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Surrey Matters podcast

Published: 17 June 2021

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# 5: Mental Health and Wellbeing special

The Surrey County Council Communications and Engagement team are pleased to announce the launch of the Surrey Matters podcast. Going behind the scenes of Surrey County Council, the county and the people who bring services to you.

Episode 5 - Men in sheds, CALM and tips for maintaining yours and your children's mental wellbeing.

A special episode focussing on mental health and wellbeing. There is lots of mental wellbeing help support and advice available in Surrey to find out more please visit the Healthy Surrey website.

  • Murray Law – Chair and trustee, tells us about Weybridge Men's Sheds and how it's helping men's mental health and wellbeing whilst doing a bit of woodwork
  • Simon Gunning – Chief Executive of the charity CALM Campaign Against Living Miserably – tells us how they are tackling mental health and raising the profile of suicide prevention
  • Maya Twardzicki – Public Health at Surrey County Council, talks us through the Wheel of Wellbeing and how it can help improve your mental health and wellbeing
  • Dave Damon – Educational psychologist gives us some tips on how to open up the dialogue with our children to ensure they are emotionally resilient and able to express their emotions.

We hope you enjoy the show. If you have some ideas for an interesting podcast story please send us an email with the subject line 'Surrey Matters Podcast' to surreymatters@surreycc.gov.uk.

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Episode 5 transcript

People like me don't have mental health issues. I'm a person who can cope with most things.

They say mental health, but I was just feeling a bit sad, a bit anxious really. I wouldn't call it depression.

There were other people suffering far greater things than me.

I wasn't sleeping at night. I just felt exhausted.

I'm a busy parent with so much on my plate and it's hard to always know the best ways to support my child's emotional wellbeing. Really hard.

Welcome to episode 5 of the Surrey Matters podcast. Going behind the scenes meeting the people bringing services to you, talking to residents about what matters to them and their communities and letting you know what's going on in your county. Brought to you by the Surrey County Council communications team.

There's been a lot of talk recently about mental health and wellbeing and let's be honest the last year and a half has been tough for all of us in many varying ways both for adults and for our children and at times we all may have felt sad lonely anxious or even overwhelmed. So, I went to talk to some men in sheds and the Chief Executive of Calm to find out what support is available. I also got some top tips for us adults and those with children to help us with our mental wellbeing.

First up I met Murray Law of Weybridge Men's Shed.

Hi CJ, I'm Murray Law, the Chair and the trustee of the Weybridge Men's Shed charity.

Can you tell us a little bit about what the Weybridge Men's Shed is because we are literally sat in a shed here today with allotments around us and the wind and the rain outside and it's not a particularly nice day so what's Weybridge Men's shed all about?

Well this is the Weybridge Men's Shed as you rightly say and the Weybridge Men's Shed is also a charity which is one of 680 sheds all independent in the UK and we were set up to try and help with male and men's social isolation and to provide a place whereby men can come and just be with other people, typically men, and make things, break things, fix things, and do whatever they would like to do. Typically what we do is wood work but we can even venture as far as art and doing community projects and of course helping people on the allotments for fixing things like water leaks in their sheds and so on.

And I think you've told me before that it's a great place because men don't typically talk to each other unless they're sort of occupied doing other things, I think you said that's what makes it work.

In the men's shed and internationally there is the phrase for that it's called 'shoulder to shoulder' and there appears to be a difference between the way men and women talk to each other and the sort of things they talk about. So, for example it's said that women will have a cup of tea and they will be able to talk to each other one-to-one across a cup of tea about things that are important to them and mental health being obviously one of those or family situations or whatever. But in the case of men, it's said that if you put men across a cup of tea and ask them about themselves half of the people will probably leave the conversation immediately and the other half would probably prefer to talk about their job or sport and then after that have nothing to say. But with the shed and the whole concept of 'shoulder to shoulder' is it still being discovered, that if you put two men together and you have them engaged in a subject or engaged in an activity I should say - fixing a lawn mower making something - then during the course of that process they'll start talking and in fact that's been our case here in the shed.

And typically do people come down on a regular basis or is there a membership or anything?

The know the concept we are trying to make with the Weybridge shed is to make sure that it's open and easy to come along so we try and make it on a no fee basis, no booking basis and we have altogether 80 supporters already registered. We have 43 people who come regularly, and we have a smaller group of about 15 who come almost every session, or every week I should say, at least one session. So there are people who come more frequently than others but a lot of people come once or twice a month anyway.

