Corporate Q&A: Preserving the industry through mentoring and mental health

Charlotte Flach Charlotte Flach Editor, C&IT
Corporate Q&A: Preserving the industry through mentoring and mental health

Joy Thomas, Associate Director, Global Events at Iqvia, discusses stepping up as a mental health first aider and the benefits of the mentor-mentee relationship.

Covid has made the jobs of eventprofs even more stressful- what effect have you noticed on yourself and your colleagues?
Some people can become more withdrawn and isolated due to working from home. You need to identify and support these colleagues even more. Do as many calls on video as possible, do some fun team building activities online and spend time listening to them. Beyond the isolation during the lockdowns and potential change in working environments, stress can manifest itself in a number of ways. Feeling overwhelmed with work is probably one of the most known challenges with EventProfs. Sometimes there are less staff do deliver work, fluctuating workloads, more pressure for results in a tough market.

How does your training as an MH first aider help you cope and how have you been able to help your peers?
It helps identify and develop two things; first your scale of stress and second your coping mechanisms. They are intrinsically linked. Your scale of stress (or anxiety) can be thought of as a simple 1-10 scale (or even a bucket filling up). When you are getting towards level 7 (or near the top of the bucket) you need to stop and take some time out. Here is where your coping mechanism comes into play. Address it now before it's harder to control. Some ideas are; practising mediating/mindfulness, walking the dog, having a cup of tea, sit outside for 30 minutes, get yourself away from the issue and into some space, physically and mentally. Make sure you take time out for yourself. Book days off in advance so you have something to look forward to.

What advice do you have for any other eventprofs who’d like to look into MH first aider training? What does it involve? What are the benefits you bring to your organisation?
Do it. If nothing else it helps you develop your active listening skills. is the place to start. Courses are in-person or online. I did the online course during the first lockdown. Learning takes place through four live training sessions, spread across two weeks, with self-learning activities in between. Its in-depth and covers topics including; types of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing alongside practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues. It gives you confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress. It develops your enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening and most importantly it gives you the knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support - whether that’s self-help resources, through their employer, the NHS, or a mix.

Being a mentor also ties in to the idea of looking after each other. Can you tell me a bit about your mentoring and how you got into it?
I was approached by Fay Sharpe some years ago to be one of the mentors on the FastForward15 programme. Fay and I had known each other previously for some years and it was the right time for me to step up. That was in 2017/18 and I am just concluding my second spell as a Mentee on the scheme. I also mentor within my company to individuals that just need someone to provide some guidance, to listen to them and to be an impartial voice.