Introducing Birmingham Mind & BII’s puffing and panting President

In our latest blog, the BII’s President, Nikki Southwick-Gough provides an insight into the reasons the Birmingham Insurance Institute are supporting Birmingham Mind during her Presidential year.

A lot of wriggling, contortion, puffing and panting goes on in my house early every Saturday morning.  It’s because of Bertha.  Here she is – albeit inside out ‘apres swim’.

Much has been written about Mindfulness and this slinky lady is how I access my own version of this.  It was as much a surprise to me as anyone.  I started Open Water Swimming on Easter bank Holiday Monday 2017.  I was nervous as anything and luckily had my wonderful husband alongside me to stop me chickening out of giving it a go (which I would have done).


”I’ll be honest, I was feeling overwhelmed.  My father had died 2 months earlier and I’d coped by working at an even faster pace than I normally do – which is really saying something.  It had begun to feel like I was in a car accelerating beyond my control.


Somehow, I knew I needed to access some blank space.  I used to swim well as a teenager but hadn’t really done so for years however it was the cold water and the thought of what that might be like which made me want to give it a try.  I struggled around a 360 metre lap in an untidy combo of breaststroke and just kicking my legs facing the sky whilst taking advantage of the buoyancy afforded by the borrowed wetsuit.  I was exhausted by the end of it, but laughing.  I instantly knew I wanted to do it again and I felt completely restored by the water.

Fast forward 3 months and that first endeavour has now turned into 3-4km a week over 1 or 2 sessions.  Always at least an hour at a time of rhythmic, metronomic motion, controlled breathing and moving through the cold, cold water and without fail at 20 minutes in – I find Nirvana”.

The reason I’m sharing this little personal insight with you is because it will give you an insight into why it is that I chose Birmingham Mind to be my chosen charity for my Presidential year at the BII.

The fact that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives isn’t news any more.  Positively, this is now receiving focus at Parliamentary level and significant work seems like it will be done to switch the focus from treating mental illness to enabling mental wellness going forwards.

There are First Aiders in every office in Birmingham.  Employers rightly fund their staff to be appropriately trained to cope with accidents and illness and know the next steps to take.  I wonder how many employers would send someone from their organisation to attend a Mental Health First Aid Course that would help an organisation who might otherwise be unsure how to respond to someone who appears to be experiencing a mental health problem and give someone the skills, knowledge and confidence to respond helpfully and support their employee’s recovery?

MHFA courses are just one thing that Birmingham Mind offers in its menu of services and in conjunction with the Birmingham Insurance Institute, an introductory session on this topic as part of the inaugural Birmingham ‘Dive In Festival’ taking place 26-28 September this year.

Birmingham Mind is the largest independent mental health charity providing services in and beyond the City of Birmingham’s boundaries promoting wellbeing and recovery services by providing high quality support and challenging the stigma of mental distress.

During my Presidential year, we can make a real difference by raising vital funds for Birmingham Mind and changing people’s lives for the better.  All monies received will be carefully applied to benefit those in the community of Birmingham who are experiencing mental distress.

The BII Birmingham 10K and 5K Run is just one event taking place this year planned to raise money for this great charity.

You can register here

You can also expect to hear details of wetsuit based personal challenge from yours truly soon!

Thanks for reading


Nikki Southwick-Gough

President, Birmingham Insurance Institute