And there's no age ranges?

There's no age limit but we would have people from the age of 18 and I think the eldest is 84.

I think the other thing you were saying to me the last time I came here was that some of the older members are teaching some of the younger members some life skills with woodwork and all that sort of stuff which is great?

Yeah, and we will work with organisations like Surrey choices where they have younger people who enjoy the company and importantly enjoy learning some sort of skills and the nice thing about doing that sort of thing is they've got something to show for their efforts - a bird box or whatever it might be.

And I think you are repairing stuff as well down here? I think we've got wind of the fact that you are quite good with your hands.

We do repair stuff. We've got a vacuum cleaner this beaten us but typically we'll repair things like kitchen stools or drawers that don't slide or the allotments roofs that leak or that sort of thing.

How do people, if somebody wants to come along or recommend a friend to come along, how would they go about that? Do they just rock up or do you ask for people to call or go on the website?

We've got a website and Facebook page and we're on NextDoor. But we just like people to come along. We've got a link there between the Facebook page and the website so that if people log onto our website which is weybridgeshed.org you'll see current news and topics and in addition to that we try and produce a weekly newsletter about what we're going to be doing so that people are on the mailing list get to know what's on and if it's something they like to do, they're very welcome to come and join us.

Hi I'm here with Simon Gunning and he's the CEO of Calm – H Simon

Hello how are you

I'm good thank you. So can you tell us a little bit about Calm and what they do

Calm is as we put it leading a movement against suicide. So we're a suicide prevention organisation. We do that in a number of ways. Sometimes we shout really loudly about suicide because it's something that people don't want to talk about and while that continues it remains in the shadows and ghettoised. But most often we shout about life as we view as being the antidote to suicide. Suicide is as people know, increasing numbers of the largest killer young men in the UK and the cause of death of 18 people every single week. So while that exists Calm also exists to change that.

When you say young men, what age are we talking?

Sub 40 - so that's where that fact of Calm being that the most likely thing to kill you is you. As men actually get older the point is that other things kill them and so it ceases to be the most likely cause of death. But as far as actual target key target audiences are concerned, men over 55 are at particularly high risk as are people bereaved by suicide, as are people in the LGBTQ community, as are homeless people, as are many other people. The trans communities is a particularly high risk. 16-24 year olds are exhibiting the highest ever rate of growth in what is known as 'suicidality' which is indicators of a potential for suicide and inside that group, 16 to 24, 10 to 21 year old girls are the most alarmingly at risk group emerging. So not right now as far as suicide is concerned but emerging and so the way that Calm works is we are a communications organisation so we campaign through huge nationwide things in partnerships with organisations like ITV and Dave and Carling and Spotify and Netflix and loads of great organisations. When we communicate with them either through brand partners or through ambassadors or through culture we do so very specifically at those target audiences. So you'll see things that we've done in the past with Instagram and with Topshop and Topman for example targeting younger people but then you'll see things that we do with Carling and football targeting older men. So campaigning is right at the heart of what we do as is what we term intervention so that's our helpline which is typing and talking which is free to call 5 till midnight, seven days a week and that's for anybody - whoever you are no matter what is - our line for our helpline. We're non-judgmental with confidential and interventionist and most importantly it's staffed by paid trained professional people. So we have the intervention of the hotline, campaigning and then collective action so as I said at the start were leading a movement and that movement is also expressed in the form of clubs and collectives. So we're hugely active in football, running, cycling, rugby, boxing, art, music and really react in ways that you would not expect a mental health organisation or at least of all a suicide prevention charity to act in that we're hugely culturally pointed. So we want to appeal to an audience that isn't otherwise served by brilliant organisations like Mind and Samaritans. And our aim has been and is working that we are a lifestyle brand for a huge number of people that reject living miserably.

So when you when you say movement and then you said about football and stuff is that about getting people to join a community of like-minded people? Is it getting together?

That's one element of it yeah definitely. There are in the hundreds of Calm football clubs around the country and movement is a little bit of Calm as well because we're very much advocates of physical movement as a way to help your mental health but then there's also really importantly we turn the continuum so the point where at one end you're feeling absolutely fine, at the other end you take your own life. We're all at some point on that continuum. All of us at some point - every single one of us and there are certain way markers or a billion ways to get from happy to awful but there are certain way markers that we know and two of those are a lack of self-worth and a lack of belonging. So through for example Calm running clubs, of which there are many many many. through art clubs, through music, boxing, whatever it might be, cycling, we have an approach where people can have that sense of community and that sense of belonging and that sense of self-worth by achieving things.

