A lot of our Mental Health Workers are suffering… from stress, anxiety, depression and burn out, with many of them struggling through, or feeling they have no option but to leave their jobs.
1. According to the New Savoy Partnership’s annual staff well-being survey for 2016, demands on therapists working in the NHS are contributing to them suffering from rising levels of depression and reduced well-being.
"The survey found that 48 per cent of the 1227 NHS staff members reported that they had felt depressed in the last week some, most or all of the time. The equivalent figure in the 2015 survey was 46 per cent and in 2014 it was 40 per cent."
You can read more here: www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/new-savoy-survey-shows-increasing-mental-health-problems-nhs-psychotherapists.
2. The info-graphic below is taken from a 2016 study of 1500 mental health workers, where a lot of workers report feeling demoralised and depressed.
* Info-graphic taken from www.thefutureoftherapy.org where you can read the full study.
Hi everyone. I’m Maria and I live in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear. I’m a qualified counsellor and psychotherapist with over 17 years experience, and my idea is to start a retreat on the North East coast that mental health workers from anywhere in the UK can access free of charge.
* North Shields Estuary
Over the years I have worked alongside and managed teams of therapists. In 2017 I set up a group called Counsellors Together UK and we now have over 5,700 members. During this time, I have spoken with thousands of mental health professionals from all over the country.
What I have discovered during this time is that a high percentage of mental health workers suffer from anxiety, depression, stress and burn out because of their jobs, and almost always there is nowhere for them to get the support they need, with more and more mental health workers suffering from breakdowns and the effects of secondary trauma, with some even taking their own lives. What’s more, these numbers are continuing to rise, as increased pressure to provide services in structures such as IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) continues to grow, as well as the increasing demands of private practice as more and more workers struggle to find work.
As a society we are so focused on the public accessing services for mental well-being that we often forget about the ones providing those services. However, we can’t continue to provide much needed and vital services if we are not okay ourselves.
I’d like to share with you now, something very personal. In the Autumn of 2018 life became very difficult for me for a number of reasons. I was working as a counsellor in the NHS and found out that in March 2019 I would lose my job - the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) team had decided to get rid of all Counsellors and replace with IAPT.
In this job I was often isolated from my colleagues, seeing 6-7 patients a day, over several days per week and dealing with some of the most traumatic stories a therapist can hear. There was demand to keep the waiting list to a minimum, to discharge patients before they were ready to leave and to make it look like we were doing great work in 6-8 sessions per patient. The stress was huge, and I felt guilty every time someone walked out of the door knowing that if we had more time and resources we’d have been able to do so much more for them.
I was also dealing with the end of my marriage and being a single Mum with 3 children under 10 years old. On top of all this, I was struggling financially.
In December 2018 all of this came to a head and I just couldn’t cope anymore. I walked out of work one day and never went back.
I emailed my therapist and told him I wasn’t going back to see him, and I chose to cut myself off from the world.
I hardly left the house between December 2018 and June 2019, and my GP diagnosed me with anxiety and depression.
I was really quite sick.
I gained two stones.
My body hurt everywhere. My feet hurt to even place them on the floor each morning.
I was feeling anxious and depressed and having the odd panic attack here and there.
A lot of this set off feelings that were around as a result of my childhood trauma and the world felt like a very scary place.
During this time I felt completely alone. I had a few people around me who really helped, who I spoke to about everything that was happening, and who offered me lots of support.
However, I now feel like I’m almost out of the other side. I’m working again, I’m going out and I no longer hurt everywhere or feel as anxious and depressed.
Aside from amazing friends, my own therapist and the support of colleagues, one thing which really helped me was getting outside more, being in nature and walking, or simply just sitting in the woods and being still.
It was during one of these outings that I thought how nice it would have been to have had somewhere to go that embraced all of these things but where there were also people who felt the same or who were there to support me.....
Somewhere I could be alone or with others if I chose to be...
Somewhere I could take time out to heal...
Somewhere I could talk, or dance or walk or run or explore...
Somewhere there was no pressure to be anything other than what I was at that time...
Somewhere that could offer the things I needed, e.g. massage and human touch, but only if I wanted it...
Somewhere with supportive and loving people who genuinely cared...
And somewhere that was free to access because I was skint!
And that’s when I came up with the idea of starting a retreat for stressed, anxious, depressed and burned out mental health workers.
A place where people could have all of the above.
And so based on all of this, I want to create a safe space where mental health professionals can come and have some time out and heal, to rest and recuperate so they can keep doing the fantastic work they do. Because after all, if we can’t work then who will continue to work with those who use our services?
The retreats will be held in various locations along the Northumberland coast. Each retreat will last for 5-7 days and during this time all attendees will be able to choose from a range of activities including massage, guided walks/day trips and healing workshops. Alternatively attendees may also choose to do their own thing. One thing we do know is that they will be surrounded by loving and caring people who are all experiencing similar difficulties and we hope that this will help people to feel less alone and more able to continue with their work after. We will also set up a private Facebook group where people who have been on the retreats can use to keep in touch and hopefully nurture a growing support network.
* Alnmouth, Northumberland - location for one of the retreats.
The retreats will be run by myself, Maria Albertsen and a team of local mental health workers. I have been in touch with local businesses to help provide the activities and I will be using a local business for the accommodation.
If we raise the £1500 initial target then this will allow us to run one retreat to use as a study to further develop our idea, and to undertake initial research. If we raise the £10,000 stretch target then this will allow us to run a pilot program of 3 retreats over the course of 2020 in which we can tune and perfect, as well as start to secure future funding.
