Wellbeing Support for Staff
There are various channels of support and resources available to staff during these unprecedented and unsettling times. These have been outlined below. This webpage is not exhaustive and will be updated on an ongoing basis as support becomes available.
Please note: A range of topics have been identified as ones which staff may require support for during this difficult time. Some readers may find some of the content triggering or distressing. These resources are here to enable you to look after your wellbeing and mental health.
- Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) - - Staff can contact the EAP to receive free confidential support service on a number of matters such as work-life balance, relationships, debt, childcare, anxiety and depression, bereavement and loss.
- Coaching - OPD team are offering introductory taster sessions for those of you new to workplace coaching. Please book a date via our booking system or find out more by searching our coaching homepage
- The HR Department – HR teams are working remotely but are operational.
For queries in the following areas please contact:
Parents and Carers
Please refer to our Working Flexibly when you have Caring or Other Significant Responsibilities page for information on working remotely with caring and other significant responsibilities.
Join our Parents and Carers Network.
Pregnancy and Coronavirus
I am pregnant. When should I inform my line manager?
We recommend that staff who become pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic inform their line manager as soon as they become aware that they are pregnant to ensure a risk assessment is completely as soon as possible.
Should I arrange a risk assessment?
Expectant mothers at all stages of pregnancy are regarded as being at risk. All pregnant staff should therefore complete a risk assessment. This is sent to the occupational health service who will assess to ensure sufficient systems are put in place to protect the pregnant staff member. OH will then contact the staff member if required.
I am a clinical member of staff. Is there anything else I need to consider?
Pregnant staff who are employed on a clinical basis are advised to consult specific guidance developed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Faculty of Occupational Medicine, which will be especially helpful to expectant mothers where the following circumstances apply:
- Clinical staff at the pre-28 weeks stage concerned about working in patient centred roles;
- Clinical staff at the pre-28 weeks stage who opt to continue providing patient centred care, and
- Clinical staff at the post-28 weeks stage with long term health conditions.
Where can I get further information?
In addition to the specific guidance referred to above, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have also developed a set of frequently asked questions covering all aspects of coronavirus and pregnancy.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Resources
This section contains information and resources which enable you to promote your own mental health and wellbeing.
Queen Mary Resources
- OPD have developed work-related stress workshops and toolkits to support managers and supervisors: Manager’s Essentials.
- Explore our comprehensive Wellbeing pages to explore our resources, workshops and toolkits available to all staff. Join our interactive workshops by searching 'wellbeing’ on the CPD booking system.
- Queen Mary has developed a network of Mental Health First Aiders who can provide broad thinking help and advice for colleagues; they can also refer colleagues to places (internal and external) for additional help, advice and support.
- St Benet’s Chaplaincy offer online mindfulness meditation sessions for stress and relaxation on request. Refer to The Chaplaincy page for further information.
- Explore our comprehensive Wellbeing pages.
- Big White Wall - Big White Wall offers unlimited, 24/7 accessible online support – you can connect with peers, chat online to clinicians, use self-help resources, join groups or take self-assessments. Sign up for free with your QMUL email address.
- Heads Together – changing the conversation and tackling the stigma around mental health. Resources and support can be accessed through Heads Together.
- Mind - provides advice on how to support your mental wellbeing during this period. This includes practical advice on coping with staying at home, tips for employers on supporting yourself and your team, and updates on how the new coronavirus laws could affect your rights.
- Every Mind Matters
- Mental Health Foundation
- Rethink Mental Illness
- Samaritans – you can call for free at any time on 116 123.
- Shout - a 24/7 UK crisis text service available for times when people feel they need immediate support. By texting ‘SHOUT’ to ‘85258’ a Texter will be put in touch with a trained Crisis Volunteer (CV) who will chat to them using trained techniques via text.
- Beat COVID - whilst this is a resource aimed at NHS workers, it has various sections that anyone might find useful. These include sleep, nutrition, mindfulness and being active.
Some apps may require subscription. Please be aware of this possibility when considering any of the resources on this page.
If you are a manager concerned about the stress levels of your team, please refer to our Promoting Wellbeing page.
