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From rock bottom to thriving – how DWP colleagues supported Gavin’s mental health

Category: mental health at work, mental health allies, Mental Health Resources, Personal Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness, mental health champion, Mental Health Support, mental health challenges, testimonial, Mental Health, Mental Health Awareness Week, Government, Jobs in Government, mental health initiative, Staff Testimonial, mental health awareness training, UK Government, DWP, Department for Work and Pensions, mental health in the workplace, Mental Health First Aider, Mental Health Ally, mental health advocate

Mental Health

 DWP - Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Don’t stop me now..

Monday 9th May is the start of Mental Health awareness week. Gavin, a DWP work coach, explains how the care and support of his colleagues helped him through personal challenges.  Now he’s thriving.   

Gavin says: “In 2020, at the start of the pandemic I was really struggling. I was 21 and living alone, with not much family around me. I’d lost my part time job in hospitality, was getting into debt and had split with my partner. Then my Nan died from lung cancer. The pressure was intense.

“Being at home during lockdown made it easy to avoid taking responsibility, to avoid seeing or talking to people, even when restrictions eased. I didn’t leave the house for a full 6 months. I couldn’t see the point in anything. I felt alone, stupid, uneducated and full of self-doubt.

Just a dream

“I’d always dreamed of working with young people and being a work coach. After being made homeless at 16 I’d seen first-hand what a difference a work coach can make. But with only 3 GCSE qualifications – no Maths or English – my work coach job seemed like a dream.

“My work coach told me about a training provider that could help me get my Maths and English GCSE’s, but even when I’d achieved those qualifications I went back to doing nothing, because that was where my comfort zone was - away from people and the outside world. I got to the point where I didn’t care what I was doing, believing my goals were unachievable.

“At my next work search review, my work coach told me about Movement to Work (MtW). I remember thinking ‘what I can possibly get from this’?

Turning point

“Linda was my MtW facilitator and she’s an amazing woman. She challenged me and questioned my thought process and perceptions about myself. She’d say ‘Why not? You can. This is how we’re going to do it.’ I felt recognised and more confident about taking on the placement.

“Linda has shaped what I do now. Someone who’d never met me, believed in me, and that I’d make it into the department. She supported me with the application and mock interviews and gave me the belief and motivation to get into DWP as a case worker.

I’m using my past experiences and getting involved in MtW events and programmes. As a MtW youth ambassador I’ve presented at their Youth summit. I’ve also been promoted to work coach, been nominated for a MtW award and Linda is now my colleague. Things I’d never have thought possible two years ago.   

I now feel like I’m fulfilling my true potential. I’m helping to make an impact on the youth in my community and the high levels of poverty they face. Thanks to the care and encouragement of Linda and other colleagues in DWP, like my mentor Tom, who’s continued coaching me and helped improve my performance.

Looking back, it was life events and loneliness during the pandemic that massively affected my mental health. But it only took one person – Linda, to help me to think differently, open my mind to new possibilities and start me on the journey to good mental health.

So, if you’re struggling right now, I’d say: be open to both people and opportunities. Get involved. Or if you’re not ready for that, reach out to someone you trust, who’ll listen without judgement - a friend or family member.

As an employer, DWP understands now more than ever the importance of everyone having the right environment, support and resources to look after their mental health. That’s why we offer our employees a range of resources including:

  • PAM Assist offer a listening ear and immediate support. The service is free and confidential and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • A network of DWP Mental Health First Aiders who offer immediate initial support and signposting, giving encouragement to reach out for that bit of extra help that could make all the difference in these challenging times.
  • A Wellbeing team who can connect people to one of our networks of Buddies for a wellbeing check-in.   
  • Employees have access to DWP’s Wellbeing pages, which includes upcoming wellbeing broadcasts covering topics that are important to our people; from Anxiety and Burnout to self-care. 
  • The HASSRA community, a sports and leisure association for current and former DWP employees. Members can be part of national and regional clubs and with 350 local clubs there’s always something going on where you work.
  • The Civil Service Sports Council is a similar association to HASSRA, but for all civil servants, encouraging members to explore new ways to be active while maintaining and developing their physical and mental health.

In response to reported feelings of loneliness and/or isolation, DWP have developed and implemented a ‘Buddy Network’ to connect colleagues right across the department.  The scheme was put in place at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic but, such was its success, that it is to continue.  The scheme aims to offer help, advice, signposting, or maybe just a listening ear to those who may feel lonely, isolated, or overwhelmed and in need of a little camaraderie.

To find out more about the culture at DWP and to see all of their latest roles click here.

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