It has been an interesting year for so many reasons, not least the need for us all to navigate a ‘new normal’ brought about by the presence of Covid 19 and the associated restrictions and distress that comes with it.
But whilst there is much that has changed and continues to change, there are also a great many aspects of people’s lives that continue on regardless, such as people’s experiences of living through menopause.
For many women, difficult and painful menopausal symptoms persist regardless of where they happen to be working. And whilst some symptoms may be easier to manage when working at home, including hot flushes, others may be exacerbated during this time, including the propensity for bouts of extreme anxiety and cognitive distress. Some women are also telling us, that they are not asking for help and don’t want to disturb their GP until ‘after Covid’ which means they are not accessing the medical care they may need.
Against this backdrop, the Cross Government Menopause Network (CGMN) decided that it was essential to continue providing awareness and support to colleagues experiencing menopause, perimenopause, and colleagues who may be supporting others through those experiences.
Indeed, this network of passionately committed colleagues took the opportunity to reach more people than they have before, by taking advantage of people’s increased use of virtual technology. In doing so, the CGMN, of which I am a proud Senior Sponsor, undertook their most ambitious project yet. Working with Civil Service Local, they pulled together their first online Menopause Festival to mark this year’s World Menopause Day (WMD).
The festival consisted of awareness sessions featuring prestigious external mindfulness coaches, menopause workplace experts (Henpicked) medical professionals, menopause nutritionist and exercise experts all providing their expertise for free. There were also discussion groups to consider the existing Guiding Principles and toolkits developed by CGMN and identify any gaps and possible new materials required for the future.
There was an unprecedented response to the festival. More than 1,100 colleagues signed up to attend the various sessions and the videos of the expert panel sessions, issued after the festival, have already received more than 600 views. I include the links to those sessions here in the hope that through this blog, they reach even more of you.
And the festival is only part of the story. The departments who make up the CGMN have all been busy with their own activities to continue to raise awareness. Many of the larger departments including The Ministry of Justice, DWP and HMRC held hugely successful events and discussion groups. Some of the smaller, newer menopause networks also got on board, creating a wave of excitement. The Marine Management Organisation marked WMD by sharing a series of blogs, updates, launching a new dedicated intranet page and holding a ‘cuppa and chat’. The Coal Authority ran a quiz, and held group discussions.
Helping colleagues who may be experiencing crippling menopausal symptoms to feel included, valued, heard and supported is at the heart of these important menopause networks.
I feel so very proud of the CGMN and all of the departmental networks it comprises. All of this activity is undertaken by volunteers, people who understand the value of a listening ear and a supportive conversation. I know we all have so much going on in our lives right now, and when I see this additional effort taking place I know just how exceptional it is.
Volunteering is an act of kindness and that is so important right now, so I want to pay tribute to the menopause networks in departments, the CGMN and to all of you out there who give your time and energy to networks such as these. You make a difference to people’s lives every single day - thank you.