Practitioner Perspectives: Ollie Welsby

In this, the first of our interviews with practitioners, we speak to Ollie Welsby, a mental health, wellbeing and safeguarding consultant from Shropshire.

Tell us what you do and the support or training you provide.
I am a mental health, wellbeing and safeguarding trainer and consultant working in schools, colleges and businesses. I am an Advanced Safeguarding Trainer, a Senior Mental Health Lead Trainer, a qualified Mindfulness teacher for both children and adults (MiSP and CMRP), a Mental Health First Aid Instructor (MHFA England), an Accredited Safer Recruitment Trainer (LFF), a specialist E-Safety trainer (CEOP), a Relax Kids Coach, CSE Trainer and qualified Safeguarding Supervisor. Student and staff wellbeing have always been at the heart of my approach to education.
What are the specific needs and challenges your clients are facing and how have these been affected by Covid?
This has been an incredibly challenging year for human beings globally and the spotlight has very much been on the connections between workplace stress and poor mental health. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, 55% of school leaders and 49% of teachers reported that their workplace had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Now, in the midst of COVID-19, creating a positive workplace and looking after our mental health has never been more crucial.
Teachers are on the front line of this pandemic, often forgotten in our conversations. The impact of the pandemic across the teaching sector has been visceral and wide reaching, impacting both the personal and professional lives of staff who are now facing a wide range of issues compounding an already very demanding job.
A lot of the work I do revolves around helping education settings and businesses to strategically develop mental health & wellbeing provision within their organisations; from leadership of this agenda, to support options, and embedding education programmes.  There is also an increased demand now for Mental Health First Aid Training as well as training for parents who need support in dealing with young people who are in a state of crisis. According to the NHS Digital 2020 study, 1 in 7 young people are now experiencing  mental health issues.
Have you had to develop or change your own offer to meet the changing needs of your clients this year?
No, but the work has become more demanding and there is more of it. Schools and businesses need help and training now so it has been very demanding.
Do you have any top tips or advice you can share with us?
1.      Remember that it’s okay to feel anxious, stressed, worried, lonely and bored right now (or any other feelings you have). We all respond differently. When these feelings creep up on you, remember that the situation is temporary and chances are, these feelings will pass. Share these concerns with someone you trust, or with a helpline. Tell your network how they can support you.
2.     Just because you cannot see your usual support networks, it is important to stay connected to them. Maintaining positive relationships is as important now as ever.
3.     Make sure you are getting your information from a credible source. With so much ‘fake news’ around on social media, it is important that you stick to the facts. Rumour can fuel anxiety.
4.     It can be so easy with all of the extra time at home to let physical activity levels drop, and we all know the positive effect physical activity has on mental health.
5.     Sometimes feelings of worry, sadness or anxiety can lead to us stopping to do things we enjoy. Think about your favourite hobby, or a skill you want to learn. Think about how you can still engage with your hobby from home.
6.     Try not to worry about the future, keep your focus on the present. Relaxation and grounding techniques can help with this. Apps such as Calm, Headspace and Stop, Breathe and Think can help with this.
7.     You’ve probably heard it many times but getting a good night’s sleep can make a huge difference to how we feel, both mentally and physically. Try to keep up a routine and avoid caffeine, your phone and action-packed TV programmes before bed.
8.  Make sure you are eating properly. Keeping yourself healthy is vital, it’s easy during times like this to stop cooking home-cooked meals and turn to quick-fixes. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
What impact to you predict Covid will have long term in (service area)?
The impact of Covid on our mental health and wellbeing will last for years to come yet. I am particularly concerned about the current generation of 13-21 year-olds, who have had their vision for the future turned on its head. Their education, relationships, home life, financial security have all been impacted upon. There are not enough resources out there currently to provide the level of support, guidance and hope that is needed to steer them through. Providing the right support, training and resources for teachers and parents is crucial.
Are there any positive changes you are seeing coming out of the pandemic?
I think the main one has been community spirit and the acknowledgement about just how important connection is. We have to work harder to stay connected but the importance of that communication and connectivity is so significant to how we all get through each day. I hope that when this is over, we will still look strangers in the eye and smile, we will still check in on our elderly neighbours and we won’t ever take time with friends and family for granted.
How would someone choose a credible practitioner? What do they need to look out for?
For me it would be testimonials and qualifications first and then a conversation that reassures you and answers any questions you may have.