Stress is our emotional and physical response to pressure and is a normal part of life. We all experience stress from time to time. Being aware of your own levels of stress can be useful. This awareness can highlight if there is something which you need to address. However, too much stress can start to get on top of us and interfere with our lives. You are not alone if you are feeling a sense of stress and overwhelm right now. . There is no ‘correct’ response to this situation and everyone will have different factors which may be triggering stressors.
Stress is our emotional and physical response to pressure and is a normal part of life. We all experience stress from time to time. Being aware of your levels of stress can be useful. This awareness can highlight if there is something which you need to address. However, too much stress can start to get on top of us and interfere with our lives.
Knowing that you may be experiencing higher levels of stress than usual can often be difficult to realise. Everyone responds differently to stress, so being aware of your own responses is invaluable.
There are a number of physical symptoms that may suggest you are under too much stress:
- fast shallow breathing
- palpitations or sweating
- difficulties sleeping
- grinding your teeth
- upset digestive system
There are also lots of clues in your behaviour, thoughts and feelings that can signal too much stress, such as:
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- being snappy and irritable
- loss of concentration
- finding it difficult to talk to others
- lack of motivation or effort
- more emotional than usual
- negative or unwelcome thoughts
- ignoring or missing meetings, calls and texts
- Read ‘The Stress Response’ by Christy Matta - this book is available in the library through our Bibliotherapy scheme along with a number of other books addressing stress and anxiety.
- Building emotional resilience can help you cope better with life’s ups and downs.
- Download ‘How to manage stress’, a leaflet from Mind for anyone who wants to know how to deal with stress and how to learn to relax.
- Try mindfulness, a proven approach to help with stress and anxiety, learn to pay attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation and breathing.
Managing Isolation or Loneliness
- Opening Doors London - This charity for older LGBT people have a free telefriending (telephone befriending) service anyone aged over 50 can access.
- Age UK - This charity for older people has guidance during this period, and a free, independent advice line open every day from 8am-7pm. They also offer telefriending services for those aged 60 and over.
During this particularly difficult time you may experience a change in your sleeping pattern or find it difficult to sleep. The following resources provide information on the range of factors which can affect your sleeping pattern as well as providing you with advice on what to try to overcome these difficulties.
- Mind has booklets and factsheets about sleep problems that you can download. These include 'How to cope with sleep problems' and 'Making sense of sleeping pills and minor tranquillisers'.
- Living Life to the Full provides a free, practical online course for building a range of life skills and includes a module on sleeping better.
- National Sleep Foundation is an American website which provides information and advice on overcoming difficulties sleeping.
- The Mental Health Foundation have produced a 'How to... Sleep Better' guide.
It is recommended to engage in some form of physical movement each day. Exercise can take any form, duration and intensity. It is important to do whatever you feel comfortable with. This need for exercise is more vital than ever, as we are finding ourselves spending the vast majority of our time indoors and perhaps limited with space. Please see below for some resources and search our Physical Wellbeing page for advice and guidance.
- One of our QMotion Fitness Instructors has put together an at-home workout plan for you to follow. The plan lasts for 6 weeks and includes exercise 3 times a week to make sure you're getting enough exercise during your time inside.
- Yoga with Adriene provides yoga for all, whether you want a more intense practice or something to calm the mind. Back in January, she also did a 30-day 'at-home' challenge, which created some great content for your own at-home yoga.
Organisations and Resources relating to Disability
If you have a disability and would like to seek further advice during this particularly difficult time several useful resources have been listed below.
- Autistica: How to cope with the uncertainty of Coronavirus.
- Disability Rights UK - campaign organisation led by people with diverse experiences of disability and health conditions, from different communities.
- Learning Disability England – works to make life better for and within people with learning disabilities and their families.
- National Association of Disabled Staff Networks (NADSN) – a super-network that connects and represents disabled staff networks.
- National Autistic Society.
- Purple Space - networking and professional development hub for disabled employees, network and resource group leaders and allies from all sectors and trades.
