Looking after each other when engaging with others
It’s #GlobalCommunityEngagementDay and this year’s theme is about ‘Looking after our mental health in community engagement.’
Most of our engagement work is covering some of the most complex, and often sensitive issues, for people in our community.
So as much as we support others in our engagements, we also make sure we’re looking after ourselves and our own mental health.
The way we design many of our engagements means we don’t just facilitate to get information, our facilitators are in the conversations, we’re there to listen, and to make sure people’s voices are heard and listened to.
We’re often engaging with people who are in vulnerable circumstances such as experiencing housing insecurity or facing exclusion and discrimination. We engage with people who have experienced suicidality or loss of loved ones. Our team are there at the frontline of these conversations.
Here’s 3 things we do to help care for each other so we can better care for the communities we engage.
- Established de-briefs: when we set up for our engagement projects, we assign 1-2 people in the “office” who are touch points for regular check-ins and debriefs with those who are “out on the road” or undertaking the bulk of engagement online. This helps to make sure the team know it’s okay to need a moment, and they’re encouraged to talk and de-brief when things get heavy.
- Mental Health First Aid training: all our team have completed accredited Mental Health First Aid training. It’s critical that we’re confident to help others and handle situations that might arise during our engagements. This training also means we have a team who can help to recognise and support signs of distress or mental health concerns that may be emerging among team members.
- Mental Health days and Employee counselling: our HR policy includes support for employees to take mental health days when they need and days to unwind are encouraged following big weeks of engagement. We also have the provision to pay for employees to access counselling support.
We don’t want to shy away from the complex, often most critical, areas of engagement. So we think the best way to look after our own mental health in community engagement is to be ready to support our team as they play the critical role of listening and holding conversations that can safely include all parts of our communities.