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How can the housing sector promote a mental health strategy?

Sponsored by HomeLINK

As part of Inside Housing’s Mental Health Awareness Week activity, this webinar discusses the advice set out in the Samaritans’ latest book How to Listen with the author and asks sector experts what they are doing to work towards a well-being strategy to help residents suffering from mental health issues

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Housing associations are exploring ways to support residents experiencing mental health issues (picture: Getty)
Housing associations are exploring ways to support residents experiencing mental health issues (picture: Getty)
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How can the #UKhousing sector promote a mental health strategy? During Mental Health Awareness Week @InsideHousing talks to @Samaritans author @Katiecolombus, Andy Sturgess @Aico_Limited, Margaret Hanson @ImagineIndep01, Amy Cheswick @RavenHT (Sponsored)

How To Listen author @Katiecolombus shared the @Samaritans tips for active listening: “Good listening is about giving the floor back to the person speaking because they have something they need to get off their chest” (Sponsored) @Aico_Limited #UKhousing

“You don’t need to be trained. Just aware of what to look for and how to respond to it,” says Andy Sturgess, who is a mental health first aider @Aico_Limited (Sponsored) #UKhousing

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The Department of Health says one in four people will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. The past year has been a challenge for everyone’s mental health and the sector houses many vulnerable people.

The Samaritans’ recent publication How to Listen: Tools for opening up conversations when it matters most, by Katie Colombus (January 2021), outlines ways to recognise when someone might be struggling and practical advice for opening up a conversation to listen without judgement.

Ms Colombus says that if you ask someone how they are because you are worried about them, and they reply “fine”, consider the following using the acronym for ‘FINE’, which is Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional – as they might need to talk and be heard.


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Another useful acronym that the Samaritans uses when actively listening to someone who might be struggling is ‘SHUSH’. More information about this can be found here on the Samaritans’ website.

Inside Housing’s webinar, sponsored by HomeLINK, talks to the author and asks a panel of experts how landlords might build a well-being strategy to support residents experiencing mental health challenges using the examples in the book and individual work experience.


Inside Housing and HomeLINK webinar: the speakers

Katie Colombus, author of the Samaritans’ book How to Listen
Ms Colombus started her journalism career in Shanghai before moving to London. She has worked for Sky entertainment news and news stand titles such as the i newspaper and The Telegraph. More recently Ms Colombus worked at Save the Children before joining the Samaritans as assistant director of communications. She is the author of the Samaritans’ latest book How to Listen, which includes tips from trained Samaritans call staff on how to listen to people in ways that can prevent concern escalating into more complex emotions and health issues.

Margaret Hanson, chief executive, Imagine Independence
Ms Hanson is chief executive at Imagine Independence, a Liverpool-based mental health charity that enables and supports people to live full and independent lives. Imagine Independence offers social inclusion and health promotion activities to help people become more resilient and learn how to overcome challenges that can cause mental and physical ill health. It also campaigns to challenge the stigma of mental illness and to get people talking about the issues that underpin mental ill health. Over the past 13 years Ms Hanson has worked exclusively within charities and health, with previous roles including vice-chair of Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board in North Wales and chief executive of Age Concern North East Wales. She also co-founded the 2025 Movement, a coalition that aims to address health inequalities and promote mental well-being in North Wales.

Andrew Sturgess, regional specification manager South England, Aico and HomeLINK
After college, Mr Sturgess worked as a personal trainer before joining the RAF and subsequently serving in Afghanistan. Since leaving the military, he has worked for Aico alongside partners in the social housing sector. Aico and HomeLINK also work with the Electrical Industries Charity to help increase understanding of mental health issues and how to challenge the stigma. Within Aico Mr Sturgess is part of a team of mental health officers who are available to help staff who might need support or just to talk.

Amy Cheswick, director of customers and partners, Raven Housing Trust
Ms Cheswick is director of customers and partners at Raven Housing Trust, a social housing provider managing more than 7,000 homes across Surrey and Sussex. She joined the organisation in 2013 and has worked in housing for nearly 30 years. Passionate about delivering excellent customer services and supporting local authorities to prevent and reduce homelessness, Ms Cheswick has played a key role in shaping the tailored support services offered by Raven – to provide as many people as possible the opportunity to have the home they need, while building strong communities. Ms Cheswick has been a member and chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing South East board. She is currently a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing and a member of the National Housing Federation’s national homelessness steering group.

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