- Scope – the disability equality charity in England and Wales. They provide practical information and emotional support when it's most needed, and campaign relentlessly to create a fairer society.
Domestic abuse, is defined as any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.
If you are experiencing abusive behaviour, it is important to remember that the abuse is not your fault, that domestic abuse is against the law, and that you don't have to deal with this on your own because there is a lot support available.
If you, or someone you know, are at risk due to government advice to stay at home, there are various sources which can provide help.
Refer to Queen Mary's Report and Support page for a comprehensive list of support available for individuals at risk of relationship or familial abuse and/or domestic violence.
Worried about Renting
- Citizens Advice has created a comprehensive page detailing support if you are struggling to pay rent or bills due to coronavirus.
Anxiety and Panic Attacks
We are currently experiencing much change in our lives , which may cause some distress or anxiety. It is well established that for many that live with anxiety, a common characteristic is that of having an inability to tolerate uncertainty.
The current situation with coronavirus has created a lot of uncertainty which might be difficult for those with pre-existing anxiety conditions to manage and as well as for those who have not suffered with anxiety in the past.
For individuals with anxiety the whole situation may feel extra daunting and worrying and with the extensive media coverage, it’s understandable that some people may feel overwhelmed.
You may also be experiencing anxious thoughts and feelings relating to health, finances, working from home, loneliness or grief.
Some of the below resources may help you manage your anxiety and help you improve your mental health and wellbeing.
Problems with anxiety
Problems with anxiety arise when we start to feel anxious more often and more intensely, when there is no real danger and it seems to happen without reason and can stop you doing what you want to do in day to day life, get in the way of your daily routine, work and even impact on your relationships. There are lots of things that can help.
Where to get help for anxiety
- Anxiety UK provides a helpline and online information about a wide range of anxiety conditions and disorders.
- No Panic provides support for people with panic attacks, phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and general anxiety. They coordinate a network of self-help behaviour therapy groups and a confidential helpline for members.
- Living Life to the Full is a free online skills course based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for people feeling distressed or anxious. It helps you understand why you feel as you do and to make changes in your thinking, activities, sleep and relationships.
- Triumph over Phobia (TOP UK) organises a network of weekly self-help groups for people with phobias and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
- Social Anxiety UK provides information, chatrooms, online discussions, self-help groups and a list of recommended books for people with social anxiety.
- OCD UK provide evidence-based information, advice and support to those affected by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Someone having a panic attack experiences a sudden and intense sensation of fear. They may feel they have lost control and feel desperate to get out of the situation that has triggered their anxiety.
Symptoms of panic attack include:
- rapid breathing
- feeling breathless
- feeling very hot or cold
- feeling sick
- feeling faint or dizzy
- tingling fingers
- shivering or shaking
- racing heart or irregular heartbeat (palpitations).
The problem may get worse if over-breathing sets in because this triggers sensations such as confusion, cramps, pains and feelings of weakness. The symptoms of a severe panic attack can be quite similar to a heart attack and someone experiencing one may be convinced they are going to die.
How to manage panic attacks
- The Mental Health Foundation has further resources for how manage panic attacks
- Tips on how to manage panic attacks can be found on the NHS Panic Disorder page
- Self-help Strategies for Panic Disorder
- Talk to a counsellor or your GP
- Breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. You can find a simple breathing exercise on the NHS website. Explore Mind's Relaxation Tips page.
You may be uncertain whether you are experiencing depression as everyone’s experience of depression might be different. It is important to be acknowledge that many people experience ‘dips’ in their mental health. This is different to experiencing depression. Depression is often encompassing, long lasting and spans a spectrum. The NHS recommends that you should see your GP if you are experiencing symptoms of depression for most days over a 2 week period.
There is a wide variety of symptoms, some of which are listed below:
- feeling restless and agitated
- waking up early, having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more
- feeling tired and lacking energy
- using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
- not eating properly and losing or putting on weight
- crying a lot or more than usual
- difficulty remembering things
- unusual physical aches and pains
- feeling low a lot of the time
- being unusually irritable or impatient
- getting no pleasure out of life or what you usually enjoy
- losing interest in your sex life
- finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions
- blaming yourself and feeling unnecessarily guilty about things
- lacking self-confidence and self-esteem
- being preoccupied with negative thoughts
- feeling numb, empty and despairing
- feeling helpless
- distancing yourself from others; not asking for support
- taking a bleak, pessimistic view of the future
- experiencing a sense of unreality
- thinking about suicide.
