Able Futures Case Studies
Case Study: Fiona
"I heard about Able Futures through the Staff Disability Network here at Lancaster University. I struggle with anxiety and depression and had recently started looking into getting professional support for my mental health. I had heard a mix of experiences regarding the EAP, however, I struggled to access their services as making phone calls is a trigger for my anxiety. After being given some information on Able Futures, I looked up their website and found that I could make initial contact by applying online (using this link applying online).
"The online form asks for your Full name, Postcode, Email and a telephone number. It then has a few questions you go through which are:
- Where did you hear about us?
- Are you an apprentice?
- To access the Able Futures service, you must be 16 or over, live in Great Britain and be in employment, whether as an employed or self-employed person. Please tick this box to confirm you meet these criteria. This list is not exhaustive and it is ultimately up to the Department for Work and Pensions Access to Work Mental Health Support Service adviser to determine eligibility. You then have the option to select ‘Employed’ or ‘Self-employed’.
- Tick which condition(s) you most identify with (there is a list of a mix of issues/mental health conditions and there is no limit to how many you can tick).
- They will then ask you to select your preferred method of contact (email, phone, text etc.)
"I filled in my online application on Monday 4th March. I said I was happy to be contacted by either email, phone or text.
"On the 5th March, I got a call from Able Futures, where they explained they had received my application and needed to confirm the details I had submitted with me (as they have to check your eligibility). During this call, I didn’t have to speak about why I wanted to access the service at all, only confirm that I had issues/concerns about my mental health and confirm that the details I had submitted in my application were correct. They did ask me some more details on my employment (my working hours, who I worked for, and if I was having any financial difficulty).
"They also needed my national insurance number, which I did not have on me at the time of the call. However, I was able to call back the next day and have them input my NI number into the form. This then finished the application process and I was told that I would get an email or a call in 2 – 3 working days to confirm that my application had been processed and to tell me the next steps.
"I received this call on the 8th of March, where I found out more about the service and what they could offer me specifically. I was told who I would be meeting and arrange for a telephone appointment for the mental health practitioner to give me a call and introduce themselves before we had our first face-to-face meeting. They explained that the practitioner will always come to see you at your workplace at a time that suits you, as the service is funded by the DWP.
"My introductory phone call took place on the 29th of March, where the practitioner who will be responsible for my case called to introduce themselves. During this call, I did have to speak about the specific mental health issues I was dealing with so that the practitioner could begin to put together my personal action plan. At the end of this phone call, the practitioner confirmed the date, time and location of my face-to-face meeting with her and asked if I had any questions ahead of our meeting.
"We met on the 4th April at Lancaster House Hotel. During this meeting, I again had to speak about the specific issues I was dealing with and how they were affecting me both personally and professionally. She discussed the steps moving forward. A personal support plan would be created so that we could target the individual issues I was experiencing. I will receive this support over the course of 9 months, along with access to an online portal where I can access tools and resources that are covered. After 9 months, the face-to-face support will stop. However, I will continue to have access to the online tools/resources for a couple of months, and throughout will have the ability to call their helpline if needed..."
Nine Months Later…
"Having spent nine month’s receiving support from Able Futures, I thought it would be helpful to talk about the experience now it is over. I can definitely say that the monthly catch ups, phone calls and face-to-face meetings suited me really well and provided me with lots of opportunities to talk to the case worker about the issues I was dealing with and how I wanted to tackle them. We focused a lot on building up my coping mechanisms and identifying my triggers for anxiety, this wasn’t something I’d ever tried to do before and I have since started keeping an emotion diary so I can keep track of what helps and what things make it worse. This has allowed me to be open with my team, and particularly my line-manager, about where I need their support.
"I would say that I don’t think the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) approach is for everyone, and there was definitely a point where I realised it wasn’t helping me in the way I wanted, but I was able to carry on speaking to my Able Futures advisor and we agreed that I would speak to my GP about starting medication which has helped me greatly. I can say with total honesty that speaking to my colleagues and being open with them has really benefited me in this experience, as I have felt more supported and found that many of the issues causing me stress were a result of not communicating my feelings."
Employee Assistance Programme Case Studies
Case Study: Professional Services Staff Member
"The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service has been a fantastic and, arguably, life-saving support option for me. I’m very grateful to have been able to use the EAP and would highly recommend that access to the EAP continues for staff for years to come. I would also encourage colleagues to use the EAP phone service to talk about their worries and reduce the chance of them becoming more serious.
