IMHN: Mental Health and Housing project, review by Melanie Anderton

Trauma Informed Mental Health Awareness Training for Housing Support Staff (Pilot Nov 2021 – Feb 2022) 

It’s been a privilege to be involved in the co-production and delivery of the Trauma Informed Mental Health Awareness Training for GM housing support staff.   After 12 weeks of delivering phase 1, to approx. 120 housing staff, I have to say that the experience has been positive, uplifting and insightful for many reasons.  

“So what do I think has made this training stand out? “   

For me the key elements were the knowledge and experience of staff and tutors, from the IMHN Housing Project and the Recovery Academy, with the added compliment of Experts by Experience, who brought hard hitting, lived experience to the table.  We gelled very quickly as a group and supported each other to tell our stories.  This collaboration created a training package that had a certain dynamic with the potential to generate diverse and meaningful conversations that could potentially, week on week, take a slightly different dimension and that’s exactly what we got. 

All of the potential for this training would not have come into fruition without the housing staff who signed up.  Giving up two days of their working week was a lot to ask.  Housing support staff, have such demanding workloads, so absolute credit must go to them for engaging with such enthusiasm.  ‘I mean, who likes role play?  No one, I’m sure’, but these participants got over their initial reluctance, got stuck in and whether it was a worthy OSCAR performance or whether in their group they talked about and around the task in hand, either way they gained a valuable insight into their own practice and the practice of their colleagues. 

The professionalism and expertise of the tutor/s who led this training, created an environment of inclusiveness, mutual respect and trust.  The impact of lived experience, delivered by the very people who live it, was humbling to say the least.  Lived experience stories have the power to strip us of our instinct to defend, so to step down from this stance (to defend), meant that difficult topics raised by EBE’s were given  depth and meaning that you don’t get with ‘case studies’. Not only did we listen with compassion but we challenged, debated and felt safe to share personal experiences and emotions.  Each week brought a different cohort of staff and each cohort did not disappoint when it came to bringing something different to the conversation.   

People have compassion, systems don’t and sometimes we become as traumatised as the systems that we work with. 

I’ve gained a valuable insight into what it takes to work in housing.  What I’ve seen in abundance from housing staff, is competence, compassion, an innovative approach to problem solving and above all sheer hard work and determination when it comes to supporting tenants.  ‘Above and beyond’ seems to be an innate trait of those who follow the path into this vocation.  After listening to some of the stories, that housing staff shared, it’s obvious to me that they spin many plates.  Each case-load can be complex with numerous other agencies involved and I get the impression that housing staff keep the plates of other agencies spinning too.  

Self- care needs its own level on the hierarchy of needs. 

 Collectively, housing staff are capable and efficient when it comes to ‘getting things done’, it’s what they strive to do, but it leaves them, as individuals vulnerable to ‘burn out’.   I can say this with some authority as I’ve worked in Further Education for over 20 years teaching Health & Social Care and as Head of Curriculum for 10 years.  Long hours, above and beyond, dealing with safeguarding issues, CPD, taking work home be it marking and or emails waking up in the middle of the night to write a note to self to remember to do x, y and Z, constantly striving to reach impossible targets.   I heard all of the same from housing staff.  For many years I believed that burn-out was resilience.  How wrong I was.   It’s taken many years for me to realise the importance of self-care and that I have to take care of myself.  I’m getting there. 

Supervision is pivotal for well-being and reducing vicarious stress and trauma. 

Phase 2 of this training pilot has already begun with supervision sessions.  Six key themes came out of the discussions of Phase 1 of the training.  Dual-diagnosis, self-care, protected characteristics & community assets, carers, working with others and hoarding are the 6 themes identified.  I will blog again once these sessions have all been delivered. 

It’s so important now to capture everything that came out of this training, keep the momentum going and make sure that there is an auditable trace of the impact.  It’s important to me on a personal level as I live with being bereaved by suicide and if we don’t have change, then we don’t have anything. 

Mel Anderton 

Published on March 16, 2022 at 4:54 pm

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