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.

#MentalHealthMatters

 

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
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!

My Top 5 Cyber Security Podcasts

My Top 5 Cyber Security Podcasts

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 podcasts.

So without further ado, my top 5 cyber security podcasts are:

Cloud and Cyber Security Podcast
Run by Francesco Cipollone, the Cyber Security & Cloud Podcast #CSCP is a place to explore the dark secret of cloud and cyber. The podcast focuses on people and their stories and explores the human element that brings so many people together Some episodes are for the well-seasoned cybersecurity veteran, but most are about stories of infosec people and how they reach where they are now. The focus and various stream of the podcast is Cybersecurity, Cloud Security, Application Security Social Engineering, and community building.

Influential Visions
Influential Visions is run by Nathaniel Schooler, where he interviews futuristic leaders who share their deep industry knowledge and business experience in the tech and cyber security industries. His podcasts help to ensure you have your finger on the pulse and your eyes wide open when it comes to succeeding in business in the tech space.

Cybercrime Magazine Podcast Series
Cybersecurity Ventures is the world’s leading researcher and Page ONE for the global cyber economy, and a trusted source for cybersecurity facts, figures, and statistics. 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. They keep their audience on the cutting edge of cyber with video journalism, featuring interviews with industry celebrities, thought leaders, and market movers, and their Cybercrime Radio podcast channel.

Smashing Security
Smashing Security describes itself as “helpful and hilarious,” which is an apt description for this light hearted podcast on current infosec concerns, that nevertheless manages to provide expertise. Co-hosts Cluley and Theriault don’t particularly limit themselves in the topics they cover, instead casting their net over anything related to cybercrime and more.  This is one of those podcasts which you can dive right into – the presenters keep the jargon light and make a point of not patronising the listeners. Perhaps it’s this ability to balance knowledge and approachability that earned Smashing Security the title of “Best Security Podcast” at the 2018 European Security Blogger Awards.

The Shared Security Podcast
The Shared Security podcast has earned quite a reputation over the years, which makes sense because it began as much as 10 years ago, back in 2009 when the topic of cybersecurity was far from the hot topic it is today. Podcast creators Scott Wright and Tom Eston cover a lot of topics that range from IoT, mobile devices, PoS threats to more abstract topics like global politics. The result is a general source of privacy updates that are sure to be relevant to everyone’s online lifestyle. The concept behind the podcast is simple. In an interconnected world, huge numbers of people rely on platforms and technology that are “shared” like a common resource. And the only way to keep that technology safe is to educate users to know about threats to its integrity.

What is your favourite cyber security podcast? Are there any that you think should be on my list? Let me know in the comments below! In my next top 5 blog I’ll be covering my favourite cyber security video series, so keep checking back for this and to see what my top 5 video series are in the cyber security space.

 

My Top 5 Cyber Security Events

My Top 5 Cyber Security Events

Welcome to my new series of blogs which will cover my top 5 cyber security events, podcasts, publications, and video series. In my line of work as the CEO & Founder of the UK Cyber Security Association and as a cyber security awareness consultant I come across many of these and I thought I would share my favourites. I have a “go to” list of events, podcasts, video series and publications that I visit on a regular basis to get great cyber security industry insights and to find out what the hot topics and themes are in the industry.

I thought I’d start with my top 5 not to be missed cyber security events:

Infosec

Infosecurity is the Daddy of cyber security and Infosec events, and is next taking place on 8 to 10 June 2021, subject to coronavirus restrictions. I get so much out of this event from the latest topics and insights, new vendors and products that are helping to keep the cyber world safe and great networking opportunities with my cyber security colleagues and friends. It really is a not to be missed event and one that is firmly on my cyber security events calendar.

Cyber Fringe Festival

This is a new event taking place on November 23 to November 27 online and it promises to be 5 days of key topics, insights and content from companies and speakers who are actively involved in cyber security across the West Midlands in the UK. There are opportunities for virtual networking and a virtual exhibition booth. Topics covered will include cyber security strategy, operational and technical sessions, cyber industry, defence and emergency services, diversity, government, acceleration and cyber security skills. Another not to be missed event in the cyber security events calendar.

