable to colleagues. One of my favourite exercises is ‘The Circle of Control’ – if you haven’t tried it, you should! Click here.

Many negatives come with my illness… but to start, I want to focus on some of the benefits of having bipolar disorder in business to help break stereotypes and give you a true insight into life with bipolar disorder.

  • Pace: I work at a ridiculously fast pace; my brain is wired differently; specifically, my brain’s interconnectivity is similar to those on controlled drugs like speed. This enables me to complete triple the workload of the average person in a similar timeframe
  • Focus: when I am focused on my work, it’s like all distractions melt away – I don’t struggle with the urge to look at my phone, play with my dogs
  • Retaining information: I pick things up quickly and can juggle various projects with conflicting priorities

Let’s move on to some of my main challenges:

  • I am NOT a morning person: please don’t book meetings with me pre-9:30 am! I take a lot of medication in the evening, which means that I wake up very zombie-like – I can barely talk, never mind give any helpful advice first thing
  • I sometimes struggle with perception: I regularly re-read emails to ensure I perceive the text correctly. My mind has been known to twist written words, and on occasion, I can believe things are written in a nastier / more aggressive tone than they are
  • Highs & lows: despite being on medication, I still experience extreme highs and lows – I suffer from rapid cycling, meaning that I can undergo multiple episodes in one day. I know how to manage these, after years of daily battles – but it’s still a challenge I face daily

What support can you provide?

A MHFA is simply a confidential outlet for someone to talk to and have someone listen to them. MHFAs can give support and information, offer encouragement, and signpost individuals on seeking more qualified help from professionals.

Could you give any advice to all employees who may be nervous about approaching their MHFA’s? What would that be?

I know how intimidating it can feel to talk about how you’re feeling, but I’d urge everyone not to be afraid to discuss these issues with their mental health first aider. The more open we are collectively, and the more we talk about any problems, the more we break down the stigma in the workplace.

Conversations with Mental Health First Aiders are treated with the highest confidence levels, so please be assured that anything you say to me or another MHFA will be kept confidential.

Do you have any well-being tips that you would recommend?

Don’t suffer in silence. Most Mental Health First Aiders have experienced some form of mental health challenge, so you’ll be amazed to learn that you’re not alone.

If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to your Mental Health First Aider, try to talk to your family and friends about how you’re feeling.

At work, I’d recommend:

  • Taking regular short breaks (Even if you don’t feel you need one)
  • Breathing & meditation exercises (Headspace and Calm are fantastic!)
  • Listen to soothing music or nature sounds
  • Exercise – why not visit the gym on your lunch?

If you had asked me a year ago if I would consider meditation, I would have laughed at you, but I cannot stress the impact this has had.

Regarding specific exercises that have helped me when I’ve felt overwhelmed, I’d like to re-recommend ‘The Circle of Control’ that I mentioned above – if you haven’t tried it, you should! Click here.

Please feel free to drop Andy or me a personal note, and we would love to support you and help you where we can.

Is there anything that you’d like to share?

Maintaining positive mental health is essential to your well-being, whether at home or work. In this article, I’ve described my challenges with Bipolar Disorder to break down the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. Having a mental health diagnosis does not have to be a workplace death sentence – in fact, I believe I’ve progressed so quickly in my career due to my work pace and other bipolar symptoms that I benefit from.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, please make sure that you reach out to your mental health first aider, friends, or family – you are not alone.

Need support? The below charities can help:

Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/

Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/

Men’s Health Forum – https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/

Rethink – https://www.rethink.org/

42nd Street – https://www.42ndstreet.org.uk/