Since becoming CEO of GibSams in September last year, Brenda Cuby has been busy overseeing and implementing new initiatives for the charity that continues to offer support and help people with mental health issues and those with suicidal thoughts.
“At the end of last year, twenty-three local businesses were recognised in a ceremony that took place at the Garrison Library as part of the ‘Wellbeing at Work Awards’ scheme that was initiated four years ago by GibSams’ founder Marielou Guerrero as part of the ‘Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Worldwide’ programme,” Brenda explains, adding that they will continue growing the awards each year. The scheme was started with the purpose to publicly recognise and reward companies, regardless of the size of their businesses, which have successfully implemented positive changes for the benefit of their employees.
“This year we have launched our Wellbeing Leader Training programme, a one-day course that will raise awareness of wellbeing and mental health in the workplace,” she says. “A Wellbeing Leader will be taught ways to spot those experiencing mental health issues and signpost support for someone who may be having a bad day at work and who doesn’t want to go to HR.” From there, Brenda tells me that this will lead to the launch of GibSams’ first Wellbeing at Work Conference that will take place on 11th May. “Going into the workplace is a developing part of our community outreach, which is an integral part of the ethos of the GibSams organisation,” she states.
As part of their Education Outreach services GibSams, in conjunction with the Department of Education, held the ‘Now and Beyond’ Schools Festival last November – a one day event featuring online and in-person sessions accessible to pupils, parents and carers. Brenda says that they brought in the ‘Now and Beyond’ Team from the UK to hold workshops surrounding digital wellbeing and the use of social media.
For those in the community who may otherwise have been alone on Christmas Day, GibSams held an ‘alternative’ Christmas lunch at the Thi Vietnamese restaurant where over sixty people were treated to a warm welcome and some great Vietnamese food. Brenda says that it gave them the opportunity to be in the company of others and engage in conversation. “We also ran an advertising video campaign on GBC focusing about not being alone at Christmas and how it is good to talk, because human interaction is of vital importance to our mental wellbeing.”
“This year we have also started monthly community coffee mornings at different venues,” Brenda states. “We buy coffee and breakfast and people from the community come along to talk to us to find out more about what we do, how they can get involved and how they can support us.”
Brenda explains that they have also just completed their first intake of new volunteers for this year. “Our ambition is to open the listening service up for extra hours.”
A new initiative for GibSams is their Seafarer service. “Seafarers are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues because they spend so much time at sea,” Brenda says. “Our parent organisation Befrienders set up a service for seafarers last year, and we have been asked to pilot a WhatsApp service for seafarers passing through the Strait of Gibraltar and in local waters.”
Fundraising and donations are, of course, a crucial factor for GibSams, enabling them to provide their continuing services to the local community. “A fun run is being held on 18th March starting in Casemates Square, raising funds for the team of ten local runners that are heading off to the London Landmarks half-marathon in April,” Brenda says, adding that on the 6th May they will be holding the Darkness into Light Walk as the official charity partner for Pieta. “This will be just one of the two hundred official walks for Darkness into Light in 2023 across 10 countries spanning 4 continents.”
Asked if she thinks that GibSams has made a difference in Gibraltar, Brenda replies “definitely”. “When we set up five years ago, we said that if we help one person then it was all worth it – but knowing that on average we get a call a day means that we have helped a lot of people over that period of time.”
“Our mission is to reduce the number of suicides in Gibraltar – we always say reduce rather than eradicate because you can never do that – but we also want people to call us if they are anxious, stressed, worried, or lonely and we want to get them at the low level grade of feeling not well rather than wait to get into the stage where they are feeling suicidal or they feel they have no other option.”
Brenda stresses that there is no shame in contacting GibSams. “People are now talking openly about how they are feeling, where previously nobody talked about it and nobody would admit they had a family member that had a mental health illness.”
“We want to let people know that they can call GibSams with no fear or judgement, without thinking that somebody is going to tell you what to do – and that hopefully will give you the comfort and the confidence to pick-up that phone or to chat online with us about your feelings.”
“GibSams is always looking for more volunteers, for people to fundraise and to raise awareness of the work that we do,” Brenda clarifies. “At the moment we have about eighty volunteers in total giving up their time.” If you feel that you can become a listening volunteer and commit to doing one listening shift a week, or would like to help in other ways, please get in touch with GibSams.
More information can be found on the GibSams website: www.gibsams.gi