LGBT colleagues, students and LGBT children of colleagues could really be struggling during this time
My experience of having to shield at home for the past year has reminded me that others could be experiencing immense struggles with their identity & even their safety
I have a condition called Psoriatic Arthritis for which I take immunosuppressant medicine and this meant that I have spent most of the last 12 months shielding from the world. This could have spelled disaster for me, being trapped at home. However, I am very lucky. I have a supportive partner, a house with a garden and I am able to fully work from home. I also have a very waggy dog and walking her each morning has been an essential element for keeping my mind clear and my mood positive. I take her to the ground of the local church at 7am each morning. She chases balls and I listen to podcasts. By the time we are finished I am energised and ready to face the day.
My partner and I were inspired by the messages of support for the NHS which appeared on windows over the lockdown. Our take on this was to paint animals for our windows which included a giraffe which began in the downstairs front window and ends in the upper window. There is also a snake which winds around the windows of the front door. The window art was started to make our neighbours smile in an awful situation. People started to ask for signs to say happy birthday to loved ones or just to say hello. It was really impactful for our area and we got lots of thanks for it. People really wanted something positive when they were feeling so low. We currently have a giraffe, parrot, meerkats, a sloth, 3 ducks and the snake!
When we first went into lockdown, I worked hard to keep the team motivated and connected.
In terms of work, although I have been able to work from home, I manage a large team who work on the ground floor of the McClay Library. When we first went into lockdown, I worked hard to keep the team motivated and connected. We have daily drop in meetings and communicate throughout the day on Teams. I make a point of being available to them all day and to listen and respond to their concerns about the pandemic. It is so important to maintain an atmosphere of mutual support when people are both working from home and also on campus. I am very lucky to work with this amazing team and am so proud of their achievements through this challenging time.
Raising awareness of these issues and providing a visible and supportive network for colleagues has never been more crucial
I am also the co-chair of PRISM, the Queen’s LGBT staff network and it occurred to me early in the first lockdown that LGBT colleagues, students and LGBT children of colleagues could really be struggling during this time, particularly if they were on their own, or forced back into the closet at a family home. Raising awareness of these issues over Staff Comms and providing a visible and supportive network for colleagues has never been more crucial.
My advice to people who are struggling is to find someone to talk to. I have one particular colleague who I touch base with throughout the day. This has become a lifeline for my mental health and we have been able to support each other by being a listening ear, allowing the occasional rant and lots and lots of laughter.
Mental Health issues can affect anyone at any time. But confidential, professional help is available through the University.
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