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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Mental health awareness week at DfE Digital

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The theme of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week was initially going to be sleep, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit it changed to kindness. Mental health and kindness are deeply connected – helping others has an incredibly positive effect on our wellbeing.

As our chief digital officer Emma Stace explained last year, in DfE Digital we place a huge emphasis on supporting each other. The wellbeing of our people is paramount and right now this is more important than ever.

To celebrate #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek DfE Digital ran a series of events for colleagues to talk about their experiences of managing their mental health, and the significance of kindness. Here’s a round up.

By sharing, we help others as well as ourselves

Emma Biddle gave a brave and moving account of her prolonged struggle and eventual diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in 2019.

A tweet reading: "I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2019. It’s important to openly discuss mental health so nobody feels isolated when they're struggling, and to reduce stigma around mental health issues." @EmmaBiddleXx. #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #KindnessMatters. With a twitter card that reads: "I'm learning to manage my disorder so I can live the best life I possibly can." Emma Biddle Recruitment campaign manager

Alice Kiernan talked about why being kind to herself first and foremost helps those people around her. “I see my mental health as the only constant in my life. Whether it’s good or bad or somewhere in between, I have to live with it. That is why no matter how I’m feeling or what I’m going through, I try to be gentle and kind towards myself.”

Tweet reading: "I've found that being kind to yourself is the best way to help others around you. Looking inwards is often portrayed as 'selfish' or 'egotistical' but looking after your well being is a radical act of selflessness that ultimately benefits everyone you encounter.” @kiernan_alice. With a twitter card that reads: "Looking after your wellbeing is an act of selflessness that ultimately benefits you and everyone you encounter" Alice Kiernan User researcher

In a senior position in a previous role, Simon Hurst recognised he could help normalise speaking out about mental illness by being open about his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression. "It seemed really clear to me that I could stand up, be bold and say that I’ve struggled all my life."

Tweet reading: "I can confidently state that I'm Simon and I've struggled with ADHD and depression all my life. I've proven it is nothing to hold you back and that you can be successful with it." @SimonHurstUX, #DfEDigital Lead user researcher. #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #KindnessMatters. Twitter card reading: "I've struggled with ADHD and depression all my life. I've proven it doesn't hold me back." Simon Hurst Lead user researcher

For James Reeve, he has found that often the best help comes when he's opened up to people to share his experience of his mental health. “The fantastic support of my colleagues at DfE always reminds me that I have a team to lean on when times are hard.”

Tweet reading: "It's important to be kind to ourselves as well as others. Opening up and sharing experiences of mental health can be frightening at first. It was for me, but now it's always a relief to talk about it." @jereeve. #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #KindnessMatters. Twitter card reads: "Sharing experiences of mental health can be frightening at first. It was for me. Now it's a relief to talk about it" James Reeve, Deputy director digital delivery

Looking after our mental health together as an organisation

From all corners of DfE there's lots of genuine encouragement and a big emphasis on people looking after their mental health and getting the support they need. Even more so these days.

There are over 150 trained mental health first aiders (with plans to train 100 more). The Charity for Civil Servants offer a range of services for when times are tough. We have a wellbeing network and a counselling service that everyone can use.

Talking about mental wellbeing openly at work can really help others. For many, the stories and details are very relatable. And as our colleagues have said repeatedly this week, by being open we can chip away at the stigma of mental illness.

But it's important to say that being vocal about what's going on inside your head, is not necessarily for everyone. We get that.

Other useful ways to get support

Beyond DfE, here are some more sources of help that people have shared this week.

The Mental Health Foundation helps people understand, protect and sustain their mental health.

Time to change is changing the way we all think and act about mental health problems, particularly how together your mental health and your sleep pattern can affect your work.

The Sleep Foundation have published guidelines to promote better sleep.

Mind have plenty of advice for people who are worried about coronavirus and how it could affect their lives.

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