Conference News September 2021 - Page 31

setting up the support line is you don ’ t know how the story ends . In that 30-minute chat with someone , you build up a relationship but then it ’ s done , you ’ re on to the next person and you never get to learn how things turned out . It ’ s hard to get your head around it when you ’ re so used to focusing on results and progress .
As more and more of the people we were supporting were being made redundant , we switched our support line to a support circle . The support circles were weekly zoom calls and became a space where people could connect with others who were experiencing similar things . We created a space that felt homely with no judgement and a sense of community .
That community was a huge driver for the Buddies Matter programme that we still run . We match people in the industry with someone else to act as each other ’ s support buddies . Just having someone there to talk to when you need a pick-me-up but don ’ t want to talk to someone who has a vested interest was a huge benefit to people . Some of our buddies spoke once , some of them still speak every week . We have more than 100 buddies and are building on our UK association partners by connecting with association partners in other countries to support people around the world .
In an industry where we are so sociable , so many people have felt so isolated .
Sharing is caring
At the end of 2020 , 41 people told us their stories so that we could share them with the industry .
Industry professionals that had been furloughed volunteered to help transcribe these stories and our Pandemic Storybook contained tales of people setting up coffee shops , buying kayaks , starting new careers , repositioning companies , emigrating , repatriating and , of course , baking , Joe Wicks and home-schooling .
Many of these amazing people have also gone on to be part of a longitudinal study into the mental health and wellbeing of eventprofs that we are running in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire .
Gathering insights has always been a core part of the Stress Matters approach : you have got to know the problem before you can fix it . In our most recent survey ,
“ One person called four nights on the trot . She was going through a tough time . She was so worried about becoming ill and was having arguments with her partner as they were both feeling so much stress .”
87 % of respondents marked their stress level at a 6 or higher out of 10 and only 48 % of respondents felt that in the past 12 months their employer had taken a more active role in trying to improve their wellbeing . We know that some businesses have put the mental safety of their teams as a top priority , but so many haven ’ t and there is still so much further our industry can go in terms of making sure we have the well and productive teams we all need to rebuild the industry .
More than 800 people joined our webinars last year to learn how they could help themselves and better support other people with their mental health . We trained 212 people in mental health first aid and we know that these MHFAs are supporting people in their communities every day . We see their stories of resilience on LinkedIn and get a glimpse into the next chapter of their story .
We had no strategy coming into the pandemic . We reacted and coped as best we could as a team . As I reflect now , the central focus for us the whole way through has been storytelling . We have hopefully given people the space to share their stories , publicly or privately , the courage and confidence to write their own stories and the knowledge and understanding of what is happening to them as their story unfolds . We each have a story to shape and to tell , and I hope that
Stress Matters has supported people on that journey . CN
www . conference-news . co . uk www . conference-news . co . uk