The Future of Cyber Security Event Series

This series of cyber security conferences were face to face events before the coronavirus pandemic, but they have successfully evoloved to be a series of virtual conferences. In 2020 they featured keynote speakers such as Edward Snowden and are compered by Colonel John Doody.  These fully interactive and immersive events provide a full conference experience from the comfort of your own home with plenty of opportunities for learning and development.

Think Digital Partners

Think Digital Partners run a series of one day events that focus on cyber security for the government and public sector, with their next event for government taking place on 1 December 2020. As these are aimed specifically at these 2 sectors, they are fully tailored to provide key insights and content that is interesting and relevant for government and the public sector. Think Digital Partners also run a cyber security and digital ID directory.

CyberUK

CyberUK is the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC’s) flagship event which takes place annual in a different part of the UK. In 2021 it is due to take place at the ICC In Cardiff on 11th and 12th May. It features world-class speakers, solutions, and opportunities for interaction between the public and private sectors. Attendees will be briefed on the evolving cyber threat and how we must respond as individuals and as a community to keep Britain safe in cyberspace. The event is attended by over 2000 delegates and is the authoritative event for the UK’s cyber security community. It aims to demonstrate what we can do together as teams, as departments and as organisations to deliver a digital United Kingdom that leads the world in cyber resilience.

What are your favourite cyber security events and conferences, are there any that you think should be on my list? Let me know in the comments below! In my next top 5 blog I’ll be covering my favourite cyber security video series, so keep checking back for this and to see what my top 5 video series are in the cyber security space.

Happy 72nd Birthday to the NHS

Happy 72nd Birthday to the NHS

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday NHS….
Happy birthday to you.

Today marks the 72nd birthday of the NHS, and there is a final #ClapForCarers event taking place at 5pm tonight to mark the occasion. I don’t think I have ever been so grateful for the NHS and what they are doing to keep everyone who contracts coronavirus safe and alive, while also attending to those with other illnesses and conditions. Everyone who works in the NHS, no matter what their role is, is a hero to me.

I feel so lucky and privileged to be able to access healthcare at source whenever I need it, and to book a GP appointment if I need one without having to pay. You could argue that we pay for it through our NHS contributions of course, but that is a small price to pay to be able to see a doctor more or less on demand and to have access to specialists, nurses and doctors when we need them. The NHS should be treasured, because I fear for a day that it becomes a privatised institution.

I’ve had my share of help and support from the NHS over the years – so have my family – and I can’t thank them all enough. We’ve all heard horror stories, and the system isn’t by any means perfect, but we are so lucky to have access to it. In 2013 I had incredible support when I was pregnant with my unborn son Francesco “Frankie” Enrico Ventura. When a severe cleft lip and palate was picked up in him during my 5 month scan I was referred within 3 days from the Worcestershire Royal Hospital to the Foetal Medicine Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham under obstetrician Professor Mark Kilby. When other problems were detected with him, I was supported every step of the way as I prepared to be a full-time Mum to a son who would need 24-hour round the clock care and support.

When my son was stillborn on 29 November 2013 the care and support I received at the Worcestershire Royal  Hospital was second to none, especially from the hospital Chaplain Rev’d David Southall who went on to become a good friend to myself and my family. I had genetic testing and so did my husband and family at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham when they found after my son was stillborn that he had a very rare chromosome duplication on his chromosome 15, and I know that would not have been cheap. I’m very grateful to the NHS for that and for their support.

With my son Francesco “Frankie” Enrico Ventura and my good friend Rev’s David Southall, Chaplain at the Worcesershire Royal Hospital. Rev’d Southall is baptising my son.

Today I am even more grateful to them for finally getting to the bottom of what was wrong with my Dad and diagnosing him with CASPR2 antibody encephalitis, which is extremely rare and only 45-50 people globally have been diagnosed with this particular kind of encephalitis, which is autoimmune. My Dad has had brilliant support from Dr Tom Heafield, his neurologist at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital and Professor Sarosh Irani and his team at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford who my Dad is now under due to the rarity of his autoimmune condition.