Because I did go and meet Weybridge men's shed which is one of the articles in this podcast and he was very much about it's a community and it's about getting them together and particularly men and that whole 'shoulder to shoulder' - talking to each other in an environment where they feel free to talk and express themselves in a way that they might not do with sort of mixed gender groups.

Yeah, the whole shed movement has been brilliant and there's a thing called Andy's man club as well which is just great. It has a mission to have a club which is just literally a circle of chairs and a kettle and a bunch of blokes. But their mission is to have an Andy's man club within 30 minutes of every man in the UK which is just a lovely thing to do. And we did a campaign called Stay which is just I think an internally devised and executed campaign that we did around world suicide prevention day which is the plea, the instruction, the motivation of stay to see what happens tomorrow. Just don't - just stay and one of the people in those films had his life saved by an Andy's man club and it's just fascinating to me how you can just tweak behaviours in a small way and make a massive difference to people's life.

And then can you just give the phone number again or the website?

0800 58 58 58 is the helpline and website just search campaign against living miserably. There's loads and loads of content on there to help whether you are 16 or 60, there's loads of content to help. And then you can use our chat service, you can use our bot to find out information or you can use a helpline to talk to somebody.

Brilliant thanks so much for your time Simon.

It's hard sometimes to know how to parent some situations especially when it comes to emotional wellbeing. However, there are some simple things you can do every day to help develop your child's resilience and self-confidence, keeping their emotional wellbeing thriving. I spoke with educational psychologist David Damon - hi Dave, how are you?

Hi CJ, I'm good today thanks how are you?

I'm fine thanks.

So you're here today to tell us about some tips to help parents that can help with them keeping their children's emotional wellbeing thriving. I think a lot of parents feel they've got a lot on their plate and that perhaps this is the last thing they need or sort of struggle to know where to start so if you can give us some top tips that would be great.

I guess one of my first things we might talk about today is play and trying to find mutually enjoyable type things

And how long are we talking about? What sort of timeframes are we talking about? Is it only took about 2 hours a day or an hour a day? Or what is that little space in the day that we reserve for play?

I guess it's family dependent but I think play as and when, no prescribed time, it really depends on your family circumstance but if there are more opportunities to play that could be really positive for everyone's emotions and wellbeing. Emotion coaching is where you do a lot of empathy so lots of sharing in the feeling that your kid is having but also lots of guidance, teaching and problem solving. My experience of parenting is whenever my kid is upset I just want to scoop them up make them feel not upset anymore or if they're anxious I want them to be not worried anymore and I want to fix the problem. And that puts a lot of work on me as a parent and it takes away an opportunity for my kids to learn that the feelings are OK and that they can manage these feelings themselves or in alliance or with support from me. The first bit of emotion coaching is just sitting with the emotion and communicating yeah you're sad that's really tough and then let's do that together.

When you say connect with the feeling with the child, how do you get a child to express feelings that their feeling at the moment how do we open that dialogue with them? I mean I have a son and you know boys are not typically, this is bit stereotypical of me, but are not always good at expressing their emotions and so I have allowed him to sort of say it's ok to be angry it's ok be upset do you want to talk about it. And sometimes they're not always open to talking about it so do you have any ideas on how to get them to express somethings that they are struggling with.

For a teenager, boy or girl, they could be a bit more independent, so I guess it's about consistently being present communicating that you're there to listen but really demonstrating that non-judgemental and non-fixing stance. So when emotion is eventually expressed is not rushing into fix it, it's just being really curious - tell me more, gosh it sounds like that was really annoying, I've had a similar experience but I wonder if yours was the same or different. Those kind of open questions asking for more but without trying to rush ahead to make it better. So just trying to give them the language around emotions. And then for someone who's more verbal but may be more reluctant I think it's about that demonstration of curiosity. Low pressure but always just being around and then in time, might be a bit of opening up. I think often we're trying to put on a really brave face for kids and understandably so, you won't have a sense that everything is okay and manageable but it can be really helpful for all our kids to hear we're a bit frustrated or a bit excited or we're feeling joyful this morning or we're feeling a bit hesitant about something that's coming up. And then with that, once the emotion has been spoken about and heard, I also then move on to what we're going to do about it. Gosh I really don't fancy work today, I'm not feeling very motivated, but I think what I'll do is, I'll plan something really fun for myself after work as a treat. Modelling to them it's OK to have that feeling of low motivation but here's what you can do to help motivate yourself when you're having that experience. So it's okay emotion and here's a strategy that might be helpful. But maybe they need to hear that from us to make it feel OK.