"The first phone call I had with the EAP was unusual in that it took a very long time to answer, as I was on hold (I can’t remember now but it was a good while, maybe twenty minutes or so). I was also unable to speak to a counsellor during that first phone call and was asked to either leave a message or ring back at another time. Whilst I managed through other means, that delay/perception of being abandoned may have been very detrimental for someone else.
"Apart from the first phone call, the response time for answering phone calls is great. Emails are also answered quickly. The counsellors and admin staff are very approachable, non-judgemental and great at helping you feel calm and relieved. During the first phone call, the counsellors may try to assess whether you would benefit from ongoing therapy in addition to impromptu phone calls. I was able to choose whether to take part in the therapy options or not; nothing was forced on me.
"My experience with the EAP team so far has been fantastic. I’ve been able to both have a short-term series of therapy with a counsellor (six weeks) and also a longer-term series with a specialist therapist for CBT (twelve weeks). Having the structured sessions is a crucial part of my improvement; not having the series of sessions would definitely have resulted in a worse outcome for me. The reasons for this are two-fold: the structure of having regular sessions is very therapeutic and ensures that you engage with the treatment; and the realisation that the university values you enough to pay for specialist support is very encouraging.
"The other phone line, for immediate support, is essential and I would encourage colleagues to use it. You’re able to speak to a counsellor straight away, which can be life-saving if you’re feeling particularly low. Or you could use it to help you avoid getting to such a low point, by getting things off your chest, saying some of your worries out loud and co-resolving issues together with the advisor on the phone. Sometimes, having a neutral person from the EAP to listen to your frustrations and worries is incredibly effective on its own and may avoid accidentally over-worrying your friends and family.
"Overall, I would encourage colleagues to use the EAP to allow them to vent their worries, frustrations and fears to a qualified advisor, as a problem shared is a problem halved. Speaking to the EAP advisors may help you to feel calmer, more in control and stop things building up too much. Hopefully, the more regularly you use the service, the more techniques you’ll learn and the more content you’ll be."
Case Study: Joe
Joe said he was experiencing stress at work about a new project and wanted to find out what support there was available, as he didn’t quite understand the process. Joe made the call to the Employee Assistance Programme whilst walking around campus on his lunch break. The telephone operative said that potentially Joe could access telephone counselling, face to face counselling, or CBT. The level of support would be dependent on his responses to a series of assessment questions. Depending on Joe’s score, a referral would be made. If the score was higher than a set threshold, Joe would be referred back to his GP or the local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme.
Joe said he didn’t want to answer a lot of questions, could he just talk to someone now, please. The telephone operative said that after taking a few demographic details, he could have immediate emotional support now, and call back as many times as he wanted for that emotional support, but he wouldn’t necessarily get the same person, whereas if he went through the assessment, he would get more structured support with the same person. Joe decided to have a one-off conversation with the telephone operative. The first session helped him gain some clarity on his issues about the new project and talk to his line manager and support network.
Case Study: FHM Professional Services Staff Member
"I’ve lived long-term with the challenges of depression with a manic element. When I found work overwhelming I accessed the EAP and found it incredibly helpful. After a short confidential telephone discussion I was referred to a counsellor. The first counsellor didn’t really work for me using a psychodynamic approach, the EAP were excellent at helping me with this and organising a shift to CBT which really helped give me address priorities and develop strategies to cope with stress and manage emotions and depressive tendencies."
Case Study: Colin
Colin’s workload had increased considerably and he felt under a lot of stress. He called the helpline from the office when he knew everyone was out, spoke to an administrator, answered some questions, and made an appointment to talk to a counsellor. During that first session, after some questioning about his childhood, Colin mentioned he had suffered emotional abuse and neglect as a child. At that point, he was given the name and telephone number for a specialist child abuse charity, and told that he would not receive face to face counselling through the EAP, but could still call for emotional support at any time.
Colin wasn't aware of support from Able Futures and wanted to talk to someone face to face quickly, so he decided to find and fund his own counselling. Using the national Counselling Directory he made appointments with three counsellors that week. After the three introductory sessions, which cost him £10 each, he chose one of the counsellors he felt most comfortable with, and had eight sessions with them, at a cost of £35 each, which really helped him.
Case Study: Arya
Arya was being stalked by someone, and the police were involved. Arya’s line manager was fully aware of the situation and recommended Arya find out what support she could get through the Employee Assistance Programme.
