I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – Hampshire Firefighters

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – Hampshire Firefighters


You could be forgiven for thinking that as soon as an allegation of sexual harassment or abuse is raised within an organisation that the first call placed will be to a lawyer to get a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) put in place.

Investigations into #metoo allegations and court cases involving organisations from legal firms to universities suggest that rather than being a last resort, NDA’s are the risk management tool of choice. Gagging and cover-up, being preferable to proper investigation and remediation.

NDA’s used to be just for protecting commercial interests

We are used to seeing corporations and legal firms using NDA’s, but when universities use them to silence those who have been sexually abused or harassed, serious questions need to be asked. 

BBC News questioned 136 universities on whether they were using NDA’s. The responses revealed that about 300 students had signed NDA’s since 2016, covering everything from sexual harassment to bullying and poor teaching. Around a third of universities had used them, totalling payouts of £1.3million, with individual payments ranging from £250 to £40,000. 

In April 2019  Times Higher Education reported that a freedom of information request had identified that UK universities had issued over eleven thousand NDA’s in the past five years and the number is rising year on year. This figure primarily represented NDA’s written with staff as part of negotiated settlements. Of concern is that these settlements could be preventing staff members from speaking up and declaring incidents of harassment and abuse to themselves or others. They could also be allowing workplace predators to continue operating unchallenged. 

Gagging orders seem to have replaced compassion and a desire to do the right thing.

Whether used on staff or pupils, we have to ask whether NDA’s have replaced compassion, honesty, trust and even outrage within an organisation? We also have to question if it is more important to maintain the status quo, preventing the boat from rocking, than doing the right thing.

It would appear that the desire to mitigate perceived risk to an organisation and individuals has been misplaced and overtaken doing the right thing. It would also appear that a passion for making a problem go away in the short term has replaced implementing real long term solutions that would instead create safe, trustworthy places for both study and work.

Emma Chapman of the 1752 Group that campaigns against sexual misconduct in higer education, told Times Higher Education:

“this level of NDA use shows how universities have long prioritised reputation management above the safety and well-being of their students and staff”.  

This past weeks Sexual assault claims ‘gagged’ by UK universities  BBC News article by Rianna Croxford for BBC News raises serious questions of Vice-Chancellors across the land. Pupils and staff who have been or have potentially been abused need support. They are not legal entities on which restrictive contracts can be slapped to put a lid on bad news. We need to continue to see all staff and pupils for what they are. They are humans, and their minds matter.

If you are still wondering whether this is really an issue we should be discussing, then consider this:

60% of students suffer sexual harassment during their studies

Previously, Chris Skidmore, the now ex-universities minister had said that the Department for Education would investigate after it emerged that a third of universities had used non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence students over various matters. With the past weeks split of the universities and science ministerial portfolio, one can only wait to see the approach of the new universities minister Michelle Donelan. With the media continuing to focus on abuse and harassment and the use of NDA’s it is unlikely that the pressure is going to reduce for Vice Chancellors. 

Effective risk management

If you are a university, or for that matter any other organisation, it will always be essential to manage risk and mitigate it as far as is practically possible. However, suppression of genuine concerns, harrassment, bullying or abuse is a dangerous path to go down. Sweeping complaints under the carpet, without proper, appropriate investigation can lead to increased levels of risk as the root cause of issues goes unchallenged. 

Leaders in further education do have an obligation to their owners, shareholders, trustees, parents, pupils and staff to protect the organisation’s very existence and its ability to function. But there are right and wrong ways to go about that. It must not be at the cost of those over which the establishment has a duty of care.

The day an organisation even decides to start considering NDA’s should be the day to decide to change. There are usually far better ways to mitigate risk tactically, and certainly better ways to go about getting long term outcomes. Prevention, management, intervention, support, care, compassion etc should all be considered.   

