Mental Health Training

Who Helps the Helpers? By Jane McNeice

Posted by on 27 Sep, 2018 in Mental Health |

Who Helps the Helpers? By Jane McNeice

As I’m sure is the case for a lot of our readers, we all come across various quotes and affirmations (particularly in social media) and many of these largely pass us by, but then every so often there’s one that just captures us. In my experience it can sometimes be more than that, I feel completely moved. A life changed by a shift in thinking that the quote creates for me. Sometimes I can really relate to why, other times I don’t have this awareness, or not least on a conscious level.

One quote I’d like to share with you is one that I read a couple of years ago, and still sits in my photo files today:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realising that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” 

Now I’ve seen this quote attributed to various people, so can’t even be sure to whom the story belongs, or maybe in fact more than one caring person shared this sentiment and the story belongs to many mothers and children – John Lennon, Fred Rogers…

Who it belongs to is largely irrelevant for me, other than its sentiment, especially in times of need – I think this year and that global pandemic that is Covid-19 definitely fits the bill! What matters for me personally is how it made me feel on reading it, the reminder of HOPE. Hope is powerful, it can help to crush pain, disappointment and sadness into nothingness. Just when we think it’s gone hope rears its head, sometimes from what seems like nowhere – a thought, a person, the right words at the right time, a professional who offers kindness, compassion, support and understanding.

Though media can often focus on the negative things that happen in the world such as people’s wrong-doings, poor decisions, and mis-judgement, there’s lots of helpers in society, some may be professionals and others everyday people, “Not all super heroes wear capes”  is another quote that springs to mind here. Never more have we seen this in the recent Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps the only difference is our expectations placed upon the different types of helpers. With professionals we expect them to help. Maybe in your GP practice it doesn’t need to say Nurse blah or Dr.blah on the door, because we just interpret ‘Helper’ anyway. So these professional ‘Helpers’, who we often place so much expectation upon, who helps them when they become ill?

The national mental health charity MIND, in a survey carried out in 2018, found that 2 in 5 GP’s have mental health difficulties and many would turn to colleagues for support. This makes a case for in the very least GP’s and practice staff being trained in Mental Health First Aid, and or Suicide Prevention Training. Society can sometimes mistakenly presume all clinical professionals have a good understanding of mental health, but we have learned first hand at Mind Matters that this is often not the case. Brookes et al (2011) also say that mental ill health is common amongst doctors, and fast effective treatment is needed due to the occupational risks carried by this group in their work. Carrieri et al (2018) say,

There is a need for approaches that are sensitive to the contextual complexities of mental ill-health in doctors, and that do not treat doctors as a uniform body, but allow distinctions to account for particular characteristics, such as specialty, career stage and different working environments.

But as we’ve seen in various media articles recently, GPs in some cases are reaching crisis, and not getting the help they require. There are a whole host of reasons behind this. Some systemic issues, some stigma and self-stigma – after all no one is immune to the pervasive stigma particularly present within mental ill health – and various other explanations.

At Mind Matters we want to highlight the range of support that is available to professionals, including GPs, and remind everyone that we all share one thing, we are human, and no matter what your helper role – professional or layperson – it is still OK NOT TO BE OK, and ever more so in a time of global crisis! Getting the appropriate help or intervention at the earliest opportunity is beneficial for everyone. The following organisations can help professionals who are struggling with mental health difficulties:

Doctors Support Network

Mind Matters ‘Get Support Now’

MindWell – Leeds

NHS GP Health Service




Carrieri D, Briscoe S, Jackson M, et al (2018) ‘Care Under Pressure’: a realist review of interventions to tackle doctors’ mental ill-health and its impacts on the clinical workforce and patient care BMJ Open 2018;8:e021273. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-021273

Mind surveyed 1066 GPs in England and Wales (of whom 100 were working in Wales) from January-March 2018. Respondents were a self-selecting sample who completed the survey online.

Samantha K Brooks, Clare Gerada, & Trudie Chalder  (2011) Review of literature on the mental health of doctors: Are specialist services needed? Journal of Mental Health Apr;20(2):146-56. doi: 10.3109/09638237.2010.541300. Epub 2011 Jan 28.