Adapting to digital work during the pandemic was no easy task, but I have been impressed by how smooth our staff have made the transition look. I hope to continue that smooth transition with the start of my monthly blog series, where I will be highlighting the work staff have accomplished, answering questions on our plans, and discussing topics relevant to mental health. I see it as an opportunity to improve communications within the organisation, keep people up to date with new services and developments and be an opportunity to get to know me and the work I do better.     

Part of these blogs will be highlighting relevant awareness days, and November is Men’s Mental Health Month. I have recently witnessed so many more men, from sports stars to musicians, speak openly about their mental health, their struggles, and how talking about their mental health helped them overcome difficulties. This gives so many more men the courage to discuss their mental health and seek help when needed. The Ask Twice campaign is a great initiative to get people to check in with their friends beyond just surface level and increase the accessibility of conversations around mental health.     

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to explore the crossover between mental health and virtual reality at a workshop on ‘Men’s Mental Health and Digital Solutions.’ I was honoured to hear from some exciting start-ups about their work in the mental health landscape. These included some incredibly innovative ideas such as VR headsets that create virtual situations that those that deal with social anxiety may commonly find themselves in. For instance, booking a doctor’s appointment. The virtual space allows your support worker to be right there with you to help talk you through the situation, allowing the individual to be much better equipped to deal with these situations when they arise in the real world. Not only am I excited to see what impact these digital solutions have on society in the future but for Response to be a pioneer in piloting these kinds of technology within our services today.     

An important part of accessibility is ensuring that all prospective service users can fully understand the support process at Response. We want the processes at Response to be entirely transparent for staff and service users and friends and family.   

Therefore, our new RReM360 Model has been designed to give staff and service users more clarity on precisely what people’s roles are, the skills Response will equip staff with, and the expected outcomes. We expect this to empower our service users to move on from Response. Our teams will also benefit from training pathways and career progression within Response.     

Alongside RReM360, there have been some other exciting developments at Response. Having recognised the success of our Adult Mental Health partnership and the lack of pre-existing charities in the arena, we expanded into Children and Young People. A few weeks ago, we announced the launch of a strategic partnership with One-Eighty. We have been working closely with them over the last two years, and there are benefits for both organisations. This partnership allows us to do valuable work with younger age groups (4- to 11-year-olds), working directly with young people themselves and partnering with One-Eighty means we now offer highly comprehensive services through all age ranges. It is going to be invaluable over the next three to five years as we know that demand for services and support from those age groups is increasing, by working together, we can share resources and work with many more young people.   

We have not forgotten the foundations of our organisation though. Within our housing team, we have invested significantly in a new director and additional maintenance staff to address the increased pressure, and workload housing staff have faced during Covid. We are so happy to welcome Paulina Colomby as Director of Housing and Property. Paulina has an extensive background in housing and particularly homelessness. She has hit the ground running, is immensely client-focused and understands that Response is nothing without our service users and that they must come first. We are excited to have her join Response.   

It is an exciting time for Response, but none of these opportunities would be possible without the hard work of our staff. You have stepped up and met every challenge this year has thrown at us, ensuring that our service users were constantly supported. I look forward to checking back in next month to reflect on the work we have achieved between now and then.