Transparency and risk management working together

Sometimes organisations need to put their hands up and admit that negative things can and do happen. Putting heads in the sand, and suppressing bad news is harmful to individuals and universities alike. Sometimes, organisations just need to take it on the chin. Transparency is an important step towards building trust and building positively for the future.  

Transparency helps build trust, especially when those within an organisation see that complaints are dealt with fairly, appropriately and effectively. 

Its time to shift thinking, but it won’t be easy.

The shift needed to think like this is not easy. In fact, its likely scary for anyone in a position of responsibility. However, it needs to be navigated and a new direction found.

Our challenge to universities is to embrace change in this area and to resist the instant urge to contain a situation, instead of focusing on doing the right thing. When something goes wrong, the university has responsibilities to a number of parties, and each of these will need to be dealt with appropriately. In the case of an allegation of sexual abuse, harassment or bullying the victim, the pupils or staff involved, even the accused need to be treated respectfully within an established well thought out process that includes appropriate levels of compassion and honesty. 

What can universities do differently?

50% of all students believe there is an understanding of consent among university students.

Sexual abuse and harassment will inevitably happen from time to time; it is unlikely that we can entirely eliminate them in society. But through adequate preventative education, pupils and staff can learn about boundaries, respect, and relationships. Preventative education is proven to be able to significantly reduce the volume and impact of the abuse and harassment that is happening.

Properly investing in prevention would be a significant step forward from where we are today.

No longer can a university culture that allows a presumption of sexual consent prevail. No longer can universities leave students to educate themselves on what’s right or wrong when it comes to boundaries, sex and relationships. Clearly, that doesn’t work. Pupils and staff need to be educated on that. Universities need to work on showing that attitudes need to change and start systematically working on changing behaviour, with each new cohort, as well as those already well into their courses.

Creating trustworthy reporting and follow-up mechanisms

Only 2% of victims feel able to report the incident to their university

Mid 2019 Channel 4 asked as part of Cathy Newman’s research in to the excellent  82% increase in reports of sexual violence in universities responding universities highlighted that 626 reports of rape or sexual assault had been made in 2018. However, when in other studies only 2% of victims have responded that they felt unable to report what had happened, it would appear that Vice-Chancellors and the Department of Education may not be fully aware of the horrific situation on the ground.

Clearly, universities will never see the clear picture unless they work hard on implementing effective, balanced, trustworthy reporting mechanisms. 

Students need to know that when they report what has happened to them that they won’t suddenly feel like they are the accused and blamed. They will need to feel that the processes in place are already worthy of trust and respect. For students that can only come with transparency and collective lived experience of processes working, rather than students being told by those whom they’ve reported an incident to that they had tempted fate by the way that they were dressed, or because of what they had said or drunk.

Adequate reporting mechanisms need to be made available to students. For those that do report that they have been harassed and abused, they need to be supported and protected from further indignity. 

It is time to see universities openly talking about the number of reports of sexual abuse and harassment that they’ve had on or off campus. It is time to see them proving that they are organisations in which their pupils and staff can have trust because they do the right thing for those for whom they have a duty of care. Having that conversation will mean more bad news as the truth comes out, but it is the only way that a responsible education system can move forward and develop trust. NDA’s just suppress the issue and with student seeing increased numbers of outstanding brave victims prepared to wave anonymity and take universities to court this problem will not be going away.

So if you are a Minister, Vice-Chancellor or member of university management ask yourself whether its better to get ahead of this issue, rather than bury your heads in the sand and ignore or rely on an NDA. 

This article was written and published by Brian Tancock.

Brian Tancock is a director and founder of Flexmind. Flexmind and its specialist partners help universities and other organisation to do the right thing for themselves and their pupils, through preventative education, and the implementation of frameworks that encourage trust and transparency. Flexmind uniquely bring an in-depth understanding of business, education, risk-management and mental health together for the benefit of people and organisations alike. 

If you would like to discuss any of the questions or challenges raised in this article, or to seek help turning your organisation around, please get in touch with Brian or one of his colleagues. Our details can be found via the About Page, or you can contact us via the Contact Us Page.

