Category: Mental Health, mental health week, Feel Good Champion, Mental Health Ally
Kamisha Darroux, a Which? Feel Good Champion, talks about how the organisation is putting employee mental health in the spotlight.
My role at Which? is busy and varied – as a Principal Scientific Advisor, I am involved in product-testing. It is so important to ensure our reviews are robust and accurate. This is critical when it comes to safety, which I am highly involved in, especially products for babies and children. We have more than 100 product categories and test around 4,000 products every year for our trusted Best Buys, scores and star ratings. As well as overseeing product testing, I am involved in a campaign to make sure safety standards apply to online marketplaces, and I sit on committees involving stakeholders, such as government, industry groups and consumer advocates.
When I started at Which?, the organisation was just starting to introduce Feel Good Champions. I really wanted to get involved, but I was on a fixed-term contract that was nearly over, so I thought I was going to miss out. But when my contract was extended and my role became permanent, I jumped at the chance to get involved with the second intake of champions.
It is a programme that relates to my personal experiences – one of the main aims of the Feel Good Champions programme is giving people a safe, non-judgemental space to be able to talk about their mental health. I struggled with my mental health at university and I could relate to the idea that many of us have plenty of friends and family, but sometimes we have nobody outside those circles to talk to. It is not always easy to be authentic when talking to people you know. It can be a lonely experience.
We have undergone training to become Feel Good Champions. It is about learning how to be a mental health ally and being able to support people. We are not trained counsellors, so our role is not to give advice or therapy. It is about listening to people, having open conversations and signposting people towards other forms of assistance, if needed.
Most recently, we have undertaken training about having genuinely open conversations and understanding different types of people. There are “content people”, who tend to talk and talk while still gathering their thoughts, and “structure people”, who tend to think first and take their time with talking. When we have open conversations, we pose open-ended questions rather than closed conversations to help people understand and express their thoughts. These training sessions have given me so much confidence. I always wanted to help people, but I was not sure how to go about it.
As well as having these conversations on a one-on-one basis, the Feel Good Champions are involved in other projects. We are involved in mapping out a calendar of particular wellbeing topics to focus on, such as Mental Health Week and we plan regular communications on topics such as psychological, physical, nutritional and financial wellbeing. This could be anything from including healthy eating information along with promoting the fruit bowls we provide to employees to letting people know about the financial benefits Which? offers employees and sharing money management tips.
Which? also supports employee mental health through schemes such as the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which offers free telephone and face-to-face counselling, and access to the CareFirst portal for wellbeing information, Thrive, the NHS app that helps prevent and screen for mental health conditions, and the Parent Cloud app to support working parents and parents-to-be. The organisation is really good at making adjustments for people with mental health issues sensitively and inclusively.
I was able to take advantage of the EAP when I felt overwhelmed by certain situations in my personal life. The phone counselling was really useful. More recently, I started to feel burnt out and I was able to talk openly with my manager about what projects could be postponed, how I could prioritise and how to maintain a more manageable workload. It was such a weight off my mind to be able to talk about it.
One of the strategies that I’ve found really helpful is flexible working – my grandmother has been diagnosed with dementia and it has been very stressful on my father, who is her main carer. I now work compressed hours and take every second Friday off so I can help with things such as taking my grandmother to appointments. This also gives Dad a much-needed break. It is so important to make sure that carers are cared for.
I’m really excited about what the future holds for the Feel Good Champions. When we were all working from home during lockdown, we lost the momentum for events we were planning. But now people are back in the office, either full-time or on a hybrid basis, we want to start this again. It will be great to start doing in-person mental health and wellbeing events, engaging with people again and starting those important conversations.
To read more about Which's? Diversity & Inclusion programmes and initiatives please click here.