Talking openly about Mental Health

A wet and windy Monday morning did not deter a sizeable crowd of architectural professionals, educators and students gathering to support the Architects Benevolent Society’s (ABS) mental health support launch event in Edinburgh on 20th November. The topic is so important and close to people’s hearts that the weather was no object. The welcoming venue of the Scottish Storytelling Centre and home baked cakes by Tom Hetherington (Architect and Great British Bake off star) also helped!

An inspiring line up of speakers including Angela Brady OBE, ABS President talked about the need to keep wellbeing and mental health at the top of the agenda for individuals studying and working in architecture, architectural technology and landscape architecture. She referenced the long hours culture, and high levels of debt which can contribute to mental health problems for people in the industry.

Hannah Fothergill of Bennetts Associates spoke about what they are doing as a practice to promote wellbeing for their staff with the aim of “all staff being only one conversation away from getting the support they need” and normalising conversations about mental health within the workplace.

Gloria Lo, Principal of OiSA Designs in Edinburgh shared her own personal experiences of a physical health condition which impacted on her mental health; meaning that normal expectations became daily stress; professionalism became a strain to deliver; self-confidence became self-doubt, and the effect on her income meant she experienced financial strain. Gloria also highlighted the intensified pressures of working as a sole practitioner in comparison to working as part of a team in a practice. Her determination to overcome the challenges she has faced came through clearly in her talk.

ABS is very grateful to the RIAS for their ongoing support for the charity, and especially for their help in organising this important event.

Practical support available through ABS

Robert Ball, Chief Executive of ABS, was proud to talk about the already successful partnership between the Society and Anxiety UK, a leading national charity supporting people living with anxiety, stress and anxiety based depression. Since May 2017, ABS has referred 34 people to Anxiety UK, 26 of whom have had therapy, with 71% measured as being successfully recovered.

James, an Architectural Assistant who had a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy said:

“I have come a long way from where I started and definitely feel more confident to talk about my well-being and reach out if needs be. If the Society had not been able to provide me with help I don’t think I would have felt confident enough to push through the hardship and get to where I am now.”

People who have worked in architecture, architectural technology or landscape architecture for a year in the UK are eligible for this free, confidential support.

Anxiety UK has a network of Approved Therapists, meaning that support can be provided across the UK via a range of methods including email, phone, face to face, and Skype. Response times are quick so that people can access support when they need it most, generally starting therapy within two weeks of their assessment.

This offer of practical support to help the wider architectural community was welcomed by all those who attended.

If you or anyone you know needs help and think you may be eligible, please contact help@absnet.org.uk or phone 020 7580 2823 to speak to one of the welfare team.

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