Young Carers Awareness Day is an annual event, led by Carers Trust, and is taking place on 30 January 2020.

Every day across the UK thousands of young people help to look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol.

Recent research shows that one in five secondary school children may be a young carer. For many, their caring journey begins at a much younger age. Caring for someone can be very isolating, worrying and stressful. For young carers, this can negatively impact on their experiences and outcomes in education, having a lasting effect on their life chances.

Count Me In!

Through the Count Me In! campaign Carers Trust is calling on compulsory education providers to do more to proactively identify young carers and to ensure that they receive the recognition and support they deserve.

Get involved on social media with #CountMeIn and #YoungCarersAwarenessDay.

Young Carers Awareness Day 2020 resources

Carers Trust resources can help you plan how you are going to get involved and how to campaign for greater support for young carers and their needs.

Want to get involved with Young Carers Awareness Day on social media? They’ve got assets for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that you can download and share!

Further information

  • For queries about the day get in touch with Carers Trust.
  • For information about Young Carers Awareness Day in Scotland contact Carers Trust Scotland.
  • For queries about Young Carers Awareness Day in Wales contact Carers Tru


Health Innovation Network (South London AHSN)


Robens Suite
Level 29, Tower Wing
Guy’s Hospital, Great Maze Pond
London, SE1 9RT

Maximising Digital Opportunities in Mental Health – focusing on Perinatal , Children and Young People 0-25 years. Chair: Dr James Woollard

About this Event

Join other influential leaders and digital innovators at this free mental health event to shape the future of digital interventions for perinatal, children and young people 0 – 25 years.

The focus of the event is to share and discuss the opportunities and challenges in adopting digital innovations to support perinatal and children/young people’s mental health. Guest speakers include:

  • Chair: Dr James Woollard – Chief CIO – Oxleas, Senior Clinical Fellow – Mental Health Technology and Innovation NHS England and Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Integrated Children’s Service for ADHD – Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust
  • Professor Peter Fonagy – Programme Director, Mental Health and Wellbeing Theme, UCLPartners and Chief Executive, Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families
  • Liz Ashall-Payne – CEO, ORCHA – World’s leading health app evaluation and advisor organisation
  • Julian Edbrooke-Childs – Head of Digital Development and Evaluation at Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and Associate Professor at UCL
  • Dr Sushma Sundaresh – Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead Bexley Bromley and Greenwich Perinatal Mental Health Service Chair South East London Perinatal Mental Health Network

The event will provide an opportunity to meet selected digital companies who are actively engaged in improving patient outcomes through:

  • Promoting prevention and self-management
  • Crisis management
  • Reducing self-harm
  • Suicide prevention
  • Reducing anxiety
  • ADHD management tools
  • Perinatal care

The event is open for registration to south London stakeholders including: NHS Trusts, School Nurses, Health Visitors, Midwives, Perinatal Services, Schools, Educational Services, Universities, IAPT providers, CCG and Local Authority Commissioners, Public Health, Social Services , GPs, Voluntary Organisations / Third Sector, CEPN’s, Health Education England, Healthy London Partnership, Kings Health Partners and other mental health stakeholders working in the field of perinatal and children/young people services.


How can I contact the organiser with any questions?

Please email lydia.davies3@nhs.net with any questions.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – Hampshire Firefighters


Flexmind’s Sylvia Bruce will be speaking at Navex Global’s 27th November event for Whistleblowing programme owners.

Sylvia will help explore how the development of a supportive culture is vital to good governance, risk reduction/prevention and effective whistleblowing programmes. Sylvia will also highlight the negative role that fear and poor mental health are playing.

Governance and regulation are a core part of running an organisation successfully. Instructions and guidance are given, processes modified and controls put in place. Yet, the organisation’s workforce, vital to the implementation of initiatives such as “Whistleblowing Programmes” often continues to operate in a culture that doesn’t support the expected outcomes.

