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Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline Manager Mark Lawton talks to us about his job role, his earlier career, and his life away from work.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am the Operational Manager of the Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline. I’ve held that job for four and a half years now – adding to an extra three and a half managing other parts of the business. By managing the Helpline, I took on a challenge that was new to me, but the value of the service makes it worthwhile.


Give us an overview of your career so far

It’s varied. My life in employment started after leaving college; at the National Garden Festival as a cashier. I ended up becoming a supervisor there before leaving to become a miner shortly afterwards. I did 7/8 years doing that and became heavily involved in first aid, which led me to become a Healthcare Support Worker following the closure of the pits. This began at St Edwards Hospital (Leek) and I did several years there.

The opportunity then came up to start working in the community, as a pilot scheme, and was based at the Sutherland Centre working with the CPN Team I began working in mental health by working as a Community Support Worker for the Sutherland Centre before. I then became a Support Worker for Combined Mental Health for before applying to join Brighter Futures’ Partnership Scheme – the rest is history!


Describe your current role in Brighter Futures 

As the Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline is an out of hours service, I need to be flexible with my working hours. I need to be able to work later some nights for my team.


The job itself is heavily stats-based. I spend a lot of time collecting information, such as the reason for contact, and they are used by commissioners and other mental health services to plan and provide support.



And how does this differ from any other role – either in the company or any other you’ve held? 

In other roles the hours were different, so this is a completely different commitment. Other roles in Brighter Futures need direct contact with customers – the Helpline is an anonymous service and we don’t have that face-to-face relationship in the same way.


Describe an average day for you 

The stats are a priority, so I do that immediately when I walk in. This reviews the contacts from last night: when, how long for and how they chose to get in contact with us. After that, there’s a lot of catching up with emails, stakeholders, company meetings, forums and other things I need to do as part of my role.


What is your favourite part of the job?

The opportunity to empower people and help them to live fulfilled lives. We get some great feedback from both Helpline customers and other schemes which helps us to adapt our services where needs are. The Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline can be life-saving and we can help people we’ve never met before. It’s incredible seeing the difference talk therapy can make and the impact it has. Having someone there listening, confidentially and anonymously, can mean the world to somebody.


How do see yourself expanding your area of Brighter Futures – and what would you like to achieve?

In an ideal world, to be able to spread the service into a wider age range. In the immediate future, I’d like to increase the number of rings out and support call referrals, because it is an important service. It provides support to people who might not be able to pick up a telephone or have other complex issues that prevent them from making contact.


On that subject, what’s your greatest achievement to date? Both at Brighter Futures and elsewhere? 

I don’t think there’s one, specifically. A big achievement on a personal level is being able to grow with the organisation. It’s helped me to do things I never thought I could and help people. With the Helpline, it was leading them to third place at the National Helpline Awards – where we were only beaten by the MS Society and Blue Cross, two much larger organisations.


What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spending time with the dog, kayaking and stand-up paddle boating are all hobbies of mine. I like to do them every week if possible.


If you could live anywhere in the world, where and why?

If I could live anywhere – Cornwall. I’ve been there nearly every year since I was born – it’s relaxing, therapeutic and is next to the sea which is perfect for my water sport hobby.

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