How the 2021 summer of sport showed the Six Domains of Mental WellnessTM in action

How the 2021 summer of sport showed the Six Domains of Mental WellnessTM in action

After the false start to 2020’s sporting calendar one thing I’ve enjoyed this summer is the return of sporting events such as Wimbledon, the Euros and, of course, the Summer Olympic and Paralympic games. Athletes had to learn to navigate disrupted training due to the pandemic with swimming pools, gyms and cycle tracks closing for unknown amounts of time, it was fantastic to see the athletes doing what they do best, often in front of a global audience.

The most important take-away that we gained from the 2021 summer of sport has to be the open discussion around mental health amongst the athletes and how this is just as important as their physical health. US gymnast, Simone Biles, pulled out of the Olympic all-round final to prioritise her mental health, Japanese tennis player, Naomi Osaka, withdrew from the French Open earlier in the year and decided not to compete in Wimbledon to preserve her mental health. In July England cricketer, Ben Stokes, decided to take an indefinite break from all cricket with immediate effect to prioritise his mental wellbeing.

At Learning Labs we are lucky enough to have access to a mental wellness portal which enables us to learn about mental wellness then assess and develop our own mental wellness. The portal is based on our very own unique concept called the Six Domain of Mental WellnessTM. It was while I was seeing the coverage of athletes opening up about their mental wellness that I realised I was seeing real-life examples of, at least, two of our six domains in action.

Your Social Wellness Domain in action

One of the drivers behind the social mental wellness domain is community. Having a community available to support you when you need it can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing. During the pandemic, when many people were experiencing difficulties maintaining their mental wellness, communities came together to help each other whether that be checking on people living alone to prevent feeling lonely or shopping for elderly or shielding neighbours. When she was unable to train due to gym closures, Canadian Paralympic wheelchair basketballer, Arinn Young’s, local community worked together to find weight room equipment and space for her to practice.  However, a community is not limited to your immediate geographical community. It can be a community of people who share the same interest e.g. football fans, an online community such as a forum or Facebook group or people who share the same profession.  During the pandemic many people’s perception of community would has changed. Due to lockdowns many people turned to the online world to find their community.

When Simone Biles announced her break to concentrate on her mental wellbeing she received an outpouring of support. Simone tweeted “the outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.” Via twitter, Simone was receiving support from her online community. People from all corners of the globe were helping her maintain her Social Wellness. She also received support from a different community, other professional athletes – people who shared her profession. Her fellow team USA gymnasts offered support as well as former Olympic figure skater, Adam Rippon, British gymnast Max Whitlock and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, just to name a few.

Your Motivational Wellness domain in action

Autonomy is one of the drivers for the Motivational Wellness. This is the ability to act on personal values and interests and therefore feel in control of your behaviour and decision making. When Naomi Osaka made the decision to withdraw from the French Open she was doing just this. She was aware that press conferences were affecting her mental wellness so she acted on her personal values and interests and decided to remove herself, temporarily, from the situation. Over the last few months any interviews she has conducted with journalists have been via email. Earlier this year British Paralympic swimmer, Hannah Russel MBE, talked openly about her break in 2019 after she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She said “For me, taking out a little bit of time was really, really important for me and my mental health. I realised how much I missed my swimming”.

Within the Motivational Domain you can learn about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. It goes into a lot more detail than this but in a nutshell extrinsic motivation focuses on behaviours driven by external rewards such as money or praise and intrinsic motivation focuses on behaviours driven by personal values and interests. It is safe to say that when Naomi decided to withdraw from the French Open she was acting on her intrinsic motivation as not only was her decision met by many unjust negative comments but she also got fined $15,000 by the heads of the French Open.

Naomi’s decision was driven by her intrinsic motivation, which in this instance outweighed the external motivation to compete. Occasionally we need to weight up the pros and cons of each motivator and follow the motivation that leads to the most positive outcome for our mental health.

What do you think?

A survey found that 40% of men won’t talk about their mental health so, the fact that male athletes like Ben Stokes, who has 964,200 followers on twitter, are putting conversations around their mental health into the mainstream is certainly a step forward. But where do we go next? Now that mental health conversations are taking place it’s important we act on these conversations and ensure mental wellness support is available from school through further and higher education and into the workplace and beyond. Only then will we see the topic of mental health truly normalised. 

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Are there any other notable individuals you’ve seen recently speak out about their mental wellness – they don’t have to be a professional athlete. Also, do not hesitate to contact me if you’d like a demo of the new Learning Labs mental wellness portal to see how it could benefit your students, employees or future Olympians.

