Sexual Abuse – Leaders, hiding your head in the sand won’t help

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As we publish this post on World Suicide Prevention Day we are reminded of the prevalence of suicide and the stigma it continues to hold in society. Despite progress being made in terms of talking about mental health in general, there has been little movement when it comes to suicide.  As a result, too many people continue to face crisis alone

The number of deaths due to suicide is increasing again. Some of the increase might be down to an adjustment to the threshold for inclusion in the statistics, however, the increase remains a concern.

Changing our attitudes to suicide and being more open to discussing it will save lives. We need to start talking about suicide.  We need to start asking people if they are considering ending their lives.

Already today at just after 5 am this morning Brian Tancock, our Founder and Director asked someone in crisis if they were thinking of suicide.

As part of Brian’s Crisis Volunteer work with Shout, this is a question he and his colleagues are asking multiple times each day. In many cases the answer is no, but in quite a number of cases is yes and after asking about planning, means and timing they help people work on positive actions that they can take to keep themselves safe and seek further help. Sometimes they also have to seek help from the emergency services specially where there is an imminent risk and progress cant be made through talking alone.

Our message on suicide is simple:

If you are in crisis, please talk to someone. Talk to a friend, relative, colleague, employer, a Doctor or one of the many helplines. In fact, anyone. You can also contact mental health professionals, and if you are in immediate risk of harm contact your local emergency services. There is always someone who wants to listen, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.

If you are worried about someone in crisis, talk to them. Ask them how they are feeling and importantly ask them if they are thinking about suicide.  Be direct. Statistics show that asking someone directly about their suicidal thoughts will not increase the risk of them ending their own life. If people start using phrases such as: I don’t want to be here; I want to end it all; I’m nothing, No one will miss me, I’ve had enough of it all or similar ask them about how they are feeling and bring suicide directly into the discussion.

There are a thousand ways to start a conversation about your crisis, and if you are in the UK Shout is here for all of them.
Text Shout to 85258 for 24/7 support.  You can visit https://giveusashout.org for more information.

You can also contact The Samaritans.

In the US you can text HOME to 741741 or in Canada text to 686868 – these support lines are provided by Crisis Text Line.

#WSPD #WSPD2019 #Shout85258 #giveusashout @giveusashout

Please note that Flexmind does not provide one to one counselling services directly to the public. If you need help, please contact one of the options listed above, contact your local emergency services or The Samaritans.

Sexual Abuse – Leaders, hiding your head in the sand won’t help

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In a recent report on ITV News journalist, Mary Stanley highlighted firefighters Stu Vince & Adam Bundle of Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service and their mission to get people talking about how they feel.

We frequently hear about the increased risks that men face of suicide and unaddressed poor mental health. Because of the conditioning that men have generally had growing up they often struggle to share their feelings. For those working in emergency services, it can be tough given what they experience each day. Both male and female officers and firefighters can find that tradition & culture suggests they “man-up’ or use laughter and black-humour to get them through whatever they encounter in their work. Thankfully this is starting to change, but the pace of change is far too slow for the current generation of officers.

Stu was diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression and PTSD after surgery and both had been impacted by the pressures and strains of working on the front line of the emergency services where trauma is every present.

‘we have both had to overcome some form of mental health problem during their working life. Coping with the loss of colleagues at work, the regular pressures of making life and death decisions whilst attending a wide variety of life-threatening incidents, or daily pressures such as keeping a roof over their families head. It’s of no surprise then that over the last few years we all have witnessed a dramatic increase in mental health issues in the workplace and we are determined to do something about it, for everyone.’

Stu and Vince are now making a real difference by talking openly and publically. Both having trained as Mental Health First Aiders and are showing their colleagues and others that it is ok to open up about your mental health to someone trusted or mental health professional. They are now preparing to go into other workplaces to share their experiences and to show those they meet that it is ok to talk.

The impact advocates and educators like these have goes far beyond those they are working directly with. It is not uncommon for mental health issues to extend beyond the primary person – in this case, the firefighter – and cross over to having a significant impact on their loved ones and friends. Work such as that done by Stu and Vince and the awareness that they are raising can have far-reaching benefits.

As Stu and Vince are coming into the next phase of their work supporting those impacted by poor mental health. To raise awareness they will be rowing across the Atlantic in 2020, they are also looking to support Mind Solent through their work. You can find out more about their mission and contribute at their JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/atlanticrowingchallenge2020

The Flexmind team recognise the individual courage of Stu and Vince, not least of all for the work they do in their day to day jobs, but also for the bravery they have shown sharing how they feel and talking about what they have gone through. We know the huge effort it has taken on their part to do all of this.

Flexmind’s founder Brian Tancock was well aware of the trauma that his late father experienced in his role as a police officer with the Metropolitan Polic. Through working with a client who is an ex-firefighter, turned Doctor & Clinical Psychologist with a particular focus on PTSD and Trauma and other trauma specialists we have developed a deep passion for supporting those affected by poor mental health as a result of what they have experienced in their work lives. A number of our team members have also experienced first hand how even those in so-called ‘normal’ low-risk office jobs are frequently impacted by their experiences at work.