Arya called the helpline from a meeting room she had booked, went through the assessment questions, and was provided with six 30 minute telephone counselling sessions. They were each scheduled in at an agreed time with the counsellor and Arya, one at a time. Whilst the sessions helped her talk about how the harassment was making her feel, and process those feelings, Arya did feel quite emotional after some of them, and she had taken the rest of her calls from home at the end of her day.
Case Study: Martin
Martin was feeling very stressed out and that he couldn’t cope with work. On top of that, he was also having some relationship problems with his partner, nowhere felt safe. He wasn’t sleeping properly, felt run down, and had trouble concentrating. He called the helpline from his office, went through the assessment questions, and was referred to a Lancaster based counsellor for six hour-long sessions. Within a couple of weeks, Martin had his first counselling session. Martin did find the sessions hard at first, and quite intense, but they helped him through a difficult period in his life.
The type of support offered will depend on the conversation you have and your particular needs. These are only illustrations of some of the support routes possible. If you do have feedback about the Employee Assistance Programme, please contact your HR Advisor.
Managing Anxiety and Stress Case Studies
Case Study: Fiona
"When I started working in my new role, I was struggling with anxiety after having previously been in a stressful job. And, even though I’m a graduate from Lancaster, I was very stressed about fitting in. I’ve tried many different techniques for dealing with my stress and anxiety, but I’ve found what helps most is being honest and sharing. A fellow colleague shared with me that they had anxiety, and they gave me tips on what they had found helped them work well.
"Having them open up made me feel a lot less alone, and made me more confident in sharing with my colleagues what I was going through. Instead of being rejected (as I feared) the team I work with were really helpful and understanding. I could work with them, and be honest if there was something making me stressed or anxious.
"So, I now make a point to be open with people, and I encourage my colleagues to talk about the things they deal with because it’s a lot easier to deal with when you’re working through it together."
Case Study: FST Staff Member
"Since I came back from being off with work-related stress, I make a point of taking getting away from my desk and taking a proper lunch break. I keep a change of clothes and trainers at work and I head out into the woods and take some time for me. I listen to music or just practice mindful walking, noticing my surroundings. I organise walking lunches to catch up with friends, walking meetings, and team walks, and we all benefit." FST staff member.
Case Study: FHM Professional Services Staff Member
"I’ve lived long-term with the challenges of depression with a manic element. A key change I made was joining the sports centre with a gold membership then upgrading to platinum to take advantage of all the free classes. I’d always sworn I’d never run unless I was being chased and I’d never go to a gym. I actually started both – I found a great running app that made running a fun adventure. The woodland trail is a brilliant trail to run at lunchtime – or in winter at the end of the day with a headtorch…
"The gym has great classes and facilities – one of the best for getting through sometimes bleak dark winter months is to take a look at the ways other cultures at northern latitudes cope with long, dark and cold days. The sauna is a core part of other cultures and I find has one of the biggest influences on my mental health through winter. Getting really, really hot then having the shock of the cold shower and back in to the heat gives a surge of endorphins that can lift a day out of the damp and dark and leaving the sauna is one of the few times I genuinely hope it actually will be cold and wet outside (which it invariably is)!"
Using Books To Improve Wellbeing Case Studies
Case Study: Harriet
"I have just finished reading The Chimp Paradox... Personally, this book has given me so much. My boyfriend suggested it when he saw me struggling with my emotions and it’s given me a real sense of focus and perspective. The chimp paradox is a simple yet effective model to follow on one of the most complex of issues.. your mind! This book has been my life toolkit on moving forward with the things that matter to me.
One of the many key learning points I took away from this book was to stop and consider not only what I am going to do but how my chimp will feel when I do it. I would consistently have a to do list or plan everything to the finest detail but not stop to think ‘How will I deal with stress?’ or ‘What impact will this have on the way I feel?’ It is available to borrow from the Library."
Menopause Case Studies
These are a collection of case studies from the students and staff of Lancaster University, collected for World Menopause Day 2022.
Case Study 1
"I was diagnosed as peri-menopausal in my early 40s, I was totally unprepared for it. The only resource back then was a visit to the GP and being given a choice between taking hormone treatment or not. I declined as I had heard ‘on the grapevine’ that it was connected with cancer but nothing was explained to me about the benefits. (I probably should have and would have taken it if I had known more). In the years that followed I struggled with depression, lost my confidence and for the first time in my life piled on weight. It’s hard to believe that such a massive change to a woman’s life was never discussed until recently. Perhaps the high school curriculum might be a good place to start?
