Needless to say, I have been busy lately! As have been PPCs and candidate selection teams up and down the country with the threat of looming General Election. Exciting times!
This uncertainty plays havoc with our mental health. We all have mental health, as we all have physical health. Not knowing whether one’s life is going to be put on hold in a few hours time for the next six weeks can be extraordinarily stressful.
At our local exec last night our team well-being was raised by a wise and concerned seasoned campaigner. He wanted us to first of all recognise the dangers of a 24/7 campaign and the huge pressure it puts everyone under; and secondly have a way of supporting our activists.
I have been at a lot of training sessions over the years since approved as a PPC in 2014. I can not remember any ALDC or party training in protecting and preserving the health and well-being of our campaigners and activists. There are usually lots of jokes about the junk food we all consume and the weight we gain due to poor hours, lack of sleep and not looking after ourselves – a feeling that our bodies might take a bashing during the campaign but its all worth it in the sacrifice for the Greater Good, i.e. winning.
I made it very clear last night at our exec meeting, and was fully supported by our local party Chair, that the health and well-being of everyone fighting to get me elected MP was extremely important to me. That I was aware of the stress I personally was under and would be making sure I had time with my family and away from the campaign. This would make me a better candidate all the other hours of the week.
We don’t have a local party well-being officer here (do any local parties?) – but we did agree to encourage a campaign buddy system – that people would have someone to offload to and share worries with that they might not wish to air in a wider team meeting. We are still developing our practices, so ideas of what others have done in their constituencies/local parties to protect the health and well-being of activists would be useful.
Going forward, I’d like to see a new notice put along side the Committee Room notice, and indeed used in all campaign offices, which highlights health and well-being during a campaign: drink lots of water; eat regular healthy meals; take time away from the campaign to be with family and friends; have a campaign buddy to share concerns with; contact details of the local party chair (or other designated person) for serious complaints of harassment or bullying.
This is a brain dump this morning after a late night keeping up with the shenanigans at Westminster and an early start as I have a train to catch for a London meeting – it would be great to have feedback on these ideas. I will put one final plug in for Mental Health First Aid – I’m trained up, as is Norman Lamb MP – it would be good to have a Mental Health First Aider in each local party. But in the meantime, let’s recognise the potential for team stress, anxiety and exhaustion, and support our activists to deliver the healthiest campaign possible.
* Kirsten Johnson is the PPC for North Devon and Day Editor of Lib Dem Voice.