You can see the full report by Mary Stanley for ITV News and watch the video at: https://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2019-08-15/i-wouldn-t-wish-it-on-anyone-hampshire-firefighters-open-up-about-their-mental-health/

Flexmind  have a deep understanding of mental health, risk, regulation and business processes provide the consultancy, advisory, educational and support services, including psychologists and trauma specialists to help the emergency services and any type of organisation work towards doing better for their people and better managing the risk to the organisation. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you setup up the right framework and start tackling workplace-related mental health issues head-on.

Brian Tancock
Director & Founder

Flexmind Ltd
https://flex-mind.com 
email: [email protected]

Sexual Abuse – Leaders, hiding your head in the sand won’t help

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This week the BBC ran a story on its Newsbeat site ‘Ex-student sues Cambridge University over harassment complaint’.

‘A former student says she’s suing the University of Cambridge over the way it dealt with her harassment complaint.

Dani Bradford, 21, says she’s taken the action because she “wants things to change for other students”.

The university upheld a complaint she made about being sent “sexualised” text messages – but Dani isn’t happy with the way it handled her case.

Cambridge University says it “takes the personal safety of its students very seriously”.’

The concerns raised by Dani Bradford for her ongoing support and welfare after the event are without doubt wellfounded and reasonable. The has the right to continue to study in an environment that provides the support and reassurance that she needs. The trauma faced by people in her situation is both very real and substantial. It is also very common.

Our minds then turn to the University of Cambridge. There’s no reason to doubt that they take the personal safety of students very seriously.  But like most institutions, likely there is much more that can be done, even if they already meet all central and local government requirements and adhere to commonly understood standards in this area. Reliance upon often outdated regulation, guidelines and risk assessment that are often not fit for purpose can leave organisations woefully exposed if they are ever brought before a Judge.

Unfortunately, such stories are all too common, whether it is related to workplace harassment or in this case within an academic setting. Every day far too many people are having to say #metoo for the first time as they just joined the ranks of those who have been abused or harassed.

Protecting students through preventative measures such as education, the setting of standards and expectations as to what constitutes appropriate or inappropriate behaviour, developing the concept of permission-based interaction and developing healthier cultures and behaviours all need more work.  …and we don’t mean a knee-jerk intervention by the anti-fun police.

But there is more these organisations need to do. Firstly they need to get this right for the people over which they have a duty of care. That includes the students, their lecturers and the wide variety of academics, staff and third-parties working at, visiting or simply passing through a universities premises.

Then there is the need to get it right for the organisation or institution. This article focuses on Universities, but the exact same scenario exists within any public or private sector institution.  Get it wrong and there are significant financial, legal and reputation risks to the organisation.  Those doubting this, only have to look at the impact of not being in control of sexual harassment for organisations such as the UK Parliament, Stanford and Uber. Stanford, that hallowed of institutions found global notoriety in January 2015 with the now infamous Standford Rape Case.  One of the key reasons they struggled to get their London license renewed was because they weren’t seen to be protecting their passengers or responding to complaints sufficiently. The Mayor Of London took action in this case, and if such an action plays out badly it can still cost billions.

So in this day and age, where transgressions can go viral and can be reported on within minutes by any number of news institutions global it is important to be able to demonstrate that you’ve done everything reasonably possible to protect those that you have direct or even indirect responsibility for.

It’s no longer good enough to rely on the old line ‘…. takes the safety of its staff and ….. very seriously’.

Quite simply as an organisation you have to be able to demonstrate that you’ve done everything possible and can back this up by demonstrating that you have educated, challenged and changed processes, tracked, monitored, responded to complaints and had independent decision making of issues and scrutiny over what you have done.

Whoever is responsible for risk in your organisation and you should have a Chief Risk Officer or equivalent, needs to have issues like this on the very top of their agenda. It’s time that they stopped trying to weather the storm, relying on insurance cover, recommending compensation and Non-Disclosure Agreements to victims, accepting such issues as a ‘cost of dealing with the public’ etc and look to address the real root cause. Asking why such problems occur and looking at the root cause will likely end up looking at Senior Management, Processes, Culture etc. It won’t be an easy process and will require many leaders to look carefully at themselves, but ignoring it is no longer an option.

And in a case such as that with Dani Bradford at Cambridge,  when something hasn’t gone quite right, you’ll need to be able to provide support and care to mitigate the impact, cost and trauma experienced and to help the people through and beyond the event successfully and positively for all parties concerned.  And you might just have to be prepared to write a pretty sizable cheque if you don’t – compensation, fines and repairing reputation damage, lost revenue etc don’t come cheap these days.

Partners such as Flexmind who have a deep understanding of mental health, risk, regulation and business processes provide the consultancy, advisory, educational and support services, including psychologists and sexual abuse specialists to help Universities, Businesses and the Public Sector work towards doing better for their people and better managing the risk to the organisation.  Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you setup up the right framework and start tacking sexual abuse head-on.

Brian Tancock
Director & Founder

Flexmind Ltd
https://flex-mind.com 
email: [email protected]

 

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

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