Dr Jayne Williams - Llamau's Consultant Clinical Psychologist

After the year we have all had, I can’t imagine many of us have scraped through it without some impact upon our lifestyle and our mental and physical wellbeing. We’ve all had different pressures, and different challenges, and had to find ways to cope, but avoiding change has been near on impossible.

When COVID led to the first lockdown last March, colleague wellbeing became one of our top priorities. As a Psychologically Informed Environment (PIE), we have always been aware of its critical importance to the happiness and emotional safety of our colleagues, the quality of the service our colleagues provide, and the overall health of our organisation.

Llamau’s culture is very much driven by our colleagues and their values and determination. They are the lifeblood of our organisation; turning up day and night, showing care and compassion to the young people and women they support, as well as their peers. When Covid-19 hit, they continued to do exactly that but with the added pressures of a pandemic on their shoulders. We wanted to do our part to support them in feeling as well as they could.

Working in the area of supporting others with trauma puts our colleagues at higher risk of secondary traumatic stress, burnout and compassion fatigue, so coupled with the impact of lockdowns, changing work patterns, broken routines and anxiety, it was imperative for us to meet those challenges head on and put additional support in place.

We built upon our existing reflective practice sessions with colleagues by setting up two phonelines; Firstly, a Psychology Consultation Line for advice and guidance about how to provide the best quality support, and Secondly, a Colleague Wellbeing Line, both manned by qualified psychologists. We aimed to support our colleagues with their work and personal wellbeing during the pandemic, and be as available as possible. We were aware that the pandemic, on top of the emotional work our colleagues do, could place them under considerable additional pressure.

Both were well used, and self-referrals were encouraged for both. As well as providing support to individuals and teams, it helped us build a better understanding of how our colleagues were feeling and what further support we could offer, such as the Counselling Service my colleague Rhiannon reflected on earlier this week in her insightful blog post - ‘Supporting young people and women to make self-care their priority’.

Our colleagues shared experiences relating to both work and their personal lives through this service. It’s been great to hear from the feedback from those that used the services that our colleagues felt valued and supported during this time. It has been a real boost to the Psychology Team and senior management to know that the interventions are helping many people right now.

“After experiencing a particularly hard day at work, I requested a call from Llamau’s wellbeing team for some support. My telephone consultation went really well. I felt comfortable and valued talking to the psychologist about some of the problems I was experiencing.”

“I don’t think you realise just how much your kindness helped me cope. I can’t thank you enough. Because of you, I will forever be mindful of how I speak to people and treat them, because we don’t always know what struggles people are facing when they’re sat on a Teams meeting, smiley and seemingly happy.”

Alongside the internal wellbeing support, we have signposted colleagues to other forms of help, advice and phone support should they not feel comfortable using an internal service. We also continued reflective practice with all operational managers in line with our Psychologically Informed Environment. All of which we’d now like to continue doing, through a newly established colleague wellbeing Lead Practitioner post.

There is no doubting the fact that Covid-19 has thrown up challenge after challenge for our colleagues to deal with, be it personal or professional, but throughout, they have shown strength, resilience and kindness to themselves and others. Given what they have all been through, I think that’s a resounding success, and we hope to build on everything we have learnt and developed.