After over 16 years in the Civil Service, I recently started a career in a new sector. I’m now in my first month as Director of Finance and Corporate Services at The Charity for Civil Servants.
For three years, while at the Treasury, I acted for three years as ambassador for the charity. Through this role, I became a passionate believer in the work they do to help current, former and retired civil servants in need, and in their vision of a lifelong community of people offering each other effective support.
Here at the charity, my colleagues are gearing up for our biggest fundraising event – the annual Walking Challenge. This is the third time that I have taken part in the challenge. This year, I asked my former colleagues at the Treasury, rather than buying me a leaving present, to sponsor me to reach my target of 10,000 steps a day for 50 days in the Walking Challenge.
Walking is an easy form of exercise to build into your daily routine. I am a committed supporter of the challenge, both because it raises a lot of money, enabling the charity to continue helping civil servants in need, and because it gets people healthy.
Advice from the World Health Organisation states that walking 10,000 steps a day will significantly improve your all-round health. And if you can sustain this increase for 50 days, the benefits are even more tangible. As well as weight loss, improved stamina and mood, many people report that walking has tremendous mental health benefits, helping to improve self-esteem, ward off anxiety and even combat mild depression.
The Treasury has an active mental well-being network, which organises a weekly lunchtime walk around the park, and which I joined last summer when I was participating in the Walking Challenge. If you would like to join the challenge, please sign up here.
I am so pleased to see that the charity’s priorities reflect the things that I consider are priorities for society as a whole and for the Civil Service.
Its most recent commitment to the well-being agenda is a partnership with Mental Health First Aid England (MHFAE). Their two-day educational course, which is recognised and taught in 23 countries, helps participants to identify, understand and respond to a person who may be developing a mental health issue.
The course really engages participants, builds confidence and helps to reduce the stigma that often, still, surrounds mental health. We know that 15.2 million days of sickness absence across the UK in 2013 were caused by stress, anxiety or depression and that managers often feel ill-equipped to deal with a staff member who has or may be developing a mental health issue; we hope that this course can help to create more mental-health-friendly workplaces by raising awareness of these important issues and by developing skills, confidence and empathy among participants.
If you’d like to know more about the MHFAE training days being offered by the charity, please contact their Wellbeing Manager, Jill White, on email@example.com.
And look out for Mental Health Awareness Week, from 16 to 22 May.
Follow The Charity for Civil Servants on Twitter: @foryoubyyou
Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on
Elizabeth, Thank you for your blog. As part of the Mental Health Awareness Week we planned two lunchtime walks through St James Park. On one these walks we were able to encourage Sir Simon McDonald, PUS to join us. The aim was to promote the benefits of taking a break from your place of work and to enjoy the fresh air and have some to regain composure. We are hoping to continue to hold such lunchtime walks and would welcome colleagues from other Whitehall Departments to join us.
Comment by Anthony posted on
i was about to sign up as an individuel, then noticed the fee of £10, something like this should be free
Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on
Thank you an enlightening article. My local workplace has taken up the workplace walking challenge with great gusto. A lot of staff have signed up. However i do have one question pertaining to this. Why are not Welbeing groups allocated a ring fenced amount of money to fund and support what is being done. For example there have not been enough pedometers to go round. Surely ring fenced money would have gotten round that problem. People are now buying their own health smartwear. Only today i have seen a colleague sporting a snazzy new fit bit. I myself have a Smartwatch which is also houses a health monitor under the bonnet. It allows me to record my steps.
Regarding mental health issues. For far too long lip service has been paid to a serious workplace problem. Whilst i commend the civil service charity people for providing mental health first aid, surely we must look at the causes of what is causing our workforce to suffer from mental health issues in the first place. Sure there will be pre existing medical conditions such as bipolar disorder for example. But what about other causes? Workplace stress and bullying must surely be a factor. I can only use myself as an example. When i started in DWP i was depression free. However not anymore. I am on medication to prevent the depression from taking over as it has done in the past. It was caused initially by the death of my Mother but then later i was the victim of bullying in the workplace, and that is what broke the camel's back as it were.
So i do hope mental health awareness week this year will focus on the root causes and that DWP can make serious efforts to make the workplace a welcoming environment to work in. Perhaps a fish tank in the foyer? More foliage on the floors? Just little things ike that can go along way!