And are there times during the day that we should sort of avoid addressing these sort of situations so you know for instance quite often a family, the only time they sit down together is at mealtime. But if we're discussing this sort of thing is that not disturbing the enjoyment of having a meal or just before people put our children to bed we read them a story and we're about trying to relax and unwind and go to sleep. Are there any particular sort of times in the day that are better than others to address these sort of situations or not?

My main idea here is to be child led and not to be afraid of leading into difficult emotions whenever they pop up so long as it's not encroaching on a particular boundary around bedtime for example or a rule that the family might have a dinner table. But in general if a kid is giving an emotion, that's the best opportunity to explore and be curious.

And when we're addressing these, if we've got more than one child for instance is it better that we take the child one on one or is it better if we want them to open up about their emotions or should it be done in a family forum and so that we're all in it together and we're all expressing ourselves?

Sounds like a mix might be quite nice. There's something really powerful about having a family habit or family routine of sharing and having an ethos or culture in one's family of all emotions are OK and we can manage these and talk about these openly. It can take quite a long time to cultivate and will have its challenges with different people with different emotions they want to share and their emotions might be directed at one another. Sometimes we want to speak just with one person about our feelings we don't want everyone to know the awful day we've had and I guess that respected also. I think maybe it's something for an open discussion with family particular teenagers. So I guess lots of empowerment and choice making for teenagers who are increasingly wanting a stake in how family conversations look.

I think what you said there about getting the family to accept that all emotions are OK here, I think that's a really important first step isn't it really.

It often goes against our instincts isn't it if we have a very angry teenager perhaps our reaction or instinct sometimes is to try and shut it down. "Calm down stop being so angry" but these kinds of things are disapproving of the emotion. You need to kind of try and separate the emotion which is OK from what might be a lesser ok behaviour - throwing or breaking or swearing.

And I think you know sometimes I think parents instincts are not to show emotions or not to let their children see them experiencing emotions but I think you're absolutely right - I think actually the more they see that we all go through this and like you said that's kind of a way of showing that we empathise and that we to go through the same sort of feelings.

Yeah absolutely it's good to model our emotions but I guess it's this balance of the emotion is OK but there's also a so what we do with it. Some things that we do with our emotions are better or worse and it all has to be under this big umbrella of we can manage these emotions together and saying 'when are we going to be speaking about emotions?' and 'how would you like emotion talks to happen in the family?' and here are some of the kind of the rules or the expectations around this. And the main message is we want to try and communicate is that all emotions are OK and we can manage this together as a family.

So I think when I was young, the way I used to express stuff wasn't particularly verbally with my family but was by writing a diary and I think that's quite that that was quite good I mean you read back over it and you say wow.

Do you still have the diary CJ?

No I do not!

But you know is that is that something that you would encourage people to do? To write down their emotions or is this really all about trying to sort of get people to converse with each other?

So I think both have their place I mean certainly conversing with each other and that connection with family is really important for developing social and emotional wellbeing skills. However, for our own individual wellbeing this might be something that we're teaching young people in terms of how they manage their feelings. Writing a journal sounds like a great idea and really good for writing skills as well and lovely to reminisce when you're a bit older have a laugh or cringe.

I went to talk with Maya Twardzicki about the wheel of wellbeing which is handy tips for helping us with our health and wellbeing. Hi Maya, how are you?

Yeah, I'm good. It's very normal to struggle with problems that happen in people's lives whether it's the last year and the difficulties associated with COVID or financial difficulties, relationship difficulties, job or housing difficulties, and we all have different capacities to deal with the amount of challenges we have in life at any one time. Now if one keeps adding in if you viewed like a bucket or a jug, various different stressors or life challenges into that jug, at some point, you're going to kind of reach the tip of the jug and it could go into overflowing. So I think it's important to recognise we all have different capacities and when we're nearing that top of the jug or top of the bucket, we want to be aware of that and then take some action whether it's seeking support from friends family or from the wealth of services that are available in Surrey to help with mental being. Or whether it's also being able to sort of say no to some extra challenges or demands that might be coming in if you feel you are at the top of the bucket. And we do have such an amazing range of support services that people can access on the phone, online, in person. Do reach out to other people or services if you feel you're having a tough time or struggling, and things will get better.

