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Active Luton Workforce Project

Active Luton Workforce Project

Active Luton Workforce Project

Sophie, our Insight and Impact Officer, met with Mursalin and Danny from Active Luton to discuss how being a mental health champion and accessing support from a mental health champion has been of benefit to them both.

Hi both, can you tell me a little bit about yourselves?

Mursalin: Today is the 15th anniversary that I started working for Active Luton and I progressed myself up from being a Recreation Assistant up to the gym doing the Total Wellbeing side of things. It's been a long journey. I'm also married and got kids and got to be quite hands on with that. I've been a mental health champion throughout the COVID period.

Danny: I've been involved with Active Luton for five years now. I love playing football, I'm very sporty so I love swimming as well and I go for runs around my village. I love my job as well, it's a great place to be around and everyone is really supportive of me here and I'm lucky to have the staff beside me and helping me through things. I do my part to help people if they're going through any problems, I'll talk to them as well. I think just being there for someone in general, even if they're going through difficulties at the time, it does help. Just having someone to chat to, it does make you feel a little bit better about yourself after you've had that chat.

Mursalin, tell me a bit about the journey you've been on to become the mental health champion that you are.

It all started during the COVID-19 period when we went into lockdown. I received an email to enroll onto the course but at the same time I was enrolling onto the course, I had my own problems to deal with. My mum passed away from cancer but prior to that, there were a lot of hospital appointments. On top of that, my son has breathing difficulties and I had to do CPR on him a couple years ago in the house to revive him. I was thinking about that moment constantly and it was just going around in circles in my head. When the pandemic hit, I wasn't at work. Talking to everyone at work keeps me occupied, of course I was just at home and thinking about that moment and my mum's cancer. Everything was just getting too much.

When that course come about, I thought "right, I'm going to do this course and see what its about". The key thing I learnt from the course was the coping mechanisms. This is the stress that I have, how can I extract those coping mechanisms to my life right now, to make my life better? I was in a bad spot where I thought to myself, I didn't want to wake up because I had all these stresses. This course was very important for me to do, and it came at the right time. I had the literature sent to me, I did the assignments and passed them. I then went back to work more equipped to help people.

Danny, tell me about the journey you've been on to become a lifeguard.

When I first started here, it took me a while to get my lifeguard qualification. Admittedly, my swimming at the beginning was not fantastic, but all the work that the trainers have done with me helped my swimming get up to a standard where I was able to get my lifeguard qualification. It was a lot of hard work and effort. I was so determined to get it and for me, knowing in my head that I'm capable of achieving things. Not just myself, but anyone is capable of achieving things if they put their mind to it. I put my mind to this lifeguard course and when I passed, I was speechless. I've never seen my mum that proud before. I can't put into words how proud of myself I was, an everyone around me.

Mursalin, in terms of being a mental health champion, has it been what you expected it to be?

Since becoming a mental health champion, I've learnt that there's a lot of stigma behind mental health. A lot of people often don't realise that people with mental health issues face stigma everyday, and they're actually unwell. Mental health is really big and being able to help other people overcome the stigma, has helped me as well in my own issues.

Tell me about the partnership between you two.

Mursalin: When Danny is in the gym, I speak to him, and we have one-to-one conversations about how things are going. It's just general chat, we don't like to just focus on the problems, we speak about the positives too and just check in every now and again.

Danny: I think Mursalin has been absolutely fantastic, just going up to speak to him, even work sometimes, if I've got something on my mind, I always feel I can speak to him. Whenever I've been in a difficult situation, he's always been there to speak to when some days haven't been so good. He gives me the best coping mechanisms, and the coping mechanisms he uses, I use to help get myself back on track. I'm thankful to have Mursalin and everyone around here because the amount of support that I get is amazing. The team here is one big family, it's great to be part of it. Even though I do have my difficulties, and I do have mild autism, it hasn't held me back.

If people are thinking of becoming a mental health champion, but they haven't yet become one, what would you say to them to encourage them to become a mental health champion.

Mursalin: First of all, I would say do it. I would tell them about my journey and my experiences with the course and also just make it clear that while I can help others, I can also help myself.

Danny: Similar to Mursalin, I would tell them my experience and advise them that this is the line to go down. Keeping your feelings bottled up is the worst possible thing, so its important there are people out there who can help.

Danny, I hear you speak so highly of the team here at Active Luton, I can imagine when were put in lockdown, that was the worst. We all struggled to one extent or another, how was not coming to work and not having the 'big family' around you?

I know I'm not the only one but for me I found it really tough. I didn't feel like a very nice person to be around back then. A lot of the time, I tried to shut myself away from my family because I thought nobody wants to be around me. It was a difficult time because I've got million things going around in my head and at the time I though 'I don't know how I'm going to get through this'. I was started to get really concerned about myself and it was a concerning time. I struggled to get on with my family, but I knew I needed to help myself. We're nearly in autumn time now and I feel so much better, I like to think my face shows that. I'm back to where I want to be again. I know how capable I am of doing things, but I am very quick to doubt myself. I feel like my confidence is back where I want it to be, and I trust my own ability again.

If someone wants to access support from a mental health champion, but haven't quite got the courage to access that support, what would you say to them to encourage them?

Mursalin: We have a notice board in the staff room full of contact numbers for the mental health champions across our sites so everyone is aware of the help that is available to them.

Danny: I put a lot of people's feelings into consideration. I don't like to drag everyone down just because I'm feeling down. At the time, I was just trying to get through it myself, because I have got through it before by myself but that wasn't the right option. Once I knew that I needed to open up, I accessed support from Mursalin and it was what I needed. I would encourage anyone who's struggling to open up, speak up and access support from mental health champions.