Matthew attended our Mental Health Awareness and First Aid training course, which we ran on behalf of Fusion Lifestyle.  Fusion were the first sport and leisure management organisation to invest in its staff with the new AIQ level 2 qualification.  With Ad-lib Training specialising in the delivery, Matthew has caught up with our Director Rebecca to discuss the need for these type of courses in the sector, how he has utilised the qualification in the workplace to support colleagues and customers, as well as his experience of the day.

Read Matthew’s story here…


Name Matthew

Location Lewisham, London

Role Divisional Sports and Community Development Manager for Fusion in Lewisham.

Q. What does your role for Fusion involve?

I have been doing my role in fusion for over 7 years.  My role is to get people who wouldn’t normally access the facilities and leisure centres here, by working with local partners, NGBs, and other organisations who are able to offer activities which aren’t necessarily mainstream.  We help encourage disabled residents, women and children to access the centre.  We run women only sessions to provide security and comfort.  

One of our most successful projects is a transgender swimming session, by completely closing one area of the pool and having non-gender specific changing rooms.  We provide the facilities and activities for safe and secure sessions.  There is also a social element and individuals can be themselves.  It doesn’t matter where they are with their transition.   

This is what we do in essence with many groups in the borough.

Q. Tell us a bit about what you enjoy about your role

I was always sporty at secondary school.  Name the sport, I played it or tried to have a go at it.  I was especially keen on swimming, representing my area.  Off the back of that, we had a swimming pool at school, so I completed my lifeguard qualification for a bit of pocket money. The pool ran sessions for the school pupils but also for the village using the facilities.  Having the training and working at school, as well as the local leisure centre in the holidays.  At university I studied a degree in sport.  Since then I have always done the role of sports development, to get people who wouldn’t normally access the facilities to come in to use the centre, hopefully making the centre broad and accessible to the general population.

Q. What attracted you to take part in the mental health awareness and first aid training with Ad-Lib Training?

I took part as I thought it would be very beneficial to find out more about mental health and how to work with people with mental health conditions, especially those that deal with our GP referral scheme.  By having an awareness, we can help people to enhance what we offer.

Q. How did you find the training?

I enjoyed the Mental Health Awareness course as it was very interesting, I especially enjoyed the course with Robin as his presentation, personality and engagement of the participants in the room made it very enjoyable.  He started off by sharing his experiences which brought the handbook to life. He made people feel at ease by going first and sharing his own experiences, which made the environment comfortable to share experiences about myself, friends, colleagues with mental health problems.  He made what could be a challenging subject to understand or an uneasy subject to talk about, very good.  Delivery of the slides were brought to life.  Knowing others have experienced the same as other individuals made it more real and understandable.  Knowing people have gone on a journey and come out on the other side and making the content true, can help people want to improve their mental health and support others in a crisis.  We could talk freely without judgement.   I benefitted and others on the course.

Q. Have you been able to implement any knowledge or skills from your learning in the workplace?

I have already spoken to a couple of colleagues regarding what I learnt.   One of them is keen to find out more.  Working with further colleagues, I hope we can roll it out across the division with staff who come across customers who commonly have mental health conditions due to physical ailments.  These colleagues will use it more on a day-to-day basis, enhancing what we offer.

Regarding myself, I am more aware of how colleagues feel, how I speak to people and how I manage them. Being aware It may not just be a bad day for someone; it could relate to other things in their personal life, makes me more empathetic and conscientious.  

We need to train more individuals, especially those working with the public to offer a far better service then we currently do.  

Q. Why do you think a course like this is important in our sector?

The mental health awareness course is important for our sector for two main reasons.  Being a community leisure centre, we deal with a range of very vulnerable members of the public, from the young to the old and everyone in-between.  If our staff have the understanding and skillset to deal with all these people beyond our standard training, we will improve the service we offer.

The workforce also complete long shift patterns at unsocial hours, this is just one of the demands of the sector.  Therefore, there is a high turnover of staff which is challenging.  Having the skills and awareness to be supportive in the workplace will encourage a destination sector where people want to work as we are taking it seriously; a good company with a well-rounded training package.  We cover the obvious first aid, safeguarding etc... but should include mental health awareness.  This will make employees feel comfortable in the workplace. A safe and secure environment to share. 

Individuals are keen to share their physical illness like a terrible cold or broken leg but don’t necessarily share when they are having a problem with their mental health.  Our aim is to create a happy environment.  If we are happy and confident amongst ourselves, we will make an impact when we go out in the community or in the centre, and people are more comfortable to address their issues.  It is important to consider how we deal with each other in the workplace and with customers.  The more the staff care, the better the sector becomes to work.

Q. What sort of people should do the qualification and why? 

Anyone really! Irrespective of their position in an organisation;  whether they are first starting out or have worked their way up to senior manager.  You want to create an environment where people are happy and confident to talk about an issue.  I think it is important, everyone should have it as part of their skillset. 

In terms of what makes the ideal candidate, they should be friendly, approachable, have good empathy and listening skills.  This is one thing I took this away from the course, it is important to listen and understand.  You need to install confidence that you can talk to your line management or a colleague, regardless if they have a customer facing role, a lifeguard, an instructor… anyone who is approachable and has a pleasant demeaner can do this.  They have the personality that makes you happy to work with them, speak to them and feel comfortable.

Q. What do you do to keep healthy?

I do several things to stay fit and active.  I love a gym workout, especially to 90s dance music.  It motivates me to train harder.  I very much enjoy swimming and walking to get lost in my own thoughts, even more so than team sports to relax.  At university I got into golf, working too much on my handicap rather than studying. Golf is good to meet up with friends to be social, relax and stay active, even though I am not overly great at it.  I enjoy staying fit and active in as many ways as possible.


Where to find Matthew?

Glass Mill Leisure Centre

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