Why menopause matters at St Wilfrid’s

With 84.23% of employees at St Wilfrid’s identifying as female, and with all of us knowing someone who is going through, or is going to go through, the menopause at some stage, the Menopause Support Group at St Wilfrid’s Hospice has been really welcomed.

The group started at the hospice just over a year ago. Two members of staff came together with the HR team and discussed how something was needed as so many staff were obviously experiencing symptoms but weren’t able to talk about it or ask for support. The responsive team set up a group, led by Human Resources Advisor, Aimee Hathaway, to organise the first staff meeting.

Aimee said: ‘We have a workforce with a lot of people around the peri/menopausal age, so the group is good for them, but everyone will know someone who is going through or will go through the menopause – so it’s useful for them too.

‘We want the group to be a safe space for everyone attending to share their experiences, their concerns, their practical needs and feelings. The group is open to all but has only been attended by women to date. We want to encourage men and those supporting others experiencing menopause to come along, to help support their colleagues, friends, partners or relatives – so we are planning a “supporting others experiencing menopause” meeting soon.’

The bi-monthly meetings have proved popular. A different symptom of the menopause or peri-menopause is focused on at each session, although some are free sessions where the conversation just flows. Sometimes, the structure of the sessions is very open, with attendees simply sharing anecdotes, while various experts and speakers have come in to give more structured information at others.

The plan going forward is to offer more practical support and to seek out some more specific speakers.

Liz Silvester, Corporate Fundraiser and one of the founding members, said: ‘Personally, I am well post-menopause, but I am a passionate advocate for getting it right. When I went to discuss my symptoms with my GP, she was well meaning but offered only sympathy and anti-depressants. That was it. If this group had existed then, I would have understood so much more about my symptoms and would have felt empowered to talk about it with others, especially my GP. The group is the perfect place for advice and support.

‘My colleague Ruth and I have also had training to become Menopause Champions, enabling us to better signpost and advise other members of staff, which has been really helpful. It’s definitely a great initiative that I am really proud to be part of.’

And other members of staff agree; feedback following the last session from one attendee, read: ‘It’s comforting to know that my colleagues are experiencing the same “issues” as I am. The embarrassment of menopause symptoms (hot flushes in particular), in front of people in the workplace, is lessened as the whole topic is spoken about freely within St Wilfrid’s. The extra information about menopause is very useful, too.’

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