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Marking World Mental Health Day – reflecting on our mental health training for care home managers

In this new blog to mark World Mental Health Day, our Programme Assistant, Millie O’Keeffe talks through the journey she and Bristol Mind took as they worked together to build a free mental health focused training package for care home managers across the West of England. Millie picks out some of the feedback the training (which ran in cohorts from January to June 2021) received and why working on this project was so important to her, our care homes programme and the care home managers who attended.

From a seed

The journey started when some of our key stakeholders in local systems told us about the significant challenges staff in care homes were facing around high COVID rates, deaths of residents, PPE and staff shortages, and isolation – we’d heard about these challenges in the news too – and the effect this was having on care staffs’ wellbeing and mental health. We knew our colleagues in social care were struggling and so wanted to support them somehow. Line managers at the West of England AHSN had recently been trained by Bristol Mind in mental health awareness, and we had heard good feedback from those sessions, so we reached out to Bristol Mind who were happy to work with us to tailor the line manager session for a care home manager audience.

Pulling the jigsaw together

The content of the free training focused on supporting the wellbeing of managers so they were able to better support their staff. There was a lot of ground we could have covered but the fantastic team at Bristol Mind focused on the stress curve, tools like STOPP, how to have a sensitive conversation, and advice on supporting staff who are grieving or anxious about COVID. We also shared lots of resources, including a workbook, and signposted to local support organisations after the training.

Suzanne Pearson, a mental health trainer and consultant and BABCP Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, worked with us to adapt the content and deliver the training.

How did it go?

I am really proud to say we received incredibly positive feedback from the managers about Suzanne and 97% of attendees said they would recommend the training to a colleague.

“I found it calming, almost therapeutic, I know that may sound odd but just listening to others’ experiences made me feel connected.”

Thanks to the efforts of our contacts in regional systems, provider organisations, primary care, councils (and more) in promoting the training to their local care homes, over two busy cohorts we trained 159 care home managers from across the West of England region.

What did the data look like – how did the training make a difference?

I’m always keen to dig into the data and understand what changed because of the training we provided. Prior to the training, managers cited they were most concerned about their staff’s own mental health and wellbeing, with fear of spreading COVID to residents coming in second. When asked how concerned they were about their staff’s wellbeing, zero responders chose ‘I am not concerned at all’ – that showed me just how much stress each and every care home was dealing with. However, most (59%) managers believed themselves to be fairly confident in supporting their staff, and following the training, their confidence improved even further. A follow up survey showed a third of responders use the tools and tips from the training regularly (a few times a week), and that the training has changed how they support their own (76%) and their staff’s (94%) wellbeing for the better.

It was great to see such positive data from the surveys, but what really hit home to me and the rest of the care homes team were the comments from managers:

“I was really interested in the approach of asking the care home managers how they were feeling and giving them a voice. This was a powerful and quite shocking start. The look on 25 participants faces at the thought of focusing on themselves instead of on their staff. The shock came from the understanding that with COVID we have all just kept going and going, the instruction ‘right, now stop, what about you’ was bizarre.”

Making connections

A positive by-product of the training was that a large number of attendees mentioned they felt the session provided valuable time and space to connect with other managers who have experienced similar pressures over the past year, especially managers from different organisations, and specifically managers in social care.

Suzanne also offered some valuable insight from discussions in the sessions, including a fear that the sector could not influence decision makers and was at risk of being forgotten about. Many managers described burn out, exhaustion, and weariness, and shared concerns around staff recruitment.

These key messages and the evaluations have been shared with our regional stakeholders and internally with colleagues across the Care Homes Programme, so we hope that the training has not only supported managers and staff in care homes but will also go towards illuminating the wellbeing needs of the sector going forwards.

Talk ‘ain’t’ cheap

As I reflected on the training programme and World Mental Health Day, I considered that making time and listening and learning from all our colleagues across the whole health and social care spiderweb is vital – talking is so important and sometimes we forgot to do it.  Mental health has always been something I’ve felt should be spoken about more honestly and openly, so as I bid farewell to the AHSN in the weeks to come I remain proud to have coordinated this positive training programme.

Read more about the free resources, support and training available to social care staff across the West of England here.


Posted on September 28, 2021 by Millie O'Keeffe, Programme Assistant, West of England AHSN

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