Mental health support in business can be patchy and fragmented.

Anne Archer has had a very successful career in the international corporate world as a Leadership Coach. She is now building community collaborations with businesses in her local area, near Bedford, to support small businesses and coaches who recognise the need for better mental and physical well being.

We started the session with Anne telling us what she’s good at and then invited questions.

What are you good at?

Anne Archer I realised quite early on in my career that I love watching people, teams, and businesses grow. I had a fair chunk of experience working across global teams and learned how some people thrive and flourish, making light of pressure and others don’t do so well.
That went for me too.  I’m good at having tricky conversations, naming stuff that doesn’t get talked about like mental ill health, poor performance, lack of physical or mental strength and fitness, and its impact. I’m positively thriving when I’m in a group facilitating learning about mental and or physical health and how they work together. I’m also pretty good at working with my son too and learn lots from him in nutrition and physical fitness.

I also run Mental Health First Aid training. This is the first aid equivalent for someone in a mental health crisis or potentially moving towards one.

I’m very effective with Professional services as they use intellectual power to drive their work. That links beautifully to the impact of stress on the brain, decision making, productivity etc. I’m a Coach Supervisor so I also work with independent coaches who want to understand more about the mental health side of things so they can manage risk and boundaries. SMEs’s 50 -250 employees, tend not to have the resources for this sort of work so one of my ideas is to bringing several companies together.

Mental Health First Aid

Ann Hawkins Do you find there is still a big stigma about MH at work?

Anne Archer It depends on the organisation. What is frustrating is that many organisations go out all guns blazing on their policies and practices yet an employees actual experience is very different. A recent survey suggested 65% of staff wouldn’t tell their boss if they had mental health issues compared to 10% who wouldn’t re physical health.

Helen Lindop It’s fantastic that mental health first aid is getting attention now. Having been the first on the scene for someone who was having a crisis a few years back I realise how totally unprepared I was.

Anne Archer I have had several clients come back to me and say how much better prepared they felt just being better informed. One profound story was about someone not wanting to talk about her nephew’s suicidal thoughts in case it made him take his life. On Day 1 we covered suicide. She went home and talked with him. That conversation went all night and their bond has strengthened and he feels better supported.

Helen Lindop It’s scary how unprepared we are, if we thought someone was having a heart attack we’d phone 999 immediately, but if someone is doing or saying things that make no sense it’s really disorientating.

Anne Archer Yes, and signs of acute anxiety can mirror heart attack. Then its helpful to ask if they’ve had anything similar, what worked etc. Also good to know that if you are worried for someone’s safety then its important to call the police as the ambulance service cannot restrict someones freedom like the police can.

How does mental health affect individual and team growth?

Helen Lindop What are the main things that get in the way of individual and/or team growth?

Anne Archer For individuals, its over estimation of capacity, poor energy management (mental and physical), and lack of clarity about focus. These all make a massive contribution to low performance. Conversely when someone has a good handle on their capacity and manages it well, has a good set of internal resources like self-belief, the ability to ask for help, the ability to be independent, good relationships around them and clear focus, they can thrive.

Helen Lindop Those are all very familiar in the micro/solo business world, too.

Anne Archer Re team performance, communication is key both about the relationships within the team and outside the team. It’s interesting that in a team where one person is struggling, unless that is well managed among the team, it can impact everyone. When I’m talking about growth I always share the impact of cortisol and oxytocin in the brain. One sharpens our performance and too much can create unhelpful stress, the other makes us feel safe, in a trusted environment and able to perform. One wants dialling down and one dialling up. It’s a really good shorthand to help a team communicate with each other.

How to talk to someone who is mentally distressed?

Anne Archer How do you feel about having a conversation with someone who is mentally distressed? Do you avoid? Do you dive in? Are you hesitant?

Ann Hawkins I avoid it. I can understand it intellectually but can’t empathise so I think I’m likely to do more harm than good. I’m very keen to refer people on to someone who can help!

Helen Lindop I try to listen, even if I feel uncomfortable. I might be the only person who has listened to them in a long time. But I’m aware I don’t have the skills to do much more than that so I would help them to find someone who does.

Anne Archer This is why we’re keen to build a community of people who will work together, not in isolated pockets. It’s a big issue and I want my grandchildren to live in a world where they know they have places and people to go to. My real desire is to create a community around here, say 30 miles of Bedofrd where there is a hub of people who can show support. Sadly our formal systems are ill equipped and if we are a bit more human we could move mountains.

Link between mental and physical health

Ann Hawkins The link between physical and mental health is well established so its great that you and your son can offer a holistic service. How does that work in practice?

Anne Archer We came together a couple of years ago and recognised we would have a brilliant offering if we worked together. Harry has trained as a Coach as well as his professional expertise and is also a Mental Health First Aider. I train regularly and am good with my energy management and nutrition. So we do separate things and then come together to support a group. For example if I’m running a leadership mastermind group he will pitch up and do nutrition programmes and exercise programmes as part of their mental and physical fitness. Likewise I contribute to some of the mindset stuff for his programmes. We also go in to companies using our cool framework: Sleep, Think, Eat and Move well where we integrate everything into a coherent package.

Building a local community

We use the Colmworth Golf Course, near Bedford. It’s an interesting environment that is beginning to be inter generational. They pay massive attention to the environment, have a nice coffee shop, are getting youngsters up playing footgolf. Harry runs bootcamps, nutrition coaching, weight loss programmes and also supports me with the self-care part of the Mental Health First Aid training. The golf club manager is a Mental Health First Aider and the team are on the alert for signs and symptoms. No big deal, no big fan fare, just daily showing up and caring. In August we are having a day where local businesses can show case and we encourage people to talk. I’m starting to speak with local businesses to understand needs. Early days however the feel good factor and our retention rates are superb. Small steps so far.

Andy Boothman I feel corporate people actually have a better grasp of a lot of the issues. They have to, it’s part of their corporate responsibility. In the SME world there’s always massive pulls on your time, therefore probably more MH issues. Unfortunately things that have social stigma, like mental health, are not really on many SME’s radar so it’s great to hear that you’re rectifying that.

Helen Lindop Also, I come across many self employed people who are self employed just because they are working around challenging circumstances like chronic health conditions, kids with disabilities, older parents etc.

Berenice Smith Many of those I meet are also dealing with grief and loss of identity from infertility so finding support systems that work across demographics matters. It’s a lot better than it was ten years ago but always room for improvement especially in supporting men.

Helen Lindop It’s great to have the flexibility in your working hours/location, but a lot of people have fought a few battles before they even start work in the morning.

Helen Lindop How do we join in your community or find out about your courses/events?

Anne Archer My website is on track so will post updates there when its ready and in the Drive Slack Group. I’m on Twitter @AnnArcherCoach and on LinkedIn Anne Archer