Nshorna Davis was interviewed by Hania Lynch on November 4th 2020 via telephone. This interview is the first of a series of blogs for people to get to know the staff team at MSS.
How did you come up with the idea for the Mindfulness Support Service?
I have spent over 20 years supporting survivors of domestic abuse in various job roles. Whilst working for a domestic abuse organisation as Associate Director, I noticed a gap in services around trauma recovery that I felt needed to be addressed.
We saw survivors and children who witnessed abuse getting a lot of practical support but not getting all the emotional support that they needed to fully recover. So many survivors expressed that the emotional scars were far more damaging to them than the physical ones.
There are incredibly long waiting lists for services such as CAMHS and adult counselling as services are often overstretched and under funded. I wanted adults and children to have swift access to emotional support that would prevent the need for higher-level interventions later down the line.
If people are not supported with trauma recovery, the results can be incredibly damaging for both adults and children. I wanted people to have the opportunity to recover. I wanted to create a service that was accessible to everybody regardless of income, which is why our survivor courses and children’s courses are all free.
Christopher Titmuss and Ulla Koenig visited the organisation where I previously worked to show how mindfulness could be used in a domestic abuse workplace setting. A conversation evolved with Christopher who has been teaching mindfulness practices for around 50 years to support trauma recovery. From these discussions, Mindfulness Support Service was born.
You founded the Mindfulness Support Service just over one year ago. What have been your personal highlights?
I love it every time we receive feedback from course participants who tell us how our survivor or children’s courses have positively impacted their lives. One lady emailed to say that after one of our classes she had slept well for the first time in 20 years. A mother whose child had become violent towards her after witnessing domestic abuse told us how after taking our children’s course, he had completely stopped using violence and was now displaying more empathy.
Who is the most inspiring person you ever met?
I cannot pin point one person. However, whenever I meet people who are trying to improve the lives of vulnerable or marginalised members of society, those are the people who inspire me.
As a mother of 4 who works full time, what advice would you offer to readers who want to meditate but can’t find the time?
There will always be a slot at some point in the day, although it sometimes feels impossible. I might set the alarm to go off 20 minutes before the children wake up or meditate once the children are in bed rather than turning to Netflix. Sometimes I incorporate a formal practice into my nightly wind-down routine. When working, I often find a few moments during my lunch break.
What did you have for breakfast?
During the first lockdown, I noticed that I wasn’t eating particularly mindfully, so now I am making more of an effort to eat locally sourced produce. This morning I made myself and my youngest son a smoothie from spinach, blueberries, strawberries and almond milk. The fruit was organic bought from a local grocer. I am making an effort to support independent small businesses during these challenging times.
What area did you work in before you set up the Mindfulness Support Service?
I started my career as a midwife in 1999. After some time I then started working within family support and early intervention for different Charities and Local Authorities. During that time I managed multi-disciplinary teams across various London Boroughs. I then became Associate Director of a domestic abuse organisation.
Where in the world would you most like to visit?
I would love to re-visit Thailand, exploring areas I have not yet had a chance to see. Thailand has strong links to my personal mindfulness journey and I find the natural environment truly inspiring.
Do you have a vision for the future of the Mindfulness Support Service?
We would like to expand our operations beyond the geographic area of Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and to offer courses and support to a wider pool of trauma survivors.
If you could rule the country for one day, what one change would you make?
There should be a Minister for Mindfulness. I believe the potential impact of mindfulness is so great that there should be an advocate for it within government.
What’s the last good book you read?
The Spiritual Roots of Mindfulness by Christopher Titmuss.
Spa Day or long walk in the country?
I love swimming and can see that a day at a Spa might provide an opportunity for quiet reflection. But country walks are my favourite way of connecting with nature and grounding myself. I am so lucky that I live in an area surrounded by countryside.
What was the last thing that made you angry and how did you respond?
I don’t really think of myself as someone who gets angry. I do sometimes feel frustrated, most often when listening to politicians!
What would you say makes for a good working environment?
My ideal work environment is one where colleagues support each other and communicate effectively. It is important that employees can switch off at the end of the working day and return to family life. Fresh air and natural light in the office can have a significant impact.
Good supervision is important. It is essential that any organisation supports the mental health and wellbeing of its staff as an absolute priority. If workers are not in the right place emotionally they will not be in a position to provide the best service to clients. Staff should be praised, and their achievements recognised.
We run courses to support emotional wellbeing at work through mindfulness practice. Many of our attendees have informed us that the course has transformed their working environment. It is those kinds of comments that remind me why the support we provide is so important to the mental health of others.