Health in Mind: Getting #DuckPositive to help with wellbeing in the workplace

TAKING control of your own mental wellbeing in the workplace can be just as important as managers and companies pledging to make a change.

Tuesday, 21st May 2019, 2:33 pm
Nathan Clifford is hoping the #DuckPositive campaign will help other people feel happier in the workplace. Picture: Courtesy of Southern Health Trust

With one in four of us experiencing a mental health issue at some stage in our lives and 595,000 workers in the UK reporting that they suffer from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, it is more important than ever to make sure we have a healthy work-life balance.

For Southern Health Trust worker, Nathan Clifford, this has become an integral part of his working life. The 29-year-old lives with schizoaffective disorder, caused by a ‘traumatic past’, which can cause symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Nathan, who lives in Fareham, said: ‘I hear voices in my head so working in a busy office when there are a lot of conversations going on it and get quite overwhelming quite quickly.’

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The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance team have become one of the first crews in the country to use an online system that tracks their mental health at work. Picture: Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance

As a way of managing his disorder at work Nathan came up with the idea of #DuckPositive this year. Whenever he felt like he needed a bit of quiet and some space to focus he would put a rubber duck on his computer as a sign.

‘The duck was a way of signalling to colleagues to give me a bit of space and calm in the office,’ he said.

‘When people see the duck they know not to come and talk to me for a while and let me get on with my work.’

But Nathan was not expecting it to become so popular.

Dr Matt Kerton. Picture: Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance

He said: ‘It spread across social media, all over Twitter.

‘Originally it was meant to be a symbol for me but then lots of people said they would benefit from it. Ultimately, even if people don’t have a mental health issue everyone still feels stress at work. Everyone needs a bit of quiet sometimes. I had people from outside the trust contacting me about the ducks.’

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Already 400 rubber ducks have been requested from Nathan for other employees around Hampshire to use.

Nathan Clifford is hoping the #DuckPositive campaign will help other people feel happier in the workplace. Picture: By Emily Powell

Nathan, who brings his experience to working for the trust’s transformation team, said: ‘Working here is the happiest I have ever been.

‘It’s amazing that I am able to use my experiences to help other people and share what’s worked for me.

‘I’ve heard voices since I was 19. Although I had lots of techniques to manage it sometimes it would get more intense when things got chaotic. My office is great nine times out of 10 but sometimes a bit of quiet and understanding helps me feel more in control.’

And #DuckPositive has proved popular among some QA Hospital workers. Emily Powell, 41, who designed the logo for Nathan’s campaign took the idea to QA when she got a job there.

She said:‘I thought it was a really good idea when I worked at the Southern Health Trust so I took it with me to QA and it seems to have gone down a storm.

‘As an extrovert I tend to be quite noisy and disruptive. But I have felt stressed when I am on a deadline and people are popping by to say hello. It’s really hard to say “sorry I can’t talk.”

‘It’s a great way for the team to say they need a bit of peace and quiet, whether it’s because they need to get a bit of work done or are having a tough day.

‘I ordered some ducks for our office for Mental Health Awareness Week last week as I felt it was very pertinent. I ordered all different colours. Two Pompey fans in the office wanted the blue ones. We kept the black ones aside for people to use to show that they need a bit of TLC that day. It will just show that they are struggling a bit more than usual.’

To find out more search #DuckPositive on Twitter.

How Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance staff will be tackling mental health issuesAIR ambulance paramedics in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are being encouraged to take charge of their own mental health with a new online wellbeing system.

In line with Mental Health Awareness Week the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA) officially launched its wellbeing programme.

Staff are asked to take part in a monthly anonymous survey that maps how they are managing their wellbeing and alerts bosses to any issues.

Hospital Emergency Medical Service doctor Matt Kerton led the programme. He said: ‘Understanding of mental health and stress in the workplace has come along way, I think a few years ago there was nothing really in place to acknowledge it.

‘But I also think the medical service is still quite far behind other industries, especially considering the strain of our jobs. The real concern is that people will just burn out.

‘The things that we see in our work stay with us. If you see a child or a baby that has died it could come back to you as a flashback.

‘There is nothing that can prepare us for what we come up against every day and we regularly attend life changing incidents that stay with us long after our shift finishes. Every incident is different, every patient is different, and a situation can change in a split second. In that moment we are wholly focused on keeping our patient alive.’

Although the scheme was launched in May it has been trialled for a few months.

Dr Kerton was buoyed by the response from staff. He said: ‘We were only expecting about 70 per cent of staff to use it within the first six months but in the first month alone an excess of 80 per cent had used it.

‘I think it will take six to 10 months to see proper trends emerging but once we do the information will be invaluable.

‘The key issue is that if you ask someone in the organisation if they have filled out a form about their mental health they won’t want to talk about it.’

As well as a survey the new wellbeing website offers tips and advice on wellbeing based on survey results, as well as signposting the teams to further support from mental health professionals.

Chief executive of HIOWAA, Alex Lochrane, said: ‘National reporting has highlighted that everyone working in the emergency services can be affected by post-traumatic stress at any point in their career, and our critical care teams at HIOWAA are no exception.

‘They put themselves out there every day and face situations that are unimaginable to us. I am really proud that we can now offer them a platform to seek support and advice, should they need it and I hope others will follow our example.’

A range of activities such as personal training sessions and yoga classes were also provided for the critical care teams during Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mr Lochrane added: ‘The wellbeing of our critical care teams is of paramount importance, in order that they have the mental and physical resilience to face the challenges they do. We want to ensure they are fit and well so they can continue to provide the best possible life-saving treatment for the people of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.’

Sick days due to stress

Portsmouth City Council:

Between February 2018 and Jan 2019 19.54 per cent of sick days were taken due to psychological illnesses amounting to 6,195 working days lost and making it the second highest cause of sickness. Musculoskeletal was highest at 25.10 per cent

Portsmouth NHS Trust:

From the 2018 NHS staff survey 38.9 per cent of staff said they were feeling unwell due to work related stress in the last 12 months, up from 35.3 per cent in 2016

Hampshire Constabulary:

A Freedom of Information request revealed that in 2016 95 police officers went off sick with a stress related illness and 62 were signed off from work by a doctor due to stress