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Emma Fox - Business Transformation Lead, Degree Education and Career Centre

By Noel Armstrong

Emma Fox has worked at LBS for more than 12 years, most recently as DECC’s Transformation Lead. Following her participation in a Mental Health Awareness Week’s panel session, she shares her own mental health story and her work with the NHS.

Tell us how you came to join the School and a little about your current role

I joined the MBA Team at the School back in 2006 and have been the Business Transformation Lead for DECC for several years now. My role oversees some of DECC’s significant change projects and I love that every project brings me into contact with new teams – I’m always learning more about the ways we actually bring students into the School and deliver an outstanding learning experience. I’m passionate about finding ways to work that increase opportunities for collaboration across our departments and improve the experience of what we do, for the staff who do the job as much as for the students and faculty.

You recently participated in the ‘LBS Experiences Panel Session’ during Mental Health Awareness Week. What was the idea behind the panel event?

The panel was part of the student-led programme for the week, designed to get people talking about mental health. Sometimes the best way to get other people talking, is to start talking yourself and so the aim of the panel was to share personal experiences of mental health from members across the LBS community.

You spoke very frankly at the event about your own mental health. Can you tell us a little about your experiences?

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was just 18. It affected my ability to study and I needed to take a year out before I could go to university. I was quite seriously unwell and needed to take anti-depressant medication and receive psychological support. It took several years and mood-stabilising Lithium to reach a point where I was well. Continued counselling taught me a lot about myself, my triggers and early warning signs of mood change and I learned how to create a lifestyle that would encourage stability.

It took me five years to complete my three-year degree but when I did so, I graduated with the highest grade in my year. I am familiar with the struggles students face when seeking to manage their mental health and meet the demands of academia.

The structure of work has always been beneficial for me, I have always loved working and throughout my twenties the periods of instability in my mood reduced. However, after the birth of my first child I experienced severe postnatal depression. The standard services available to me – GPs, health visitors and midwives did not know how to support me and I became increasingly desperate.

Eventually I couldn’t continue and sought help from the Local NHS Mental Health Team who gave me the medical and psychological support that I needed to look after myself and my baby.

You are currently working with the NHS, helping them to design some of their mental health services. Can you tell us more about some of the work you’re doing there?

I realised that without my previous experience of mental illness, then I would not have known how to access support once my baby was born and so began working with the NHS to introduce a new specialist community mental health service for women in the perinatal period (from conception up to a baby’s first birthday).  

I share my own experiences to help raise awareness, funds and increase engagement with healthcare professionals. The main focus of my work is to engage others who have lived experience of mental health issues to support them in co-producing work in order to design and implement specialist mental health services.

Five years ago there was very little service provision in London. As of March 2019, every one of London’s 32 boroughs now provides a specialist community perinatal mental health service. I am proud to have been involved in introducing change which will save the lives of women and their children.

What resources are available at the School for staff, students and faculty looking to discuss their own mental health?

I have always found the School a supportive place to work and am encouraged by the recent change in focus from managing illness to promoting wellness.

For students, a new student-facing Wellbeing Services Manager is leading several new initiatives including a pilot of a phone app called Fika, available to all students from June. The app promotes positive mental health through tools that enable personal reflection and facilitate peer conversations about how you’re feeling. Students can contact wellbeing@london.edu to meet someone in person and find out which services will best support their needs. 

There are a range of services available to staff, including counselling and the Whil digital resources to support mental wellness and mindfulness. Full details for these can be found on Portal. I am also particularly encouraged that the School is introducing coaching support for staff returning to work after parental leave as this can often be quite a lonely and overwhelming transition.

Finally, when you’re not working, what do you like to do in your leisure time?

Anyone who knows me will laugh when they read this question! I view my work with the NHS as my hobby – I certainly don’t bake or knit. I also run a Sunday School at our local church where I oversee a team of 25 volunteers. On those wonderful occasions where I am not working on something, I love nothing more than to be outside with my two children, now two and four years old, kicking balls, picking up sticks and exploring.