Learning by example

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers (PRTC) runs a service to support young carers, offering group activities and one-to-one work. This involves helping young carers protect their mental health and wellbeing. Karen Martin, the Trust’s Young Carer Mental Health Development Coordinator, ensures training and resources are available.

Karen approached Ayrshire and Arran NHS Health Promotion Department as they had developed a Managing Your Wellbeing pack for NHS staff. This was offered to PRTC staff to better understand and manage their own mental health and wellbeing and so be better equipped to support young carers.

A Managing Your Wellbeing training pilot took place with one main aim:

  • to examine the impact training had on the ability of staff to carry out their work in supporting young carers and in their general working lives.

The training session was evaluated by questionnaire, followed up with face-to-face interviews six weeks later.

Karen Martin says, ‘We chose a one-day course because our staff have good knowledge of mental health. It was vital to give staff a day out of the working environment, a day when they could reflect personally, without thinking about writing reports, running groups, answering emails and so on.’

The intended outcomes from the training session were:

  • the development of a personal action plan to manage wellbeing
  • increase understanding of the determinants of mental health
  • understanding of wellbeing and personal influencing factors
  • identification of personal coping skills and tools.

Reflections from participants following the training:

  • improved understanding of their coping mechanisms and stresses
  • feeling more confident in supporting the young carer
  • an appreciation and awareness of their knowledge and skills in supporting young carers
  • better awareness and understanding of the stresses of carers of the young in their role as a carer but also the stresses of teenage life
  • better awareness of the coping mechanisms young carers use for stress, including: talking to teachers and taking steps to manage in a crisis
  • the need for training be adapted and rolled out for young carers and all staff involved in this work.

At the six-week stage participants reported improvements:

  • use of Wellness posters created during the workshop as a reminder of what sustains mental health
  • restructured team meetings with staff wellbeing a regular point on the agenda
  • ‘Wellbeing champion’ being established in the workplace.

The feedback on the impact of the day was very positive. Areas for improvement in the future include:

  • extending the training from one to two days to allow participants more time to reflect and more time for action planning
  • more time to look at stress management and improving wellbeing in the workplace
  • more time to explore and exchange ideas with colleagues in other services on stress management.

Wider implications for learning and workforce development

This approach was successful in demonstrating that developing an appreciation of the determinants of mental health can make workers:

  • more sensitive to client mental health and wellbeing
  • better equipped to respond to others stress
  • feel more valued, supported and able to support others.

By focusing on the staff wellbeing, knock-on effects were found which contributed to the wellbeing of colleagues and clients. This approach is cost effective in that it cascades the benefits down through staff and has multiple benefits.

Contact

Karen Martin, Young Carer Mental Health Development Coordinator, Princess Royal Trust for Carers kmartin@carers.org 0141 285 7925