Vanessa Doyle ACSI discusses why she’s chosen mental health as her Liverpool presidency theme

1Congratulations on your appointment as CISI Liverpool president in September 2021. How has the last few months been for you on the Liverpool committee? What developments can you tell us about?

Thank you. It has been an eventful first few months. As a region we had our first in person social event since 2020, in September for our award winners. We normally present these awards during our annual dinner, but due to the ongoing pandemic an annual dinner has not been possible although we are hopeful it will go ahead in May 2022.

We also held a quiz night in November, but sadly my team did not win.

Our education programme commenced and has stayed online this year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in helping make the education programme a continued success.

In 26 January 2022, we are planning a virtual CPD event with a focus on mental health and wellbeing.

2 On your appointment as CISI Liverpool president you said you wanted to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around mental health. What motivated you to choose this topic?

During my time working in financial services, I have seen colleagues who seem to be very happy suddenly be signed off with stress and anxiety. It was always a surprise to me, and I spent a lot of time analysing whether I should have noticed and been able to help.

Now having seen the effect that COVID has had on family and friends, it has made me even more aware of the importance of mental health. I can honestly say I have always tended to focus on my physical health and not really considered my own mental wellbeing.

In our society, physical health is positively promoted, and we are regularly informed to eat healthily and exercise to remain fit. The same cannot be said in relation to promoting mental wellbeing which is often seen as a weakness and people are too afraid or ashamed to admit they have an issue. During my presidency, I want to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around talking about our mental health. If my colleagues had been able to talk to someone without prejudice and fear of reprisal, they may have sought help sooner.

3Have you yourself – or any close friends or family – been affected in any way by mental health challenges? If so, please can you tell us about this.

One of my closest friends had to ask their GP for help as they had struggled with the loss of a parent. They were offered medication but decided to try talking therapy first so were put in touch with Talk Liverpool, which is a counselling service run by the NHS. My friend is in a better place and even though they are still not fully recovered, they have taken the first steps to being able to heal.

We can all have bad days, but for some the bad days start to outnumber the good days. There is help out there for people willing to ask but asking seems to be the biggest stumbling block to tackling the issues. By continually normalising asking for help we will reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

4 If you were advising someone starting out in their career about how to establish healthy work/life boundaries, what advice would you give them?

When starting a new job, you want to make a good impression and often this means taking on more work and working longer hours, but make sure that does not become the norm as it will be to the detriment of your work/life balance.

As most of us are now working from home, it seems normal to check emails outside of office hours, but you must be strict with yourself to ensure your work and home life do not merge. I log out of my laptop fully each evening and physically close the door of the room I work in at home, which is the equivalent of me leaving the physical office and going home.

It is good to have a colleague you can talk to and never be afraid to ask for help if your work/life boundaries are not in equilibrium.

I would advise that you make time for your family, friends and if you have any hobbies keep them up as it is easy to let these slip when working.

5 Are there any particular mental health initiatives, either locally to where you are based, within a specific financial services firm or more generally on a national level, which have impressed you? If so, please can you give us some detail.

One of the firms where I previously worked, introduced a mental health first aid programme. Staff volunteered to be a mental health first aider and were trained to recognise, understand, and help other staff who may be struggling with their mental health. It also helped managers to have mental health conversations with their teams during regular 121 meetings.

All firms I have worked at offer a 24-hour Employee Assistance Programme. This allows staff to call a confidential helpline and talk to someone about how they are feeling.

The Samaritans are an amazing organisation that provide free help and support for anyone who needs it. You can call them on 116 123 or visit their website

Talk Liverpool is a free NHS service in our region and has a website which provides self help guides, online courses and a referral service

The CISI has a mental health portal which provides valuable resources and information for individuals and companies.

6 Wellbeing and work/life balance are considered important in trying to maintain positive mental health. Are there any particular hobbies you yourself regularly take part in, exercise or tips you can share which help you to try and achieve a mental health balance?

Regular exercise and walks help keep me mentally and physically fit. I enjoy walking round my local park and usually this is with a friend or family member. We use the opportunity to talk which helps us de-stress and gets any worries off our chest. Having someone to talk to is one of the best ways to share how you are feeling.

I also find using a mindfulness app such as Calm or Headspace, before going to sleep, very helpful especially when I am particularly busy in work. When I have deadlines approaching, I will go over everything that needs to be done to ensure the deadline is met. This can on occasion stop me from falling asleep and by listening to a relaxation podcast on a mindfulness app helps to clear my mind.