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Mike Bush: I set up an inter-professional support network so under-pressure workers won't suffer a breakdown like I did

I have been campaigning, writing articles, book chapters and working hard for years to address the worsening problems of work-related trauma and distress in the health and social care professional workforce.

A recent survey found that in the last five years the percentage of mental health workers developing mental health issues and on long-term sick leave has gone up a quarter. We also now have extensive evidence through surveys of the severe pressures on other health and social care workers.

I myself experienced an incredibly bad mental breakdown as a result of ridiculous work pressures and a bullying boss. From this, I came to realize that so many others were experiencing the same or similar problems in caring professions that I had, and thus set about doing something about it.

Recently, I’ve co-ordinated my efforts to set up a mental health clinical inter-professional roundtable and planning meeting on this mega important issue and to seek to establish a broad support network for people in caring professions.

So, I asked Ruth Allen CEO of BASW if she would write to her counterparts in the health colleges to invite them to a Roundtable Event which she kindly agreed to. The outcome was that we had a very good initial meeting made up of highly experienced psychologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners, social workers, paramedics, nurses, psychotherapists and occupational therapists.

Some great ideas and initiatives were exchanged and we have now set up an overarching network of caring professions who intend to meet again in January and then every three months with people working on agreed initiatives and actions in the meantime, which include the following:

·         Writing a charter for professional standards to support the care and clinical supervision of staff, recognising that while we have standards for service users and carers there is an absence of standards for those who are providing that care in terms of their own support needs. This is in the interests of everyone, particularly those on the receiving end of care for the last thing vulnerable people need is a burnt out exhausted health or social care worker suffering from ill health.

·         I suggested the establishment of an interactive website providing resources relating to organizations articles and books on promoting health and wellbeing, and also for members to exchange ideas, support and information. This could include setting up a telephone helpline to support people in caring professions.

·         I suggested we should seek to establish a national day to celebrate the excellent hard work and compassion of people in caring professions in the same we do with the armed forces. This would also serve to put in the public eye the issues and problems facing members of caring professions.

·         I suggested there is also a real need to ensure learning strategies to protect and promote the mental health and wellbeing of staff is incorporated in training courses in caring professions.

Mike Bush, Mental Health Consultant and Trainer (Retired Senior Mental Health Social worker)