Review of my Mental Health First Aid Course Training

Review of my Mental Health First Aid Course Training

Last year in October I took part in a panel discussion for Cyber House Party about mental health and why it is so important to look after our mental health. During the panel discussion we also talked about our strategies and coping mechanisms for when our mental health is not great, and during the rehearsal session one of the panellists mentioned that he was a mental health first aider.

Up until that point I had never heard of such a thing, and I was really intrigued. I had done First Aid at Work training, although my certification has expired. As I have been working solely from home since 2015, even before the pandemic hit, I had not got round to undertaking a refresher course for it.

The previous month I was asked to give a talk to the Worcester Ethical Hackers Group, and I chose to focus my talk on “Managing Stress and Burnout in Infosec”. As part of my talk and putting a slide deck together for it I was referred by Club CISO to “Thrive” and their Managing Director Simon Nichols, who kindly helped to input into my slide deck for the talk from a mental health perspective. They say that life happens when you are busy making other plans, and on the evening that I was supposed to give the talk to the Worcester Ethical Hacking Group I was rushing my beloved dog to a specialist vets in Solihull with my husband as she was very ill and had gone completely off her legs. It turned out she had a burst disc in her back, and although she avoided surgery for it, her recovery was a long process.

It turned out thatThrive” offered the Mental Health First Aider course in partnership with another training provider, and I didn’t hesitate to sign up to do the course in November last year. However, as it got close to the time that I was supposed to take it, I realised that I just was not in the right frame of mind to do it. My beloved dog being taken so ill and my Dad being in hospital in September last year fighting sepsis took its toll on me, and my own mental health suffered. I realised that I was in no fit state to take the course at that time, so I contacted Simon Nicol to explain the situation and ask if I could defer the course to the following year, even though I had already paid for it.

Not only was Simon really understanding and rescheduled my course to 19-21 January, he also asked me if I would like a “check in chat” with him, which I took him up on. I could not believe how nice it was of him to check with me to see how I was doing, and while the truth was that I wasn’t doing so great, it helped me a lot to know that I wasn’t alone.

Christmas and new year came and went, and earlier this month we were placed back in lockdown due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Despite this I entered 2021 with a renewed energy for my work and I was determined to make the best of things, motor on with my goals and take the course as planned.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started the course, or how it would make me feel. I was prepared for it to bring up things that would be painful for me, and scheduled quiet time in my diary around the 2 main course days.

The course gave me insights into my mental health that have helped me greatly. I don’t want to give too much away here, especially for someone who is thinking of doing the course, but it helped me immensely when it comes to asking the right questions if I suspect that someone is struggling and signposting them to the right help, organisations and resources. I was reassured to find that I was already doing a lot of what was covered on the course from a technique’s perspective, but it helped me to frame it in a different way when it comes to helping people. A big motivator for me is the fact that there have been some awful things happen to my friends on Twitter and LinkedIn, things that really affected their mental health, and I hoped that the course would provide me with the knowledge and resources to know that I am on the right lines with how I help them. It certainly did that and more.

The ALGEE acronym will be forever imprinted in my brain now. We also learnt listening techniques and how to help someone with specific mental health condition such as anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, psychosis and how to talk to someone who was contemplating committing suicide.

The discussions around suicide were very painful for me, but nevertheless I shared my experiences. In the late 1990s my ex-husband and I helped our then next-door neighbour when his wife committed suicide. Talking about suicide in the course brought this experience to the forefront of my mind again, but one thing I know is that if someone is hell bent on taking their own life, they will find a way to do it. I would never think that someone who was thinking that way was crying wolf; and while most times it is often a cry for help or for someone, anyone to help them you cannot ignore it if someone says they want to take their own life.

Also, in many cases as it was with my next-door neighbour, there will be NO warning signs at all. To this day I still cannot believe she did it, I heard her laughing and joking with her husband in the garden on the very afternoon of the day she took her own life. By the evening, she had gone. I felt so guilty for such a long time, but there was nothing I could do. Talking about this in the course helped me to finally understand that, and to gain long overdue closure from what happened to my next-door neighbour. I hope she is at peace now.

The trainers Simon Nichols and Ross Abbott were both very insightful and very professional. I cannot recommend the course enough and think that every organisation should have a mental health first aider no matter what their size. It makes me very angry that organisations don’t take the mental health of their employees seriously, especially during these challenging times with the coronavirus pandemic. For some reason things are weighted towards the business and not the employee when it should be the other way round, after all, a business wouldn’t be anything without their employees. So many businesses don’t look after their employees today, which is very sad. Worse, many have lost their jobs for admitting they have struggled with their mental health.

If you are thinking of taking the mental health first aid course, I recommend you take it through “Thrive”. I also can’t thank Simon Nichols and Ross Abbott enough, they inadvertently allowed me to have a platform to share my biggest phobia (something I had never done before) and a place to acknowledge that mental health is important, and if we don’t look after ourselves first and foremost, we cannot help anyone else. I chose to put my mental health first last November when I asked to defer taking the course until this month; it paid dividends and allowed me to be the best I could be when taking the course this month.

If anyone reading this is struggling, please do not struggle alone – reach out to me. I cannot do much, but I can listen, and I can help and signpost you to resources and organisations that will help you. We might be isolated and cut off from each other in a face-to-face capacity, but we can talk on the phone and video calls, and I am always happy to do that.