- The Samaritans are available for confidential emotional support to anyone who feels depressed or in crisis. They offer a 24-hour helpline (116 123) or you can visit a local branch if you prefer to speak to someone face to face. You can also email them on firstname.lastname@example.org (response time: 24 hours)
- The Mind website has booklets and factsheets that you can download about many subjects linked with mental health including "Understanding Depression.”
- Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. It helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we're better able to manage them. Mindfulness is proven to help with depression. To find out more look at the Mental Health Foundation's Be Mindful website and our webpage on Promoting Positive Mental Health
If you are feeling low and having thoughts about harming yourself, you need to take it seriously and reach out for support.
Even if you believe that you will never do it, if thoughts about taking your own life are troubling you it is important to take some steps that will help you understand and begin to deal with what is making you experience these emotions.
You may feel there is no way out for you and that nobody can help or would even want to. There are people who are willing to help. Talk to someone you trust, a close friend or someone in your family, or you can make an appointment to speak with your GP, a student counsellor or talk to the Chaplain. If you prefer to speak anonymously to begin with, you can call the Samaritans on the number listed below.
Where to get help
- If you are concerned about your immediate safety you can call 999.
- You can ask for an urgent appointment with your GP (at this current time this may only be available over the phone)
- You can phone the Samaritans, they are available for confidential emotional support to anyone who feels in crisis. They offer a 24 hour helpline on 116 123 or you can email them on email@example.com.
- You can phone Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) , a support line for men. They are available from 5pm to midnight every day. You can either call 0800 58 58 58 or visit their webchat page
- You can phone Papyrus, a support line for people under 35. They are available Monday to Friday 9am to 10pm, weekends and bank holidays from 2pm to 10pm. You can call 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supporting someone who may be suicidal
It is very difficult to achieve a balance between trying to be available and supportive to someone who is depressed and taking on too much yourself, so you are likely to need to find someone with whom you can talk about your own concerns and feelings. You can find somewhere to do this in confidence if you are worrying about betraying someone's trust. See the list of helplines and sources of information below or call the Samaritans.
If you are worried that someone is depressed and thinking about suicide, being there for them and listening to them is important in itself. Don't take lightly a suggestion of suicide - encourage the person to talk about how they are feeling; talking openly about the possibility of suicide will not make it more likely to happen.
Do not feel you have to offer them ongoing support, your role is to help them to see a professional, their GP is a good place to start. Speak with the person about who they can contact if they should have suicidal thoughts and make sure they make a list of those people with their contact numbers including the telephone number of the Samaritans.
If you have immediate concerns about their safety you may need to get them to hospital - see the getting help section above. Do not leave the person alone, involve other people to help you. If you take them to hospital stay with them until they are seen by a doctor.
The mental health charity Mind website has information that you can download including 'How to cope with suicidal feelings' and 'How to help someone who is suicidal'.
Death and Bereavement
The death of someone who is significant to you is one of the hardest things you will experience in your life. Whether it is expected or a shock, the enormity of loss is something that impacts on you in a very profound way. The reality of the coronavirus pandemic may mean that some of us may experience the bereavement of a relative, friend, colleague or acquaintance.
Grief takes a long time to work through. There are no hard and fast guidelines for this. It takes as long as it takes, but as a general rule it will take longer than you expect. It is important not to try to 'get over it' too quickly, not to adopt a 'stiff upper lip' attitude. Grief is an inevitable and human response. If suppressed, it may well surface at a later stage. Sometimes there seems to be an expectation that you will have recovered after a certain time has elapsed, but everyone has their own recovery time which cannot be hurried.
Where to get help
Cruse have specific resources for dealing with bereavement and grief in relation to those who experience someone who has died from coronavirus.