meet our mental health first aiders: susan and terry

posted on March 2021 by gap personnel group


Thursday 4th February was Time to Talk Day. We joined in by sharing advice and insights from our 11 Mental Health First Aiders about how they've tackled the mental challenges of lockdown.

Susan Cross, Bid Manager

Who are you, what do you do within gap?

Hello! I’m Susan, and I’m the Bid Manager across the group. Me (and the rest of the bids and marketing team) are largely responsible for telling the world why YOU are better than our competitors!


Who are you outside of work?

I read historical fiction like it’s going out of fashion. I’m a massive fangirl of the Rocky Horror Show. I relentlessly pursue sunshine and gin in exotic places. You’re most likely to hear me extolling the virtues of Yorkshire or actively admiring regional accents.


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

Mental health is something I suffered with on and off for a loooooooooooooong time, and that cycle changed when I saw an amazing therapist. There is industrial scale promotion of looking after your physical health, but a lingering stigma around looking after your mental health. Having personally benefitted so much from taking that step, I wanted to be an advocate for speaking up and getting help when you need it.


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

In honesty the only thing I’ve struggled with is missing people – I miss working in an office with my amazing team everyday (hey guys – how sweet will that return to Bongos Bingo be?), and seeing my friends, and getting to go back home to Yorkshire – generally just the buzz of human contact anywhere other than my house (no offence to my husband haha).


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

In the first lockdown when the weather was glorious I made sure I went out for a walk every day just to move and get some sunshine. It’s hard to find the motivation on days when it’s lashing down, but if the weather isn’t too bad I will try and get outside for a bit and get a good podcast on (My dad wrote a… is laugh-a-minute). I am the sort of person who could very easily hibernate in these circumstances so I plan it into my day where I can because it’s good to remember there’s a world outside the home office.


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

I think I have coped better than I expected by remembering that my feelings are valid – yes other people might have worse things going on (and they do!), but that doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to feel sad about the things I miss. BUT I also don’t allow myself to wallow by remembering all the things I am grateful for.


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

I generally try and make note of the things that I’m missing most and do whatever comes closest. Desperately missing the faces of my friends? – book in a group face time call. Really fancy going out for dinner? – order a fancy takeaway and eat it at the table with a nice glass of wine rather than in front of the tv. Feeling homesick? – I’ve recently found out that there’s a “North Yorkshire Moors” scented candle so my bath times are about to get a real glow-up!


Terry McCormick - Branch Manager, Liverpool

Who are you, what do you do within gap?

I'm Terry, the Branch Manager for the Liverpool office where I have been for over five years, stepping up from Senior Account Manager around four years ago.  Previously I worked as an Account Manager in the Warrington office for around 18 months.


Who are you outside of work?

Outside of work, I'm a father of two young children, Macey (8) and Reuben (4). When I am not running around after them taking them swimming, gym or dancing I am into sports. In a previous life I was a semi-professional footballer for close to 20 years, recently retiring for about the third time. Although I do still play celebrity football with the likes of Danny Dyer, Locksmith from Rudimental and aload of Towie/Love Island lads too. Away from football I love the outdoors, hiking where and when possible across North Wales and Yorkshire. I also have an exciting trip booked for October when I will be climbing Everest basecamp to raise money for charity. (I will be fundraising a little closer to the time).


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

Mental health is just as important as physical health and something that until recently has been neglected. The course offered insight into the effects and signs we can look out for if somebody is having a bad time. It also gave us knowledge on how to help them through this tough situation, an invaluable skill in management and parenting. 


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

At times it’s been tough as I am sure you can relate to, I find the home schooling and working fulltime can be really difficult. My wife is a nurse, currently issuing the COVID-19 vaccines, meaning lots of shifts and lots of long hours resulting in lots of daddy day-care, which has been great when not buried in school work. Our Liverpool branch has been really busy throughout the whole of lockdown, meaning some long days for us all, but we have rejigged our working days to fit the family commitments in. Whether it's school runs etc, we needed to understand the difficulties working from home with a young family can bring about and try to support that.


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

I think making time for myself and the family has been really important, for all the issues the lockdown has thrown up. It has also given us the opportunity to enjoy things we take for granted. Lots of family time. Time out walking with family and often walking alone has really helped my mental health – an upbeat podcast and an hour or more out in the fresh air has been great. Recently the North West branch managers took part in 5km a day for 5 weeks which was great as it brought us all closer as a team working towards a common goal with loads of positivity and encouragement.


When you haven't struggled, what do you think the reason has been for that?

There are times I've struggled with working from home full-time and homeschooling, lack of interaction with the team and not being in an office. However being able to have Zoom calls with both the staff from the Liverpool office and the North West management team has really helped and continues too. As it looks like this might run on and on, over the past couple of weeks we have come up with ways to make our Zoom calls not just work related but about something else, regaining the conversations missed from not being in the office. This can be anything from chatting about our favourite films, talking about the books we are reading or just new ideas about meals to cook and how they turned out. It has taken the monotony out of the traditional Zoom questions on tasks and output. 


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

For me it’s nothing revolutionary, simple things like talking with others when feeling low or frustrated can help, just picking the phone up to a manager or colleague and having a good vent is great. The likelihood is we have felt the same or have dealt with a similar situation, once you’ve got it off your chest it can really help. Our daily manager Zoom's have helped lift spirits with side themes of your favourite school hymn, your eight-piece breakfast and general silly things have been great. A discussion on why mushrooms do not belong on a breakfast or why ‘Give Me Oil For My Lamp’ is the best hymn surprisingly does wonders for the soul. There is also a lot to be said for exercise whether it be walking, running or dancing the two-step in your kitchen, moving has helped me. Our Liverpool team have also decided on a weekly cooking theme, where all staff make a set meal and compare results. We've also tried step challenges and a keep fit Friday session for 10 mins prior to starting work, each of us leading an activity each week.