meet our mental health first aiders: vicky and chrissie

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 tackled the mental challenges of lockdown.


Vicky Harris - Regional Director, North West and Midlands 


Who are you outside of work?

Wow… who am I outside of work? I am single, divorced, a dog mum. Am I writing a dating app bio here or something for work?!

My hobbies pre-pandemic were… traveling, I love to travel and have done a few solo holidays and group tours over the last few years. Then also salsa dancing which I used to do every week and then attended a few socials at The Palm House and Blackpool Ballroom. Also yoga, pole fitness, the occasional jog, loads of dog walking, reading, socialising with friends and food, all the food. With lockdown that mostly turned into house decorating, dog walking, reading and luckily still food!


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

There are a few reasons really. There have been people in my life who have suffered from mental health problems all their life, sadly some who felt they had nowhere to turn and took the worst possible action as they couldn’t see a way out. Then also I think I have a really open mind when it comes to mental health and have always thought you should look after your brain as much as you do your body. Then having my own personal issues with mental health, which felt very different. Even though I could easily speak to others and advise others it felt like a challenge to HAVE to take my own advice. It made me realise how important it is to share your own experiences in order to normalise them.  

So in summary, I wanted to help others and hope I could draw on personal experience in order to do that. 


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

It;s been a rollercoaster for sure. From really stressful when you feel like all the control of your life has been taken away and just wanting to scream, to it becoming quite normal and feeling quite settled, to then struggling again when life starts back up and you wonder how you manage to go back to that pace of living, and then for the whole ride to begin again with lockdown 2.0 and 3.0!

I’ve been really motivated, determined, full of ideas, full of energy then completely unmotivated, can't be arsed, just want to eat and do nothing. Then it would flip again.


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

During the times I've struggled I have spoken to friends, written it down to get it out of my head, meditated, done yoga, or tried to just get out for some fresh air.  The key thing was trying to interrupt that anxiety or negativity in your mind by just getting up. I may have even just put Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off' on loud and danced about to get my energy levels up... whatever it takes don’t judge me!


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

The times I haven’t struggled have been because I have looked after myself, not drank too much, been getting fresh air, being kinder to myself and eating well. Then also having projects that gave a sense of achievement. Things like creating an office space - I didn’t have one before but I painted a room, bought a desk and printer and shelves and created a nice space to go and work in but also an area I can shut the door on and walk away from so I can separate work from home and ensure that balance. This then lead to the spare room, bathroom and kitchen all getting painted.

I have tried new things like baking banana bread..sorry yes I was one of those people. 

Also, the team around me has massively helped, I am so lucky to work with such a fab bunch, we have all kept each other going. Then I also ended up starting a podcast with my best mate, which I guess is along similar lines of talking about things helps people.


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

Create the laughs where you can whether that’s funny conference call topics, quizzes, sharing funny things on WhatsApp. Work needs to be fun as much as it can be in normal times, and now that’s more important than ever. 

Challenges can be a great way to have some purpose and feel involved in something too (as much as you might want to punch the person for suggesting doing 5k for 5 days a week for 5 weeks… naming no names Stu Dow). 

Mixing up your day, getting out at lunchtime, taking lots of breaks away from the computer to make drinks, and if you can walk around whilst on the phone to get your steps up- something you would see Ross do everywhere!

Video calls with friends, new series, exercise classes on Zoom, gardening, decorating, doing all those annoying things you never want to do because life's too hectic. 

Try and appreciate the time, slow down and be grateful for the little things.  

Do not be afraid to say how you feel, there might be someone out there dying to say they feel the same way, and by sharing how you feel you might help them.  Alternatively, you might just get the advice and support you need. Please do not suffer in silence, even if you aren’t ready to talk an email or text or something to explain can be the start.


Chrissie Small, Regional Director, North Wales and NRC


Who are you outside of work?

Before lockdown, most of my weekends were taken up chauffeuring my son around to his hobbies and social activities! But when I do have some free time, I like to spend it with my family, have girly lunches and spa days, go to the gym (well did when they were open), go walking with my dog and get away as much as I can!

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

Through my own experiences of knowing and supporting people who have suffered or who are still suffering with their mental health, I thought I could make a difference. I like to think I get along with people and that I am approachable if someone needs to reach out.


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

Overall I have been ok and stayed positive for most of the time. We all have our off days and I have certainly had them too!


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

On the days I've struggled, I have tried to think of all the good things in my life or I would have some chocolate (usually chocolate is my weekend treat) to make myself feel better or put on my favourite playlist and gone out for a dog walk.


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

For me, keeping to a routine has been key! Getting up at the same time, getting ready for work and keeping in touch with the team as well as family and friends outside of work.


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

Throughout lockdown we have had Friday beers, team quizzes, bingo and various game nights. As a team, we have always had a laugh and enjoy catching up!

January is always a flat month and so as a region, we decided to complete a step challenge to see who was going out for walks at lunch or after work and over the weekend.

We would post on our team Whatsapp group on any walks we had been on or a screenshot of how many steps. Some of the team who didn’t walk that much would then post how little they walked as a joke and it would raise each other’s spirits! On our Monday Zoom calls, we would recap the weekly steps and talk through where we had walked and just have a laugh about it, it would set us all up for the week!