Long term, we hope to raise enough money to buy a property (£250,000 plus) where we can run year round retreats every month. We would hire out the venue the rest of the time and any profit would be used to fund the retreats. If people would like to continue to donate and we raise enough money to buy somewhere then we would use the building in this way, please see rewards.
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“I was off for a few months 3 years ago due to burnout and 2 Bereavements very close together. To have had somewhere safe with no criteria or expectations to heal and recover I feel would have allowed me to get back to my life a lot quicker and less stress all round. I love this idea.” Marie, Therapist.
“Taking time to reflect and rest is important in maintaining self-care in our work it prevents burnout and enables us to remain resilient. We can all feel overwhelmed at times a retreat would help to recharge our souls so we can do what we do.” Louisa, Therapist.
“It’s so easy to forget yourself while caring for others. In spite of supervision, which is predominantly practice focused anyway, there is little opportunity to switch off or focus on self. Most practitioner retreats are linked to practice, reflective skill based interventions or meditative in some way. This retreat sounds unconditional, it’s about my well being and mental recuperation… my self repair if you like….” Jennifer, Therapist.
“I think the retreat is a good idea as it has enabled a recognition in myself and other therapists to how much we give of ourselves to our roles and our clients in our work. It is significant in acknowledging the importance of our own self-care in a career where we support individuals who are in a place of vulnerability and going through a variety of different experiences in their mental well-being. I think the retreat will help mental health workers in providing a time and space for them to reconnect with themselves, who they are in ‘their world’ (parent, child, partner etc) but also to reconnect with both the importance of their work/life balance and to rekindle a love, passion and validation for themselves as important mental health workers.” Nicola. Therapist.
“I think the retreat is essential as our roles are very demanding both professionally and personally, and we have an ethical requirement to be fit for working, with often vulnerable people and ensure our self care.It would enhance our resilience, therefore keeping us able to work creatively and be robust.” Marie, Therapist.
“I think the retreat is a good idea because in our profession, probably more than most, we need to take care of ourselves, so we can do the best job possible for our clients, as well as setting an example for our clients. Mental Health workers provide a valuable service to society and it’s a particularly draining job, so the retreat will help mental health workers to recharge and be able to continue to offer the service we do to prevent burnout.” Jackie, Therapist.
“A retreat is a good idea because therapists help humans to connect to themselves everyday, sometimes repeatedly in a days work. Therefore, it is imperative that they have somewhere to connect to themselves where they are not required to be anything other than themselves. With people who understand the complexities of humanness and what it is to be human. Without that connection to self and others therapists are vulnerable to vicarious trauma and burnout. Therapy is a difficult vocation, that is more than a profession, it is uniquely a calling into being. It is a profession that is vital to forge our way forward in the world through human connection and learning.” Victoria, Therapist.
“A retreat is a good idea because it allows for those in a caring role, like mental health workers or therapists, to replenish their compassion stores through self care. The retreat will help because those within a caring role don't always think of themselves or look after themselves, therefore they are at risk of compassion fatigue. A retreat with other like minded people will allow them to replenish their stores with others who can empathise and understand the way work and feel.” Shannon, Therapist.
“As health workers, sometimes we need to take the oxygen first. Seeing clients which is what we are trained and qualified to do and albeit rewarding sometimes depletes our own batteries and energy store. And some therapists, particularly those working at the sharp end of mental health, may need to work on their own self care. Although we are trained therapists, we’re human beings first and also have our own things to deal with. At times, this can incapacitate us. This is a place for therapists to come and be nourished, inside out, and take time out...regardless of their financial means.” Indire, Therapist.
“Well first of all the burn out rate for counsellors is known to be high and knowing that there is somewhere to go where you can truly relax and get away from everything whilst being among other people who understand the need for this and are supportive of each other is really important. Many people say to me “I don’t know how you can do work like that day after day and stay sane which I guess is them being caring and concerned but they can’t really understand the toll it can take. I think only fellow counsellors/mental health workers can really understand. So it makes sense that a retreat that is specific to counsellors/mental health workers rather than the general public would feel like a haven. Also, I believe in general that we as counsellors are not so great at self-care although we’re very good at advocating it for our clients! Having something like the retreat to go to now and again and knowing it is there would hopefully provide more motivation for taking time out for ourselves. Spending time with friends and family at weekends or after work is lovely but it can also bring many stresses of its own and often doesn’t provide the space to ground ourselves and really wind down. A place to retreat from everything occasionally would I think be rejuvenating and help us to cope better in the longer term. And the fact that it would be free would mean that we could all use it rather than only those that can afford it. This is a very important aspect. There are many of us who are struggling to make ends meet in a challenging and underpaid profession.” Christine. Therapist.
“I think the retreat will create time and space for those of us who don’t earn a fortune but give to society because our professions are “callings” . It would relieve empathy fatigue and keep US ( those who help others to be mentally/ physically stable ) to ourselves remain healthy and strong. It’s a way of charities recognising the importance of our work in society and realising we don’t make a lot of money, so gifting us resources to refill ourselves.” Lynne, Therapist.
“The retreat is a good idea because we the counsellors also need to attend to our mental health and self care, to restore and relax and give our minds and bodies a break from some of the traumas we hold from session to session, it will be hugely beneficial to be able to just let go and stop.” Cliodhna, Therapist.