Barry Searle has seen first-hand the mental health support many people have required over the past 12 months. As the director of training provider Intqual-Pro, the business owner has officially qualified more intelligence and security professionals than any other UK-based organisation of its kind.
During the pandemic, Intqual-Pro ran a series of Covid-specific wellbeing webinars and take-up was far greater than expected. Following this success, they've now launched a full mental health and wellbeing subsidiary of Intqual-Pro, called Start Within, which is solely dedicated to wellbeing support in a corporate environment.
It is a service Barry believes to be critical: 'Stress and anxiety are definitely far higher than we've ever seen as a training provider. We ran free weekly mental health and wellbeing webinars for our learners and line managers during the first lockdown and then again at the start of the year. Attendance was two or three times higher in the most recent set of webinars than it was back in April and May last year.'
Barry, who founded Intqual-Pro in November 2014, believes this level of take-up shines a light on a problem which is not being talked about in the media: 'Not enough is being said or written about the mental health impact this pandemic is having on businesses. I almost feel there is a deliberate attempt to block out what I see as a mental health pandemic, as it does not chime with the core Covid message regarding isolation. We need an urgent study to understand the extent and long term impact to the population. Access to mental health support in the UK was already way underfunded and barely available. I don’t feel that the government understands or wants to prioritise the potential drastic increase in demand. Charities that have been providing invaluable support will not have the increased capacity, as donations and support seems to have reduced through the pandemic.'
Like many of the people Barry has trained, he has had to face his own personal challenges during the pandemic. But he reverts to coping mechanisms he thinks others could benefit from: 'I have managed to remain relatively balanced through the pandemic through awareness of my own mindset. I have been taking opportunities to release stress and vary my daily routine as much as possible. I've found that being able to separate work and personal life has been key. I see too many people over focusing on work, as there is little else to do and this leads to finding, or often creating problems, that would not exist pre-pandemic. As the country looks to rebuild economically, addressing mental health will be the key issue. We now have a split between people that have become accustomed to isolation and remote working and a lack of social interaction. Many may not want to go back to before. While others will be desperate and dependent upon a return to normal. How these two groups of people interact and fit, and what that means for corporate culture, are key questions all businesses need to think about.'