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It is estimated that around 20% of 11 to 19 year olds are having some sort of support for mental health issues. This is thought to be the tip of the iceberg, particularly for girls.
On the one hand, it shows that people are more able to seek help, but it also suggests the level of pressure on young people who do not get the help they need risks a future time bomb for society and for employers.
Alison Moore is a therapist who feels many workplaces are not equipped to give the kind of support that our modern fast-paced, 24/7, digitally driven lives requires.
She is creating spaces where women can come together as a way of empowering them and growing their confidence. Her face to face Reconnection Groups, which meet 10 times a year and cost £10 a month, are growing and members can join online from this autumn. Topics have included: Fear and what holds you back, Saying yes – and saying no, an introduction to mindfulness, body image and courage.
Alison knows only too well the kind of pressures facing women in the workplace and has herself suffered mental health issues in the past.
She was working for Amazon when she had her first two children. As they got older and more independent, she started running Amazon’s coaching programme which involved flying all over the world.
When she remarried and had another child, everything changed, however. She wanted to cut back on her travelling. Alison had been toying with the idea of setting up her own business. She took a year off on maternity leave and did all the necessary background work for her business. “I was an older mum and I wanted to enjoy it and take more time,” she said. The first two times she had only been able to take a short time off.
However, her son was quite ill when he was born so she couldn’t make much progress with her business. She returned to Amazon after maternity leave for a year, but when she was ready to make the leap into self-employment, she was headhunted by a company who wanted her to look after their customer training. After nearly a year, she was asked to stay on as a business consultant.
While she was working she built her therapy practice, Be Moore. She had initially envisaged it as a very traditional one-to-one psychotherapy practice. She had undergone the necessary training and had been through therapy herself. However, since she started the business it has evolved: in addition to one-to-one sessions she also offers workshops, women’s empowerment clubs and talks.
The confidence-building workshops are called Find Your Roar. Alison also runs a Reconnection programme – a full life audit which helps women reconnect to their interests, to the world and to others – and supports people with OCD and self harm issues. In addition, she holds an annual empowerment conference and has given a lot of talks, most recently, for instance, at the Tower of London on the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote.
“Women go through a lot of life transitions. They might be in a very corporate role and then become a full-time mum, which can bring up all sorts of identity issues and conflict,” says Alison.
Some will mention in passing to her that they are not enjoying being a mum and she draws out underlying mental health issues. She has seen mums with OCD issues who are trying so hard to control the different elements of their lives that they shut out any attempts by others to help them. Often this is driven by trying to be all things to all people and feeling that they are falling short on all counts. “No matter what role they are doing there is always someone getting in there creating doubt about whether they are doing the right thing,” say Alison.
Alison’s therapy is focused on helping women move on so she says that within a couple of months people can leave intensive therapy behind. They should then only need to check in occasionally.
Alison, who is based near Bedford, works with individuals, women’s groups, employers and universities. She also has online clients in New Zealand and Australia and is keen to expand her women’s groups. She now has groups in Bedford and Milton Keynes and is about to open one in Cambridge. She hopes eventually to have more, but realises she cannot run them all and needs to find the right people who would be prepared to run them.
“I like working with women. They face difficult challenges. It is important that they should have space to get together and talk about them,” she says.
“There is gap – there are women in business groups, mums groups and so on, but there is not much for a mixed age group of women. In my Bedford group there is a range of ages, from a student to a retired lady. A mixture of ages bring different perspectives and a different dynamic,” she says.