In addition to this my Dad is of huge interest to Dr Saiju Jacob, consultant neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and to Dr Mike Zandi, consultant neurologist at the Queens Hospital in London.  The only small gripe I have with my Dad’s illness and condition is that it took the NHS nearly 3 years to get to the bottom of it – my Dad was very close to being diagnosed with motor neurone disease with associated dementia – and he didn’t have either condition. But they got there in the end, and for that I am extremely grateful.

With my Dad when he was in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford in March 2020, just prior to lockdown, getting treated for his CASPR2 antibody encephalitis under Professor Sarosh Irani.

I can’t even begin to imagine what every single NHS worker is going through right now with the coronavirus outbreak and pandemic, I am in awe of each and every one of them for what they do for us. They deserve our most lavish praise and most outstanding ovations (as the quote goes in the film “The Greatest Showman”). How they cope day after day, night after night is incredible.

If my Dad was living in the USA, even if he had the best health insurance policy that money could by over there, he would NOT be covered for CASPR2 antibody encephalitis. Autoimmune conditions are excluded from health insurance policies in the States and he would have to thousands and thousands of dollars for his treatment despite having insurance.  This brings it home even more as to how lucky we are to have access to healthcare when we need it.

Of course, if we have the money or insurance policies we can bypass the NHS and pay to have certain treatments and operations privately – but the majority of us are not so lucky – and this is only going to get worse as the pandemic grows, job losses occur and people lose their businesses and livelihoods. We MUST treasure our NHS with everything we have got. If I had the power to grant every specialist, professor, doctor, nurse, healthcare professional and person who works for the NHS a pay rise I would do so in a heartbeat. It is scandalous that they are paid so little for everything they do for us.

So happy birthday NHS, and THANK YOU for everything you do for us, especially during these unprecedented times with the coronavirus pandemic spreading like wildfire all over the world. I treasure you all more than you will ever know. On a person note, thank you for all the help, support, treatment and care I and my family have received from you. You all have my deepest and utmost respect for what you do.

Coronavirus Outbreak 2020: This Too Shall Pass

Coronavirus Outbreak 2020: This Too Shall Pass

I’ve seen and heard some pretty harrowing things this last week or so when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak. And yet somehow I have to have faith and believe that things will get better one day.

 

They won’t be the same. I am sure we will all be forever changed as a result of the events of this year so far. It isn’t over yet and more is to come.

 

My heart goes out to:

 

– all the key workers in the NHS, supermarkets, carers, delivery drivers etc – you are all putting your lives at risk for us
 
– the families of those affected by coronavirus, and who have lost loved ones to the disease
 
– everyone else who is doing their part and helping in the fight against this awful disease
 

– all of those who have been furloughed or who have lost their jobs due to the virus

 

I wish I could wave a magic wand and make everything okay again, as it was before the virus came, but I know I can’t.

 

I am very lucky, I know that. All I have to do is stay in my own home apart from my daily bit of exercise to walk my dog Poppy and to do 1 food shop a week on a Saturday for myself and my parents. I hate leaving the shopping on their doorstep and not being able to see them. I am thankful to all my friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn who have taken time to chat to me on messenger and who have been checking in on me and my parents to see if we are okay. It means the world to me. I miss my family and friends, but I’m lucky to have Facebook messenger and other online tools to be able to speak to them and even see them on video.

 

It is truly at times like this that you realise what is important, that you chuck out what isn’t important and you get to see first-hand who is there for you and who isn’t. People show their true colours in a time of crisis, and I’ve certainly seen that with some individuals first-hand since the coronavirus outbreak happened. Good riddance to bad rubbish is what I say to that!

 

I hope with all my heart that this too shall pass and we will all be able to see each other again, hug each other and tell each other we love each other. Let’s all try to hang on in there and do what is being asked of us by the government to try and halt the spread of coronavirus. I know how tempting it is to go out on a lovely day like today, but we mustn’t.

 

We all have to keep calm and carry on as best we can, and as hard as it is. In the meantime, if any of you need to talk or just want to vent, chat or catch up, I’m there for you. Send me an email, find me on social media, and get in touch. Please don’t feel that you have to go through these crazy times alone…you don’t.