Initiatives that are providing inspiration on accessible approaches

Initiatives that are providing inspiration on accessible approaches

Technology is frequently providing new and innovative solutions which make the world more accessible. However, it can feel like every day there is a new app, piece of software or website revealed. Working within the DSA sector I am aware that when it comes to widening accessibility in education and workplace universities are leading the way in inclusive learning strategy. It’s important to not get tunnel vision though and only concentrate on the sector you are working in. It’s important to look at what other accessible approaches are available from other sectors. That’s why for this month’s blog I’m discussing accessible approaches that may have passed you by due to them not being associated with the DSA and education sectors.    

Making your weekly food shop more accessible

In the UK, there are almost 2 million people living with sight loss. Of these, around 360,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted. New accessible approaches are frequently being offered. Last month Guide Dogs committed to supplying more than 3,500 visually impaired children with free iPads and iPhones after research revealed the damage caused to their personal development by a lack of access to technology. Following a successful trial last year cereal brand, Kellogg’s, has announced they will be adding world-first NaviLens technology to all of their cereal boxes in 2022. NaviLens is a code, similar to a QR code, which can be scanned by a smartphone. The smartphone will then relay to the user the information that is held by the NaviLens code, in this case ingredients and allergy information. Unlike other types of printed codes the new NaviLens technology includes high contrasting-coloured squares on a black background. This means that users do not need to know exactly where the code is located to scan it. In fact, a smartphone can pick up the code from up to 3 metres away. After the initial trial earlier this year the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) conducted an evaluation which found that 97% of the participants agreed that they would like to see more of these accessibility features available on grocery packaging in the future.

 

Using an app to take away the anxiety of visiting a business for the first time

Research has shown that 75% of disabled people have had to leave a store or website, unable to go through with their purchase because of their disability. Last year, a survey by accessibility review website, Euan’s Guide, found that 93% of respondents try to find disabled access information before they visit somewhere new. WelcoME is an app which has recently launched. The app enables users to set up a unique profile where they can list factors such as their access needs and support they may require. Businesses also register on the app. Current businesses using the app include Scottish Parliament, Salford Leisure and Edinburgh branches of Next. When the user selects a business that is also using the app the business receives the information from the user’s profile as well as advice linked to the information the user has inputted e.g. how to interact with a guide dog. Businesses can ensure that any support such as a sighted guide are readily available enabling the visitor to immediately start their work out or shopping spree.

The app doesn’t just benefit that particular user. It benefits future users as well. By providing accessibility training that the business can then immediately put into practice staff are more confident for the next time that customer, or someone with a similar disability, visits.

Similar to the training offered by WelcoME, at eQS we ensure that all new members of staff complete our Disability Awareness Course which provides knowledge and facts about disability today from legislation to appropriate support. Please drop me a message if you’d like to talk more about our disability confidence course and the possibility of offering it to your workforce.

Helping with metre readings whilst being miles away.

My colleague Richard recently told me about Be My Eyes, an app he has downloaded which connects blind and low-vision people with a sighted volunteer. When a blind or low-vision user requires assistance the app will connect them to a sighted volunteer via a live video call. The sighted volunteer can answer the call or, if it’s not a convenient time, they can choose to ignore it and it will be picked up by another volunteer. As of last week, the app had 5,006,058 volunteers, of which I am now one, was supporting 322,892 blind and low-vision people in over 150 countries using over 180 languages.

A few days after downloading the app Richard received a call from someone needing help with an electricity metre reading. Richard said: “It felt really good to have helped someone and it only took a couple of minutes out of my day.”

What do you think?

Whilst researching this blog I came across the following quote from a user of the WelcoME app, “It’s not the technology doing the job, it’s the technology empowering people.” I think this sums up perfectly the role new apps, pieces of software and websites should play in providing accessible approaches.

I want my blogs to start conversations so please let me know of any other accessible approaches you’ve discovered. Do you think there’s a current issue that could benefit from a new accessible approach? I’d also love to hear of any topics you’d like me to cover in future blogs. 

The future of events is hybrid: how digital tools will merge with the return of face-to-face events

The future of events is hybrid: how digital tools will merge with the return of face-to-face events

Inspiring stories and new ideas from the DSA sector with Michelle Brown

As eQS Strategic Relationship Manager my job is to create and nurture relationships with disability and mental wellbeing professionals. As the newest member of the Learning Labs Customer Success team, we may not have had an opportunity to connect yet, so I decided to start a monthly blog to help you get to know me (and vice versa) and to open up discussions about, and spark inspiration around, disability and mental wellbeing.

