meet our mental health first aiders: patrycja and amy

posted on March 2021 by gap personnel group


For Time to Talk Day we joined in the conversation by sharing advice and insights from our 11 Mental Health First Aiders, about how they tackled the mental challenges of lockdown.


Patrcyja Richards, HR Advisor

Who are you, what do you do within gap?

My name is Pati, I am a HR Advisor and this July I will be reaching my 10th anniversary at gap! I started my journey in our payroll department and when a role became available, I moved into the HR department.

Why did you want to become a Mental Health First Aider?

I put myself forward because I enjoy human interactions, I am drawn to people who reciprocate genuine energy and like to help in any way I can, even if it’s just through a conversation.

What has your experience of lockdown been like, how have you found it?

The first lockdown hit me the hardest. There were days upon days when I would go downstairs, login, work, log out and go straight back to bed. I struggled with insomnia, I had withdrawn and at times I didn’t even feel like speaking to my closest friends and family.

What have you done to support your wellbeing that has helped?

I reminded myself how much I used to enjoy going to the gym and being physically active and how good it made me feel. So whilst the gyms remained shut, I started running even though I don’t particularly like it. Each day it was becoming a little easier and as cliché as it sounds, the endorphins must have done their job, as with the increased physical activity my mood started to lift too. I started dedicating some time each evening to catch up with all my close ones. These two factors have made a huge difference for me.

One thing I found very therapeutic during lockdowns was painting. I bought a few canvases and a load of paint tubes and this would keep me occupied for days. The lockdowns have also been of great benefit in improving my cooking and baking skills which I have really enjoyed.

When you haven’t struggled, what do you think the reason has been?

I found each lockdown after the first one much easier simply by keeping myself busy. I became more self-aware, I knew that regular contact with my friends would keep me grounded and I stopped putting so much pressure on myself by realising that the time spent in lockdown is not a time wasted if I spend it doing things I enjoy.

Do you have any tips you have implemented personally or within the team to support wellbeing? 

Me and my friend both watched a documentary called Secret on Netflix and we recommend it to anyone who will listen! It’s about the law of attraction and it has definitely been a helpful tool in adjusting the mindset to try to find positives in the various situations that life throws at us.

What helped with my insomnia is setting a stricter bedtime schedule and letting plenty of natural light into my bedroom. This made a big difference in waking up in the morning and not feeling like a zombie!

Lastly, it’s important to take care of your health from within. I checked out my bloods and discovered I had a few deficiencies which were contributing to my lack of energy. After a few months of supplementation, I felt a huge difference in my general wellbeing. However, there’s nothing more beneficial to our health than watching what we put into our bodies and taking an active interest in healthy eating can become a hobby in itself.

Amy Williams – Recruitment Consultant, Flint

Who are you, what do you do within gap?

I’m Amy and I work at gap personnel’s Flint Branch as a Recruitment Consultant. I started with gap as an Apprentice and progressed to Consultant level with my own client base.

Why did you want to become a Mental Health First Aider?

I believe your mental health affects all parts of your life (even if you don’t realise it) and it’s important to support your wellbeing as much as you can. If you are struggling with poor mental health, having good support around you can really help so having someone within your professional life you can turn to (such as a Mental Health First Aider) is a real positive thing even if it’s just for a chat with someone who’s not within your close family/friends circle.

What has your experience of lockdown been like, how have you found it?

To have our usual lives flipped upside down to a completely different way of living and constantly being away from our loved ones isn’t easy and sadly, I think we will see more people suffering with poor mental health as a result of what’s happened over the past year. It’s now more important than ever to have people around who have been taught the skills on how to support and guide others the best way they possibly can.

I think lockdown for everyone has been tough at times, but I want people to know that it’s totally fine and normal to struggle even when we’re not in a global pandemic.

What have you done to support your wellbeing that has helped?

Taking up regular exercise. I know this is something which is recommended time and time again and seems a bit of a cliché but it really does help. Even when you don’t feel like it – just a short walk to clear your mind will help. Reading books has helped me surprisingly as I’ve never been someone to pick up a book and read but since having so much extra time during lockdown it’s been something I’ve surprisingly enjoyed (I have some fab recommendations if anyone needs any inspiration, pop me an email!).

Do you have any tips you have implemented either personally or within the team to support wellbeing? 

  • Remember if you are struggling, it’s totally fine and be kind to yourself – take some time out just for you by reading, exercising or even just a long hot bath!
  • Limit the news – it’s good to be informed but the news can be really overwhelming especially at the moment so if you feel it’s fuelling negative emotions for you then limit it as much as you can or even better, turn it off.
  • Try something new – maybe cooking new recipe, a new podcast/book or try meditation if you’ve not tried it before (another cliché but it’s great! 5/10 minute meditations are available for free on YouTube) but if you have some money to spare the app ‘Calm’ is amazing for meditations/music/sleep stories – it’s around £2.50 per month.
  • Escapism – I think it’s important to have some kind of escapism from reality so get stuck into a new Netflix series/film or book and focus on just that even if it’s only for 30 minutes a day.
  • Talk – please remember to talk to someone, anyone if you are struggling. A problem shared really is a problem halved!!

 As a gap Mental Health First Aider, I am here to speak with anyone within the company who just wants a chat or some mental health guidance plus sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone you don’t know!