"I am so glad that we are having these conversations now so that hopefully women will not have to struggle alone and can make more informed choices about how to tackle menopause symptoms."
Case Study 2
"I had absolutely no idea what to really expect from the menopause; my mother never said a word about it, and I have no sisters, or female relatives in this country.
"Hot flushes are like an unbearable illness which can only be understood by others who have also suffered from them.
"From the age of 49 I have experienced mind-numbing heat coming on me several times every day and night, waking me several times a night; changing full time work into an exhaustive treadmill because of never being able to get enough sleep. Hot flushes feel exactly the same as when you are in the depth of a really bad fever, dripping with sweat because of the heat all over your body.
"Lockdown brought the release I never thought I would get. No commuting meant I could sleep in to catch up on the sleep lost during the night – and yet still begin my day’s work on time – result! I can also wear light, open clothes I would not normally wear to work, to keep my temperature down, and so lessen the flushes. I can open windows any time I need to – even though it might be freezing outside, and this could not be possible in a shared workspace. But my office doesn’t even have windows that open, anyway! I can walk out into the garden to cool off when a flush starts.
"I am now 56, experienced menopause at the age of 52, but continue to flush. The cooler weather makes flushing less frequent, and less intense. I always hope they might be passing away altogether, but I know that many women continue to flush for the rest of their lives.
"On a plus – not having periods and the mood swings that I believed for the whole of my life were ‘just me’ is truly liberating, and I am very pleased to have passed the menopause milestone!"
Case Study 3
"Sadly, I’ve been suffering with symptoms of the menopause for the past eight years but I’m really fortunate in that my work colleagues have been truly understanding and supportive. Various support measures have been put in place, including ensuring I sit by a window so that I can open it and cool off when I need to, and providing me with a fan which I can use at my desk. I do recall one incident which could have had negative repercussions, however…….
"We were holding a team meeting when my line manager was talking……...I hadn’t slept well the previous night and in the very warm room where we were meeting I began to drift off. She noticed, eventually, and asked if I was falling asleep. Being a very honest person, I couldn’t deny it: “I do believe I was, I’m very sorry.”
"She acknowledged that the topic she was covering was not terribly engaging (it was about funding, not my best subject!) and that it was completely understandable! We all laughed about it and moved on – we still laugh about it to this day!
"I’m so grateful that what could have been a terribly embarrassing moment for me was dealt with kindly by my manager and colleagues, and I’m still happily working in the same supportive team!
"Tiredness at work as a result of poor sleep patterns is a common symptom of the menopause and of course it will affect different people in varying ways. However, the response of colleagues to this is all-important and can help sufferers negotiate work effectively whilst symptoms are at their worst."
Case Study 4
"For me, one of the most difficult aspects of the menopause is the “not knowing”. This comes in many forms: not knowing when it will start, not knowing when it will end, not knowing even which stage of it I am at, not knowing it was going to be like this no matter how well informed I was, not knowing if symptoms will stay as they are or will get worse, not knowing if I will ever be what I was again… I thought I was prepared for it. I talked about it openly with friends and family, I knew about how hormones changed, the health risks, the hormone replacement therapies, the alternative therapies, about symptoms like hot flushes and mood swings, but the experience of menopause is different for every woman. I knew what to expect, but I didn’t really know what a hot flush felt like until it started happening to me. I didn’t know how bad the anxiety could feel at times, and that a few hours later, it would disappear completely.
"I have been learning to live with the not knowing, with the uncertainty it has brought to my life. It has been a testing time, when I am learning how to be flexible and to accept a new version of myself and also a time of reflection, discovery and of being thankful to my family, friends and colleagues for being so supportive."
Case Study 5
"It slowly ground me to a halt and I could barely get out of bed in the morning, I was mentally and physically impacted as it trampled over my entire life to the point where I felt like doing nothing other than having a good cry. Then there is the weight gain and the voracious need to ‘eat’… oh the hell of it all as I think about my pre-covid lockdown wardrobe still sitting gathering dust because I no longer fit into some garments, while others just don’t feel right since everything feels like it’s going south. Some good news though, HRT keeps me relatively well-balanced most days despite the overwhelming tiredness that still plagues me – no matter how much sleep I have, I still yawn relentlessly throughout the day – and, there’s been a seismic shift in my priorities, so I worry less about the small stuff."
Happy To Share Your Experiences?
Happy to provide a case study to help others going through similar experiences?
Please contact the Wellbeing Work Group and we will work with you on your case study.
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