Saint Francis Hospice: Looking after mental health during Covid pandemic

Joanne Alavoine is one of 20 mental health first aiders at the hospice. Picture: Saint Francis Hospi

Joanne Alavoine is one of 20 mental health first aiders at the hospice. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice - Credit: Archant

Joanne Alavoine is part of the Saint Francis Hospice human resources team

I have worked with Saint Francis Hospice for nine years.

Lockdown greatly changed how the HR Team worked and what our immediate priorities were. We had to embrace the changes very quickly and learn how to deliver our role in a different way, in an ever changing set of circumstances as the pandemic unfolded.

In my HR role I witnessed how the pandemic was affecting individuals in different ways and on many levels.

Earlier this year I completed the Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) England course and I gained knowledge and skills to recognise mental health and help individuals find the support they need.

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The course taught me how to spot early signs of a mental health issue, including warning signs of a mental health crisis, how to offer help and guide a person towards appropriate sources of supportive help or treatment.

As an MHFA I can be a point of contact for any employee who is experiencing emotional distress or a mental health issue. The support could range from having an initial conversation, through to supporting the person to get the appropriate help.

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I also use my knowledge and skills to promote a workplace culture where people feel they can be free to discuss mental health issues openly and freely and feel supported when they do so. I am one of 20 trained MHFA in the hospice.

I welcomed the opportunity to undertake the course, as it equips me to better support people in the role that I fulfil, and it has also given me a greater awareness of how I can look after my own mental wellbeing.

Taking care of mental health is as important as taking care of physical health.

The social distancing and staying at home has been really tough for some people. As well as boredom and change to normal routine, there has been social isolation and loneliness.

For others, it may be work or financial worries.

I’ve never known a time where looking after mental health of a workforce needs to be so high on the agenda. It is important in these unprecedented times that people are supported to better cope with the uncertainty and worries that Covid-19 is bringing to their lives.

To find out more about the hospice, please visit

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