Early Career Microbiologists’ Forum update
Issue: Life on a Changing Planet
11 May 2021 article
Welcome to the first ECM Forum update of 2021. I would like to start once again by saying thank you to all the key workers that are working through this pandemic. Thanks as well to all the microbiologists who continue to be part of testing and vaccine rollout, and to those continuing to treat people in hospital. You are all doing incredible work and deserve the thanks of the whole country.
The year began with the restructuring of the Society’s Committees. The Committees that were (Communications, Policy, etc.) have been combined into three new ones; ‘Building Communities’, ‘Impact and Influence’ and ‘Sustainability’ Committee, in addition to the Finance Committee. The aim of this restructuring is to tie into the Microbiology Society’s three strategic objectives more closely (for more details of these, visit microbiologysociety.org/strategy). While previously the objectives were applicable to several committees and there was a lot of overlap, revamping them this way will hopefully mean we can achieve these objectives in a much smoother way. Additionally, we will now have at least two ECM Forum Executive Committee members on each committee, maintaining an early career voice at Governance level.
The start of the year also saw the publication of a Prince’s Trust report on mental health. The report found that one in four young people had been ‘unable to cope’ during the COVID-19 period. Jonathan Townsend, the UK Chief Executive of the Trust, said, “The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. The report shows that 50% of 16- to 25-year-olds surveyed said their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic, with 56% ‘always’ or ‘often’ feeling anxious. These results were reported as “the worst findings in [The Trust’s] 12-year history”.
While this was not a field-specific study, academia and research fields have historically had a high level of impact on people’s mental health, especially for students and other early career individuals. It is more important than ever to look after each other, and if you are feeling like you need help, please try to ask for it. Those around you are almost definitely more understanding and willing to step in than you think.
There are lots of organisations that can help if you need someone to talk to, and a comprehensive list is available on the NHS website (nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines). Samaritans is also an amazing charity that provides a free 24-hour helpline where you can speak to fully-trained volunteers who can help you talk through your concerns, worries and troubles. Their number is 116 123.
Finally, I’d like to say thank you to all members who took part in the last ECM Forum Online event and who continue to support and participate in early career activities within the Society. Take care everyone, stay safe and look after yourselves!
Impact and Influence Representative, ECM Forum Executive Committee