On Tuesday 26th September Scottish Care held Care in Mind, a workshop designed to explore how we can manage and promote good mental health and wellbeing for those working in care homes and care at home organisations.

The physical and mental wellbeing of our workforce is critical if high quality health and social care services are to be delivered to the most vulnerable in our society. Recent research by Scottish Care has indicated that the pressure and demands facing the social care workforce are creating significant recruitment and retention challenges for employers.

The day began with Scottish Care’s National Workforce Lead, Katharine Ross, opening proceedings with a warm welcome and introducing the themes for the day. Louise Wilson and Anne Connor of Outside the Box then presented the outcomes of their research exploring the mental health and wellbeing of older people in receipt of care and support.

Louise explained how conversations with older people across the country has shown that loss of personal independence, loneliness, transitions as well as grieving for loved ones, has the biggest impact on the mental health and wellbeing of those we are caring for. In order to feel positive and well, older people have said that structure, meaningful activity, relationships – maintaining existing ones as well as building new ones – communication and freedom are among the most significant factors. The full report from Outside the Box’s research can be found here.

Following this Becca Gatherum, Policy and Research Manager at Scottish Care, discussed Scottish Care’s mental health research project. As we headed to the interval Becca encouraged all present to let us know their own thoughts, comments and experiences of mental wellbeing and the workplace by writing them down and attaching them to the different themed parts of the room. The response to this request was incredibly well taken up, with the walls being covered in a thick coat of post-it notes that will inform our Mental Health report – which will launch at Scottish Care’s Annual Care Home Conference on 17th November.

Between refreshment and lunch breaks saw our own Chief Executive Officer, Dr Donald Macaskill, exploring How well is our frontline workforce? Having conversations about mental health within your organisations. In this informative and thought provoking session Donald advised that, in 2015, 15.3% of the total UK workforce had identified themselves as being affected by a common mental health illness such as stress, depression or anxiety – meaning the actual figure is likely to be far higher. With this number representing an estimated 12.1% of overall GDP, workers living with mental health problems are making a significant contribution to the economy.

This being the case, Donald challenged employers to develop robust mental health policies for their organisations with a culture of compassion and positive communication embedded throughout to support the workforce, and provided helpful tips as to how this can be progressed.

As it can be with day-long events, some of those in attendance perhaps felt a little sluggish as they returned to their seats from lunch. Luckily we had Dr Tara French from the Digital Health and Care Institute, Glasgow School of Art, to lead us in her session of full-audience participation.

Entitled How can you look after yourself? Exploring music, creativity and wellness, Tara’s presentation focussed on the positive impact of music and singing to our mental wellbeing. With the use of a keyboard Tara moulded those congregated into what is believed to be Scotland’s first ever social care choir. More than this, it actually sounded really good as you can see for yourself by watching the video here!

Rounding off the event Lyn Ryden of Carr Gomm, with Mindfulness: a tool to promote workforce health and wellbeing, explained how each of us individually can help ourselves to be both healthier and happier. As her presentation was drawing the day to a close, Lyn lead the group in a few moments of quiet contemplation in which no sound could be heard other than her calming words. A perfect and relaxing way to complete the day.

Scottish Care would like to thank everyone involved with Care in Mind – colleagues assisting with the development of the idea and the logistics on the day, each of the contributors at the event, and everyone in attendance – for helping produce what we feel was a very interesting, entertaining and thought provoking milestone and call to action in our research into the mental health and wellbeing of the social care workforce.

If you would like to see more content from the day, and you are a Twitter user, please search using the hashtag #careinmind for quotes, comments and reflections from those attending on the day.