My Top 5 Cyber Security Video Series

My Top 5 Cyber Security Video Series

Welcome to my new series of blogs which will cover my top 5 cyber security events, podcasts, publications, and video series. In my first blog I covered the top 5 cyber security events that I cannot afford to miss, and in this blog I am going to list my top 5 cyber security video series.

Without further ado, my top 5 cyber security podcasts are:

Rebooting is the brainchild of Lisa Forte, a cyber security and social engineering expert. For as long as she can remember she has subscribed to the idea that we can learn something from every single person we meet. She has taken it upon herself to meet a wide range of cyber and resilience experts to bring you a fun and informative stream of content. Debating tough issues. Learning new things. Helping you “Reboot” and come back more knowledgeable and resilient. Lisa has interviewed experts such as Troy Hunt, Jake Moore and Graham Clueley.

Cyber Talks
CyberTalks is a media channel dedicated to promoting cyber content direct from leading cyber industry figures. They are passionate about providing real-world content to our members. The CyberTalks community is now more than 10,000 strong, with members drawn from all over the world.

Proficio Cyber Chats
Proficio has a series of cyber chats with leading industry experts such as Tony Morbin and Oliver Roachford. They aim to cover all kinds of topics such as the impact on COVID-19 on the cybersecurity landscape and prioritising your risk.

Cyber Crime TV
Cyber Crime TV is part of Cybersecurity Ventures. They provide cyber economic market data, insights, and ground-breaking predictions to a global audience of CIOs and IT executives, CSOs and CISOs, information security practitioners, cybersecurity company founders and CEOs, venture capitalists, corporate investors, business and finance executives, HR professionals, and government cyber defense leaders.

CS Hub
Cyber Security Hub provides regular multimedia on cloud security, data privacy, mobile security and much more, all in an effort to help businesses enhance their IT security.

What is your favourite cyber security video series? Are there any that you think should be on my list? Let me know in the comments below!

Introductory Meetings on Zoom for the UK Cyber Security Association

Introductory Meetings on Zoom for the UK Cyber Security Association

It has been a labour of love and a LONG time coming, but I’ve finally been able to get the UK Cyber Security Association to a point where it is (almost) ready to launch. From early January I will be looking for individual and corporate board members, and I’ll be releasing more information on this after Christmas.

If you are a vendor, run events, are a media outlet or are involved in the cyber security industry in any way and would like to get involved, get in touch with me on here. I will also be giving a handful of complimentary memberships when the UKCSA launches early next year to those who have helped and supported me on my cyber security and infosec journey.

Due to the huge amount of interest in the UK Cyber Security Association, I’ve set up a couple of Zoom calls for those interested to join to find out more. They are on:

Wednesday 6 January 2021 at 10.00am GMT
Wednesday 13 January 2021 at 3.00pm GMT

Structure of the calls:

– outline of the UKCSA
– what we are looking for i.e. partners, media partners, sponsorship/sponsorship in kind
– how you can get involved and help
– discussion around key areas and things you would like to see in the UKCSA

If you would like to join one of the calls in the new year please send me a message via DM with your email address and letting me know which call you would lik to join, and I’ll add you to the relevant calendar invite. I’ve also arranged 1-2-1 calls with a few of you who have expressed interest in getting involved.

Looking forward to speaking to you all in early 2021! If you have any questions in the meantime, pop me an email via and I’ll be happy to answer them!

Lisa Ventura is Crowned Winner of the Computing Security Excellence “Security Woman of the Year” Award

Lisa Ventura is Crowned Winner of the Computing Security Excellence “Security Woman of the Year” Award

Lisa Ventura is delighted to announce that she is the winner of the Computing Security Excellence “Security Woman of the Year” award.

This award is dedicated to recognising the talent, leadership and contribution of women in IT. Whether working at the top level of security in an organisation, or as a key member of a team endeavour, this prize highlights exceptional women in the UK security industry.

The shortlist for this award consisted of: 

  • Andjela Djukanovic – KPMG
  • Lisa Ventura – UK Cyber Security Association
  • Elisabetta Zaccaria – Secure Chorus
  • Jaya Baloo – Avast
  • Nicola Jakeman – Orange Cyberdefense
  • Adenike Cosgrove – Proofpoint
  • May Mitchell – BlackBerry
  • Rachelle Reid – Allstate
  • Anastasia Grishina – Positive Technologies
  • Natasja Bolton – Sysnet Global Solutions

For more information please visit

Open For Speaking Engagements and Bookings in 2021

Open For Speaking Engagements and Bookings in 2021

I’ve been honoured to be asked to speak at various online events, conferences, and webinars this year. In 2021, I will be opening up my diary for the following:

– conference and event participation either as a speaker or as a panellist
– webinar participation either as a speaker or panellist
– podcast recordings
– interviews (print, online or broadcast)
– commentary on key cyber security trends and news items

In return, the UK Cyber Security Association will be launching the above on our site from January onward and are looking for participants. Our editorial calendar and event schedule will be released then, but if you are interested in getting involved and joining the discussions, we will be having send me a DM so I can add you onto our participants list.

I can talk about a wide variety of subjects within cyber security and infosec, and would be happy to discuss these further. Please note that for the foreseeble future I can only accept virtual speaking engagements that take place online, and not any that are to be in person (although I know that at the time of writing, these are currently not taking place due to COVID-19). This is because I need to protect my father as much as possible from COVID-19 as he has an ultra-rare autoimmune illness.

If you would like to consider booking me for 2021, please send me a DM or email me via

I look forward to hearing from you and forging many new relationships and partnerships in 2021 and beyond.