I think that's a nice analogy the bucket. I think quite a few of us would have felt at times that our bucket is slightly going to overflow so yeah I like that analogy. So I believe you've got some nice little tips that we can do in our everyday going out and about which might help us with our health and mental wellbeing.

Yes so if we think of the well-known message about the five fruit and veg a day that we're all custom to for a kind of physical health well this is the equivalent like the five or six fruit and veg a day for mental wellbeing. So, some of the key ones include keeping active. There's a lot of evidence to show that movement and physical activity, doesn't have to be going to the gym, it can be a bit of vigorous hoovering or going for a brisk walk, can really help reduce stress hormones, reduce the risk of depression and help with anxiety and just keep our mental wellbeing in a good place. And especially doing any physical activity outdoors when you're in touch with a bit of nature, you're seeing some greenery or some water, that can have a real benefit as well an actually sometimes can be almost better for your wellbeing then exercising in a gym. So that kind of thing, going for brief walk or just even noticing some plants or flowers or trees or the changing seasons can have a real boost for your mental wellbeing. And taking notice is another of the elements of the wheel of wellbeing and that can be linked to just being put in the present moment so lots of us if we're going for a walk we might still be thinking and churning over in our heads you know what we're going to do next when we get back. Also even just having a few moments where you are just present and noticing on your walk maybe the sky or the clouds or flowers etc. Taking yourself out of your own head space can be a real kind of refresher and you know giving you a bit of a break from your concerns that are going on in your head.

Yeah often when I go for a walk I take a photo of something that makes me smile and my Instagram account is all about things that make me smile. Like you say it is noticing the colour of a brick wall that you probably might not have noticed before or you know a weed growing out of the wall. It's little things isn't it? Just taking another look at the things around you.

Yes absolutely and that's both refreshing and also proven to sort of help generate more of positive mood and more happiness. It's a rest for your mind and brings in a bit of gratitude to acknowledging even the smallest little nice or beautiful or pretty thing that made you smile. You might be going through a tough time or struggling a bit but there is evidence that if you can find one or two things to be grateful for or that were good in the day or that made you smile again that can really help you to start generating more positive thoughts and to really help with mental wellbeing. We've got quite a few more on the wheel of wellbeing so keep learning whether it's something like a language or a new recipe or a crossword. Learning something new from a crossword or something from a newspaper article or an online article or something small that's new, keeps the brain active and it's good for your wellbeing. We've also got a couple more and that is to give. Whether it's giving some your time to a friend or a neighbour in a chat or whether it's giving time volunteering or giving things to a charity shop that you no longer need. These have been proven to really help boost mental wellbeing and have a protective effect and connecting with other people. I think that is really really important and possibly we've learned even more importantly in the last year and a half or so.

Absolutely I think it's what we've missed, and I think we didn't maybe realise how much we would miss it but it yes I think we have all missed that so that's good that we can get about meeting up friends and family once again.

Absolutely and connecting if it's you know times where it is not possible to meet in person speak on the phone you can also connect with your feelings. Journaling is a very useful way of noting your feelings and again by writing something down it gets it out of your head and can help stop circling thoughts. So you're connecting with people with nature with your feelings. There's a lot of information and tips and suggestions on the Healthy Surrey website under the mental wellbeing section.

Brilliant, well I think even just from your conversation today we will have got one or two things that we could be grateful for.
If you're looking for support advice or are feeling anxious, depressed and that life is just difficult right now, please be assured that there are services in Surrey to support you your friends and your family. Information can be found on the Healthy Surrey mental wellbeing website.

Thanks for listening to episode five of the Surrey matters podcast. If you'd like to get in touch with us with a question or an idea for what you'd like to hear about in future episodes, you can email us at surreymatters@surreycc.gov.uk. You can also subscribe on your podcast player of choice and sign up to our e-newsletter which goes out every month at surrycc.gov.uk/surreymatters.

This show was hosted by Catherine Jevans. Music and production was by Richard Neale and Surrey Matters is the production of the Surrey County Council communications and engagement team.

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