A great job is one that leaves you feeling that there’s always more to do, according to one Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust employee.
Diane Walker traded her role as a learning coordinator for a job as a trainee educational mental health practitioner after study and a realisation that she had more to offer led her to seek a new challenge.
And now she is part of an Oxford Health CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) team working across schools in the Wiltshire area in Trowbridge and Westbury to help children who experience low mood and anxiety.
The work is geared round evidence-based principles and includes:
- Low intensity interventions for children and young people with mild-moderate mental health issues.
- Running groups in educational settings for children and young people as well as parents/carers and school staff on specific topics which have been identified in collaboration with the school.
- working with school staff to offer a range of whole school activities that encourage a ‘whole school approach’ to mental health and wellbeing such as assemblies, presentations, workshops on issues such as transitions for year 6-7, managing exam stress, resilience building.
- Putting the young person at the centre and building a supportive network around them
- Empowering the young person and family to look after their mental health as they would their physical in very practical ways
Diane explained: “Working in a school was good and over the period of 16 years my role grew and changed, I was fortunate that by being a learning coordinator, I had regular contact with CAHMS clinicians, through this I was able to have ideas for what the future could hold for me.
“I’ve been working for over 30 years now, with a gap in my career to raise my family while working part time. So, I have the kind of life experience that many people have and becoming an MHST seemed like a good balance between what I had to offer and a new personal challenge.
“I started training in January 2020 and started learning all the things needed to improve access to psychological therapies for children, young people and their families.
“I find my role really rewarding – nobody expected lockdown to happen, but we have a very good team and we are doing some great work despite the challenges.
“As someone who is new to the profession I have been fortunate and work in a really supportive team, I take my role and responsibilities very seriously, and have learnt so much, as such I am now in a role and a position where I can give a lot back and have even more to give.
“To start in this job, you must have a degree, but part of the role is upskilling, so I am also working on a postgraduate diploma alongside my day to day work. The education side of things is full on, but I am enjoying it greatly.”
Diane’s work is all about helping young people and the team’s clients have been referred to them either by a school or parent and, now, much of their work is currently remotely to ensure that the young person has access to the support they need during the covid pandemic, however we able, will work within the school settings.
Their task is to build relationships and work with young people and their parents as well as providing staff training. To start with, an assessment is done with the young person which takes about an hour and helps Diane and her colleagues to see the whole picture and discuss the right way forward with the person and their families.
She explains: “Quite often the young people that we see feel overwhelmed and unable to see their way past the challenges they face. It could be that the young person needs some extra support from us or in some cases we can signpost then to other CAHMS services.
“Our work usually involves between six and eight sessions. With primary school pupils we work closely with the parents to understand what the young person is going through and what their behaviour is trying to communicate. We look at their routine to develop an idea of what could help.
“With older children there’s various techniques that aim to reframe thoughts and feelings into something different. For instance, we take a goal-based approach where we set targets with them and break them down so that they are achievable.
“The aim is to help young people to understand and start to change some of the things they think and do as making changes can help people to feel better.
“Their thoughts about a particular situation can often affect how a person feels both physically and emotionally, as well as how they act in response. We focus on the current problem and work together to change negative thought patterns.
“By talking and developing greater understanding we can often lessen the factors that may be causing them to experience low mood and anxiety.”