Putting mental health support at the centre of our work

For World Mental Health Day 2019 we look at how one housing association supports good mental health among both staff and tenants.

A blog from Origin Housing Care and Support

A blog from Origin Housing Care and Support

10 October 2019

Origin Housing Care and Support services provide supported housing for people with enduring mental health problems at schemes in Watford, Enfield and Barnet.

We don’t just provide support services within supported housing, we also support general needs tenants with mental health issues, through our frontline Assessment and Support Officers.

The support provided across all these services includes emotional support, referrals to other services such as Community Mental Health Teams (provided by Health and Social services), support with getting the right benefits, support to get involved in social activities and meeting other people, and support with practical things such as cooking healthy meals and keeping your home in good condition.

We also provide support in the community from our Mental Health Floating Support Service in Camden.

James’s story

Our services make a big difference to people’s lives. James was referred to us by a GP-based counsellor, he was suffering from a number of mental health conditions, substance misuse, and had fallen into considerable rent arrears.

We helped him set up direct debits to reduce his arrears and built his confidence to deal with his landlord himself. The support worker also helped him address his social anxiety by visiting him at home initially and then gradually encouraging him to meet in public locations. The support team also helped him to access ­local support groups, as well as take up running to improve his health.

He says his biggest achievement is conquering the anxiety over leaving his flat to pursue an ambition of becoming a taxi driver; he is now enrolled in a Taxi Knowledge School, studying more formally and building relationships with other people on the course.

Supporting staff wellbeing

Supporting the wellbeing of our staff is just as important. We have an internal wellbeing team made up of a group of staff from across the organisation. This year we launched a new health and wellbeing strategy for staff with a strong focus on mental health.

Nearly 100 staff have completed mental health awareness training over the past three years and everyone in our executive and senior management teams will be completing ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’ training for managers in the New Year. We run weekly wellbeing activities at our head office, such as table tennis and board games, as well as quarterly ‘Pot Luck’ lunches and regular events for occasions such as World Mental Health Day and Breathe Easy Week.

In the past few years, we have had everything from walking and running groups to yoga, boxercise and Spanish language lessons. We are keen for wellbeing ideas and initiatives to be driven from the bottom-up where possible. We are looking at where we can embed mental health support in the employee lifecycle, for example by introducing wellbeing actions plans in one to one meetings and staff inductions.

We are looking forward to expanding our mental health initiatives over the new few years. We want mental health to be prioritised and supported as standard, and from the moment they start at Origin, whether they are a tenant or an employee.


About the authors

Suzanne Birkett is a Business Analyst and part of the Wellbeing Team, Katri Wilson is Assistant Director of Care and Support at Origin Housing Care and Support

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