The Wales & West Midland Gold Alumni Association (WA & WM GAA) went online for their biennial get together, as Covid-19 forced a rethink. Our spring meeting was originally scheduled for early May, but was unable to go ahead, so we went online instead to run a mental health and well-being webinar, chaired by our regional Chairman, Mr Steve Lees, from Jaguar Land Rover.

The aim of the webinar was to focus on how we might all adjust to the new normal, which is still likely to feature a good deal of social isolation. This is likely to be the most challenging period for mental well-being as we adjust to returning to a normalisation that will look very different to that which we had been used to prior to Covid-19 lockdown. This may not be well understood yet and there is a risk that we may get caught out, if not well prepared. The event was aimed at the members of the WA & WM GAA senior management teams, who were encouraged to extend the invitation to their well-being and mental health leads. The event also served to highlight the benefits of being a member of the GAA, where from time to time key appointments in their companies are able to access content and speakers for the wider benefit of the organisation.

Portrait photograph of Justin Featherstone MCWe were very fortunate to have two outstanding principle speakers for the event, firstly Justin Featherstone MC, a former Major in the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, he commanded Y Company, PWRR in Southern Iraq in 2004, where he was awarded the Military Cross for his actions. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Justin is both a leadership consultant and expedition leader, whilst also being an occasional visiting lecturer on leadership at the Universities of Exeter, Bath and Llubijana in Slovenia. Drawing heavily and intimately on his own personal experience, Justin spoke about the likely effects that Covid-19 would have on people, providing a valuable insight into what we might expect, and how we might ‘manage’ it.

Portrait photograph of Anne SegalinniThe second speaker was Anne Segalini, the Occupational Therapy Professional Lead Advisor for Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall. Part of an occupational therapist’s role looks at vocational rehabilitation and return to work and Anne spoke about the impact of Covid 19 on that process and DRNC’s experience with supporting military personnel recovery from Covid-19. Again she provided a very valuable insight into the DRNC experience, using her own professional experience and knowledge to offer some ‘tools’ that could be used to mitigate against the stresses likely to be faced by colleagues and employees.

Each complimented each other superbly, without any prior collaboration, or indeed knowledge of each other, questions flowed following each presentation, and it was evident that they had the audience in the palm of their hands throughout. The hours allocated to the event passed in a blink!