Ben Perry, Health Adviser at Citi
I recently attended the Bupa HA CPD event in Staines. Recent focus in the media has concerned mental health recognition from both a personal and business strategy perspective. There is an increasingly heavy cost to business through productivity loss down to a lack of awareness and staff welfare support in this area. It was therefore great timing that first on the agenda for the day was an engaging presentation by Dr Pablo Vandenabeele (Bupa UK's Clinical Director for Mental Health) on Mental Health in the Corporate Environment.
Mental health can lead to a wide variety of conditions and it is estimated that 15% of workers have symptoms of an existing mental health condition at any one time. There can be complex interplay between several of these conditions which can pose difficulties when diagnosing too.
As Health Advisors, we are not currently trained to explore and discuss mental health concerns with our customers, and with many of them working in the fast paced and pressured corporate world, this is a key area they need assistance with. We continue to listen to customers and advise/signpost accordingly, but Pablo's presentation helped us to understand the signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Biological (sleep, appetite, concentration)
- Altered behaviours (irritability, withdrawal, altered speech, altered appearance, tearfulness)
- Altered emotions (guilt, hopelessness, suicidal ideations)
- Psychotic-like symptoms (delusion, thought disorder, hallucinations)
The key messages I took away from the training were that both awareness and recognition of mental health issues is growing; that there are many organisations still needing to take this area more seriously and that identification can be both complex and multipronged.
I'd like to extend my thanks to Pablo for his informative presentation, the other great speakers and to the Health Advisor Training Team for organising this important day of CPD training.
Lewis Harvey, Health Adviser at Chancery Lane
The third lecture of the day was presented by Ana Noia, Senior Clinical Physiologist in Sleep and Neurophysiology. The lecture focused on explaining sleep, what affects it and what we can do to improve it. Personally, I find sleep to be a fascinating subject and it is a common concern amongst many of my clients that I see daily, so I was very interested in learning more and I think Ana gave an excellent insight into everything sleep related.
Firstly, Ana explained multiple theories behind why we require sleep. The inactive/ evolutionary theory suggests that all species have adapted to sleep during periods of time when wakefulness would be the most hazardous. The energy conservation theory says that we require sleep to reduce our metabolism/ energy expenditure by reducing our body's temperature. Finally, the brain plasticity theory, which is the most widely accepted, says that we require sleep in order for our brain to grow and develop more synapses. It also suggests that this increases cognitive function which is essential for learning and memory.
I also learnt that although sleep is a complex subject, it is something that can be improved by simply assessing your routine before sleep, otherwise known as sleep hygiene. For example, it is advisable to avoid computer screens as the blue light emitted from devices suppresses the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which then can affect your ability to stay asleep. Ana also explained the risks that are associated with sleep deprivation, such as depression, weight gain and even early onset of dementia. All of this was very useful knowledge to be able to share with any clients who may be affected by sleep deprivation.
The final lecture of the day was presented by Chris Fagg, a Health Adviser at the Solihull health centre, who explained the menopausal effects on female physiology. I learnt that early / peri-menopausal women have increased insulin sensitivity and also use more carbohydrates for fuel at rest. Whereas post-menopausal women will use more fat for fuel at rest and also have an increased insulin resistance. I often carry out health assessments on pre/ post menopausal clients so this lecture was also interesting for me and beneficial to gain an insight into the physiological changes during menopause.
Final thoughts on the update day
Overall I thought the update was very interesting, informative and relevant to the work we do as Health Advisers and I look forward to the next one. I would like to thank all of the guest speakers who gave excellent insights into topics that we may not have been too familiar with prior to the day, and also I would like to thank Leah Rollins and Louise Letheren for organising the event and promoting development within the Health Adviser community.