In a year where everything went online from schools and places of work to even pub quizzes, I can safely say I’ve attended and hosted more online events than in a normal 12-month period. According to the Post Covid-19 Event Outlook Report 93% of event organisers plan to invest in virtual events moving forward. Virtual events or at least digital aspects of events have become the norm, and with many benefits is clear to see why they are here to stay for the foreseeable future ,whether that be as a stand-alone event or part of a hybrid one.

As much as I’m looking forward to attending live industry events, when it is safe to do so, I’ve also become a bit of a fan of virtual events. Last month Learning Labs exhibited at our first virtual event. Technology meant there was no danger of us getting lost finding the venue and no need to carry heavy roller banners or sales resources. We simply logged into our virtual stand and uploaded all our resources the day before ready for people to download. When people visited our stand, we immediately knew their name, job title and workplace and after the event we could see how many people had downloaded specific resources. This enabled us to instantly see what people found engaging and not so engaging. This got me thinking how technology has helped overcome the challenges industry events have seen in the last 18 months and how this will support the new future of events, which I think will take a more hybrid approach between face-to-face and digital.

Challenge 1: Attendees dealing with screen fatigue

Solution 1: Using apps to create interactive content

During the pandemic people were spending every aspect of their lives online, from attending work meetings on Microsoft Teams to speaking to friends and family via Facetime. On top of that you’re battling with distractions you wouldn’t experience in person, from Amazon deliveries to traffic noise or your neighbours mowing their lawn. Online events have to ensure the content is engaging so that it can cut through these distractions.

One app that I found useful in making my online webinars more interactive is Kahoot. You may have used it when everyone was doing quizzes to pass the time during lockdown. It’s a game-based learning platform which enables you to create your own multi-choice quizzes. The quicker you answer correctly the more points you receive so it unleashes everyone’s competitive side. Not only do quizzes add interaction and fun to online events but research has found they can help embed information in our brain.

I have also used MentiMeter to open up discussions during my online webinars. You can ask a question then attendees simply login there and then and answer it anonymously. Everyone sees the responses in real time via a word cloud with the most popular answers growing in size. It’s a lot more fun and engaging than just posting a question in the chat box for people to answer and with it all being anonymous it is more likely that people’s answers will be authentic, which creates a more valuable discussion.  

As we think of returning to live events, these digital tools can also be used as part of a face-to-face experience, offering a great way to encourage audience participation. Blending the interacting digital elements attendees have come to expect and feel comfortable using on webinars, I think we will see more of these in face-to-face events.

Challenge 2: Restricted attendee numbers due to social distancing

Opportunity 2: The birth of truly hybrid events

Pre-pandemic it was health and safety and fire regulations that determined the amount of people that could attended an event. Now venues are unable to run events at full capacity to ensure social distancing can take place.

By offering a hybrid event; giving the option for people to attend in person or remotely, you’re opening yourself up to a larger audience. This is where the event is not just face-to-face and using elements of digital tools, or distinctly online only but truly merges the two together to cater for the needs of in-person attendees and remote attendees at the same time. With hybrid events businesses no longer have to worry about travel or accommodation costs if an event is taking place at the other end of the country or the other side of the world. Simply login and experience the event at home or in the office and participate with discussions happening live in the room.

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During April and May last year Learning Labs had planned to host the CPD Revolution events from eight locations across the UK. Obviously, these could not take place in person, so we moved the sessions online, changed the content accordingly and decided to reschedule the live events to the end of the year (more on how that turned out in a minute). Overall, we had 462 people attend the online sessions. Before we had to move the events online, we had 323 people booked on the live events.

Sadly, our rescheduled CPD Revolution live events coincided with another national lockdown at the end of 2020. We evolved the series further and created our CPD Rev TV live stream event. In the feedback for our online events several people listed not having to travel as a positive. The pandemic has prompted us to look into the feasibility of our next CPD Revolution series potentially being a hybrid event to ensure as many people as possible can attend. You can view the highlights of our CPD Rev TV live stream events via the video below:

What do you think?

It seems the majority of people are ready to start attending outdoor events such as gigs and festivals, I for one have everything crossed that Glastonbury will take place next year. But do people have this same eagerness to attend industry events? I’m interested to know your thoughts on the future of events. Are you ready to get back to a busy exhibition hall or put your glad rags on to attend an industry event ceremony or are you quite happy to carry on logging in to attend? Let me know your thoughts by filling out this short survey.

It would be great to get to know as many of you as possible so please do introduce yourself via the comments. As well as acting as an introduction I also want these blogs to start conversations so please let me know what you thought of my first blog or feel free to suggest a future topic.

Check out the events page of our Learning Labs website to join me at one of our latest events or webinars.