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“Wellbeing is not just for a pandemic” – focus on mental health at NET 2021

03 Sep 2021 | Advance HE Keynote speaker and former Director of Mental Health at Public Health England, Gregor Henderson, spoke passionately about the importance of mental health and says it should be a focus for health professionals all of the time.

Advance HE’s 2021 NET Conference for health professionals and students took place between 1-3 September, with the first day focusing on mental health and wellbeing, both for health professionals and students, as well as those being treated by them.

Independent Consultant and Adviser on Mental Health and Wellbeing and former Director of Mental Health at Public Health England, Gregor Henderson, spoke about the need for mental health and wellbeing to be considered in the round, and not just in terms of mental illness.

He said: “When you start adding the words mental health and wellbeing together people immediately start thinking of mental illness. However, this affects all of us, whether or not it reaches clinical thresholds. Wellbeing support has to part of the culture and ethos of institutions and a comprehensive offering for those at risk.”

He said the pandemic had inevitably put more people at risk of low mental wellbeing, with lockdown highlighting some unsavoury inequalities in our society, particularly affecting healthcare professionals.

“The thing has impacted people most has been the loss of contacts, social and professional. The risk of this is increased risk of staff mental health problems, burnout and moral injury. There has also been a stark reminder of the racial and socio-economic disparities in health as well as reinforcing gender disparities such as the childcare 'burden'.

“There have been some good things, particularly the phenomenal support from institutions and the health care community. The public support has also been huge and the outpouring of public support have given healthcare professionals the appreciation they are part of something bigger than themselves.”

He also touched on the responsibilities of healthcare professionals to look at context when treating mental health issues in their patients.

“All healthcare takes place in a context, it's crucial to understand that context and its impact on people, on their health and wellbeing. We're here for the most vulnerable people in our communities and people at their most vulnerable times. We need to understand and work on the wider influences on people's health and wellbeing.”

Earlier in the day there was a pre-recorded keynote speech delivered at 6.00am GMT, giving delegates from across the globe the chance to access the conference at a time that suited them.

Kathie Lasater is Professor Emerita from Oregon Health & Science University, on the west coast of the US. She is a pioneer in simulation research, specifically how simulation impacts the development of clinical judgment. One of the outcomes of her research was the Lasater Clinical Judgment Rubric, a widely used assessment tool in simulation and clinical settings. Nearly 14 years after its publication, the rubric has gone global—it has been translated, or is in process of translation, in 17 other languages.

She spoke about the opportunities for innovation the pandemic had provided, whilst acknowledging the challenges to people’s mental health.

She said: “In the US the national emergency declaration was made on 13 March, after which life changed quite dramatically. In Oregon, this was a couple of weeks before spring break, which gave faculty the chance to do a very quick pivot to online delivery. This had never happened before and one of my colleagues noted that probably 70% of the faculty had never delivered a course online.

“This whole period of time was marked by uncertainty and stress of the highest order. I’m sure people can relate to this and the uncertainty was as marked as thinking ‘what is going to happen tomorrow?’.

“Technology was critical in the response of educators, objectives and outcomes guided the innovation, health disparities became a focus and academic practice partnerships and other coalitions developed as a way to help students get through this time.”

NET2021 attracted over 200 delegates from around the world, representing countries as diverse as Malta and Zambia. There were 92 presentations delivered, both live and on demand, as well as 38 poster presentations which could also be viewed as and when the delegates chose. Alongside this was the virtual networking platform Topia, where delegates can virtually ‘bump into’ each other and chat, relax and even dance!

NET 2022 is provisionally scheduled for 6-8 September 2022, keep an eye out for our call for papers this autumn.

Keep up to date with all our upcoming conferences in 2021-22 and take advantage of our early bird offer on selected events.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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