In some organisations, employees operate in toxic cultures that turn on the whistleblower and make them an outcast.

Leaders need to consider developing a workplace culture that nurtures and supports transparency and communication. Whether the whistleblowing relates to sexual harassment, misuse of power, abuse, bullying, fraud or other negative behaviours, adequate and appropriate support for both the whistleblower or victim and the alleged perpetrator(s).

Come along to “Whistleblowing in Business” to see how effective governance, people management and supportive workplace cultures go hand in hand.

Alternatively, get in touch with the team at Flexmind and find out first hand from our experts as to how we can help support you in creating an effective and supportive culture within your organisation.

At Flexmind, we are passionate about creating the supportive environments in which organisations and their people can do their best.

If you are an organisation of any kind, Flexmind can help you provide your very best support for your workforce and stakeholders.  Get in touch with us today.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – Hampshire Firefighters


On World Mental Health Day 2019, our minds turn to the toll many people’s work has on their mental health. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of our employers, our workplaces can often be toxic for us.

If I were to ask you to name the things that are most important to your business, you would likely have ‘people’ right up there near the top. After all, you’ve probably invested heavily in acquiring and nurturing the right talent.

You’ll no doubt agree with me that happy teams full of staff that enjoy coming to work do better and contribute to the company thriving. But the reality is that the workplace can be taking a severe toll on employees. Despite appearances, many are finding it harder to come into work than they should.

You are doing well but are always looking for that bit extra to drive competitive advantage and profitability. But what else could you do?

Well, the answer isn’t so far away from where you’ve already been investing your time and money. It’s all about your employee’s mental health. That’s the key. It makes sense for your business, and it makes sense for your people.

Research has shown that UK businesses lose between £33 Billion and £42 Billion per annum due to poor mental health.

One of the biggest causes of sick leave is mental health. Although its probably recorded in a self-certification as a cold, flu or the dreaded diarrhoea due to the stigma attached to admitting something like anxiety or depression. A report by ACAS estimated that mental ill-health, including stress, depression and anxiety contributed in the UK to 91 million lost working days each year, more than for any other illness. No wonder so many colleagues complain that there are not enough staff to do the job. Quite a few of them are missing.

Those were the days lost that were identifiable because you could tell that employees were off sick. Worse still will be the impact of the employees that are affected by mental ill-health and are actually at work. You won’t be able to count those so quickly because the employees turned up, but they are likely severely underperforming.

Presenteeism is what happens when poor mental health distracts your staff. Some are recognisable because it is clear that your employees left their minds and enthusiasm at home. For others, the reduction in performance, the error rate or levels of risk taken are likely increasing, but its harder to spot or quantify.

Employees that are affected by depression and anxiety will often perform as well as anyone else. Many will be highly functioning. It’s not as simple as testing everyone and moving those that test positive to one side, focusing only on the so-called ‘healthy employees’. Nor is it simply a case of providing education, support lines for after it goes wrong, or training every other employee to be a mental health first aider, although they have their role.

In order for an organisation to be at it’s very best, it needs to value its employees and nurture their mental health.

Organisations benefit when they understand that employees are human, with moods and feelings that go up and down. A successful organisation will know words such as empathy and compassion and won’t need to sacrifice productivity or be “softer” to achieve results.

Successful organisations can achieve levels of collaboration and resilience that can not only boost the bottom line, but also give its staff, their families and friends a much needed boost too. Those are organisations where staff want to go to work and where they can focus on what’s in front of them from day to day. Most of all, they’ll know that if something happens in their lives, they’ll be able to talk to their peers and managers and receive the support they need.

Get in touch with Flexmind today and find out from our business and mental health experts how you can transform your organisation to one with motivated, productive staff generating increased revenue and reduced operating cost.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – Hampshire Firefighters


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.

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – Hampshire Firefighters


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
email: brian.tancock@flex-mind.com

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