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As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, one of our Wellbeing Champions at Autism East Midlands, Kevin Pakenham, provides some insight on the role of our Wellbeing Champions and other ways in how we support our staff, service users and student’s wellbeing.

During this unprecedented time, it is so important for every individual to consider their mental wellbeing. The present lack of uncertainty alongside concerns for our health and the health of our families and friends has led to individuals worries increasing.
When structure is removed and activities and social gatherings we enjoyed previously are no longer available, individuals can face huge difficulties adapting to a unfamiliar lifestyle. At Autism East Midlands, we have mental health wellbeing champions who front line staff, residents, service users and students can contact if they need any additional support.

Our Champions wear a wellbeing campion badge so staff and students can instantly recognise and approach that person to discuss their worries confidentially. Taking care of your mind as well as your body is very important, people may be low, anxious, worried or concerned about their health and the health of those closest to them. As well as being champions, we have been trained to listen to each individuals concerns, incidentally that is why we have two ears and only one mouth so that we listen more than we talk.

Individuals can approach our wellbeing champions who will assist them with their anxieties, sometimes these feelings of anxiety can be constant, overwhelming or out of proportion to the situation and this then affects their daily life. We can let people know that it’s OK not to be OK, and it’s important to remember that everyone acts differently and it’s fine to acknowledge that somethings are outside of our control.

We try to advise people to stay connected to us and talk about their worries, to look after their bodies as physical health has a large impact on how we feel, try to focus on those things we can control such as how we act and how we react.

If staff, students or service users need any additional support, our champions signpost them to more knowledgeable individuals. We are very fortunate at Autism East Midlands as we have our own clinical team and have excellent professional links with Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire support services and NHS services.

We endeavour to encourage individuals to think about things they enjoy and carry on doing these things as much as they practically can, take time to relax and keep their minds active. We can encourage our staff, students and service users to try to adapt to this unique situation and where possible to create positive new routines.