Focusing on your mental fitness

We all know that looking after ourselves and our teams is more important than ever, but what can we all do to make genuinely positive steps for change and give ourselves the best chance of maintaining mental fitness?

I consider it a real privilege to work for St John Ambulance, and whilst a First Aid charity may not seem like the most obvious members of AIM, St John’s heritage spans 900 years and the world. Our museum in central London tells the story of our global history. When I took on the job at St John it was because I was excited about working alongside clinical colleagues to create new opportunities for our audiences to encourage better mental health. Our strategy includes a community garden, cross-generational oral history projects, social prescribing, social networks for new parents and tackling loneliness. My commitment to good mental health has led me to become the Chair of the Wellbeing Network at St John, providing 1,700 staff and almost 50,000 volunteers with the tools they need to look after themselves and each other.

My key observation is that so many of our team in St John feel very confident at looking after each other (quite reassuring considering our mission!) but that we’re perhaps not as good at taking time out for ourselves. This has led me to think more deeply about what we choose to make time for, and why we often consider ourselves too busy at work to invest in our continued wellbeing. I don’t think this is just true of my current situation – I’ve been recalling several conversations with former colleagues and associates who feel as though they ‘just don’t have time’. And let’s face it, we all know that working in museums and heritage always keeps us busy. We need to adjust what we value and prioritise to not only encourage our teams and colleagues to take part in more positive activity, but also to show them and give confidence that it can be done.

My pledge to my team is to ask them each week what they are planning to do that will give them a decent amount of space to reflect, or to take some time out with a colleague, or engage in some learning (professional or personal), perhaps take a long lunchtime walk and maybe take some time out with the sole intention of being inspired. Very importantly, I’m going to tell them what I am going to do, so that they can see that leaders can choose to make time for themselves too and share what has been learned and enjoyed.

We all need a bit more time and care. You deserve it, and it’s good for everyone.

Sarah Duthie, Director of Priory and International Affairs and AIM Trustee, St John Ambulance