After training as a teacher but finding the work being centred more on admin than children, Karen Gibb decided to take action. Her company, Mind Marvels, helps equip young people with the tools to deal with their emotions, and Karen took some time out to talk to The Industry Leaders about her journey.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I worked as a teacher in behavioural units and within social work departments. I wanted to make a difference in young people's lives, but I quickly discovered teaching was very admin-centred rather than child-centred. I was always interested in emotional wellbeing, having experienced anxiety as a child myself. I decided to make a real difference in young people's lives by focusing on their mental wellbeing, so Mind Marvels was born!
What kind of work does your role involve?
Pre-covid, I worked in schools, nurseries and family homes helping young people with their big emotions. This could be in the form of a group or one to one sessions. Each session is based on the NHS 5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing: learn, move, connect, mindful and be kind. Mind Marvels supports young people with calming strategies and practical tools. Now I predominately work virtually, delivering sessions to groups, educational establishments and working directly with young people online.
What gets you excited about your industry?
It's fair to say that mental health affects everyone at some point in their life. Prevention is always better than cure. Early on, I decided to implement calming strategies so young people have emotional skills now and for life. This wasn't necessarily something we were equipped with as young people, usually being told to 'calm down' instead. But how can we calm down when we haven't been taught the necessary skills to do so?
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
"Open heart surgery often looks like murder if you judge it halfway through."
Life is hard, we all know this. Sometimes the easiest option is to walk away from a situation when we feel it is becoming too difficult. However, perseverance can take guts and courage. When we can push through, we will eventually see the end result we worked so hard for.
My aunt Louise was my biggest inspiration and still is. She was very gutsy, opinionated and always stood up for what she believed in. She sadly died of cancer in 2009, but I know she would be very proud of me now. People say we are very alike, and she is always in my thoughts.
The young people I work with inspire me hugely, after all, they are why I teach this work. Helping people has always been my passion, but teaching practical strategies for mental health is literally life-changing.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
Mental health is at the forefront of all media outlets. It's hard to escape from! However, this is positive as it means it doesn't quite have the stigma it used to have. We still have a long way to go, though, especially regarding men and their mental health.
I would strongly recommend people explore and experience mindfulness and breathing techniques as ways to feel calm in stressful situations. Being a teacher, I am always continually learning and evolving my practice.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
Battling with severe anxiety was my most challenging situation yet. I am a natural extrovert, but sometimes talking about my own emotions and feelings can be difficult. It's important I can recognise this as it helps me identify my own struggles and those of others.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
I would set up a charity where I can help more young people improve and change their lives for the better. I may find the time for a holiday (or two!) as well. My dream is to go to South Africa on safari and hang out with the giraffes!
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I find it hard to switch off from work as I genuinely love what I do. It doesn't always feel like work, and that is important to me. I do enjoy cooking as I find it quite relaxing. I'm also a huge fan of true crime podcasts as I find the behaviour behind crimes fascinating. Hopefully, this isn't a big red flag!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
Ideally, mental health would be 'eradicated' as people would feel safe and secure from a young age. This would leave me without a job, but content in the knowledge that people were more in tune with their emotions and better able to cope with life's difficult circumstances.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
The book "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek. People aren't interested in purchasing from you because of the product or service you are selling necessarily, that will come naturally to you if you understand YOUR why. Why do YOU do what you do?
How should people connect with you?
Via any of the following:
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