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Mental Health, PMVA & People Skills. Play Your Part.

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, according to That means mental health problems may be closer to home than we imagine.

If you work in any capacity as a mental healthcare professional. You not only have to look after your own mental health and wellbeing, you're part of a team that caters to the mental health and wellbeing of others. That's a huge responsibility. But, it's not an impossible one.

In a PMVA Training I conducted in London, one of the delegates (whom I'll call Janet) shared the following experience when I was teaching the module on de-escalation, communication and people skills.

As I walked into the ward I was greeted with chaos. NO! I'm not doing it, and you're not restraining me. NO! Apart from the high pitched, high volume conversation, I could also "smell" adrenaline everywhere.

From experience, I think the impending restraint could be averted. So I told the five staff about to go and restraint the patient (John) to "wait a minute". I then said to John from a distance, as I slowly moved towards him "John, what's going on?"

They want me to come and restrain me. "Why John? " I asked. I don't know! John said. "Okay John, come, let's talk about it".

Instantly, John's presentation changed. His body language and tone of voice reflected his new state of mind as we walked to the de-escalation room. Where a colleague and myself successfully brought John back to his baseline behaviour.

People Skills & PMVA

You may did Janet do that? It's not rocket science. It's People Skills. A large portion of people skills is communication and most of the work we do as mental healthcare professionals rely on communication. As you know, communication is a 2 way street.

Therefore, the better communicators we are, the better jobs we do. What this means to you is that; as an individual, and mental healthcare professional, when you develop your communication skills and improve your people skills your job performance is simultaneously increased.

According to Steven R. Covey, in his outstanding work 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, among other ways, you can improve your personal and professional relationships with people if you use the Emotional Bank Account system. I think it's a genius concept!

This metaphor mirrors your bank account. You can only withdraw the money that has been deposited in there at some point in the past. However, this emotional bank account is an account built by trust, not money. There are six ways to make deposits into this account:

  1. Understanding the Individual: Listening intently and sincerely to the other person, not listening so that you can get your chance to speak immediately they finish. But really listening because you care and want to extend kindness.

  2. Keeping Commitments: Small things like going for a walk together as you promised and "big things" like showing up for your wedding :-) too.

  3. Clarifying Expectations: Like you, most people are not mind readers. It helps to let people really know what you are expecting from them. Plus, be clear about what is expected from you.

  4. Tend To Little Things: A smile, a cup of coffee or hot chocolate served at the right time. Main idea: do something you didn't have to do.

  5. Showing Personal Integrity: Integrity makes it easy for other people to trust us, and it makes working and living together mutually beneficial and fulfilling.

  6. Apologising when you make a withdrawal: In life, we make mistakes. When we make mistakes, that's a withdrawal. When we make demands, that's also a withdrawal. The sooner you fill up again, the better.

The main idea is that our relationships require constant deposits. Janet makes regular deposits to her patient's emotional bank accounts (naturally within professional boundaries) to the point that when a withdrawal is required, it happens seamlessly.

Granted, mental health patients are patients. They're unwell. What happened with Janet might not hold true all the time. However, we need to always remember that our patients are first people before they are patients.

Mental Health & People Skills

You can't give what you don't have. No matter how much Janet wants to help her patients, if she's not in a good place herself, she may be of little or no help to her patients.

The best thing Janet can do for herself, her family and her patients would be to keep her own mental health intact. How does one make that happen? Well, there's not a one size fits all approach. Only the size that works for you. However, here's "one size" to consider...

Your Happiness Triggers

According to Kaplan and Wheeler, the Assault Cycle has 5 stages, beginning with the trigger phase. As you know, that trigger starts the release of adrenalin into the individual's system.

In PMVA Training, when I teach about the assault cycle. I emphasise that one of our jobs as mental healthcare professionals is to identify patients' triggers and address them before they escalate. In the same light, it would help you to identify your happiness triggers.

Some people aren't aware of what makes them "tick". Find out what yours are...and please don't start with "vacation in Bali" :-) There are no right or wrong answers, only what's right for you. Plus what generally does not cause harm to anyone or anything -including yourself...

  • Read a book

  • Go for a run

  • Take a bubble bath

  • Sing a happy song

  • Pig out on your favourite meal

Whatever rocks your world...although I don't recommend pigging out before going to work :-)

The main idea is to identify what keeps you mentally and emotionally balanced to be able to deliver good care at work, enjoy your personal time at home. Plus, ensure to integrate it into your everyday life. Although this may sound complex, it's doable.

This is what people like Jane do that enable her to be in a "good place" personally and positions her to serve her patients professionally and effectively.

What this means to you...especially if you work with people

Regardless of your work role, your mental health is your personal responsibility...therefore

  • If you work in the mental health sector, supporting individuals with mental health needs would be easier if your own mental health and wellbeing is in a good place.

  • Integrate your Happiness Triggers into your everyday life. This means you have identified, developed and use them daily.

  • Improve your inter-personal skills. i.e. communication, de-escalation and people skills.

Remember, if one if four people are affected by poor mental health; it's close to becoming a pandemic. This is where "every little helps". Everyone of us doing what we can, first for ourselves and then supporting those around us.

Before you go...My name is

I'm a gifted teacher. I use my natural teaching gift and highly refined teaching skills to support individuals and organisations towards their personal and professional growth goals.

...and in London and in the UK, I teach PMVA peppered with People Skills and loads of fun.

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