Author: Sushmita Gurung

Mental Health: we can all make a difference

by Makara |

Mental Health Awareness Week: 15-21 May 2023

You won’t need to look far to find someone who is affected by mental health issues. Shockingly, one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.1

But what would you say to someone who is struggling? How could you support them? What could you actually do to help?

These were the questions that were bothering me every time I saw mental health discussed on TV, when I was worried about a colleague who’d become withdrawn or learnt of a friend who was struggling. I wanted to help, but how? What if I said the wrong thing? It turns out I’m not alone. A recent survey from MHFA England found that a third of managers felt out of their depth supporting their team with mental health concerns.2

This is what led me to sign-up to a mental health first aider course last year. The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) programme was set up to extend the concept of first aid training to include mental health issues, empowering people to provide support. MHFA England runs a range of online and face-to-face training courses for individuals or workplace groups, providing basic knowledge about mental health issues, an easy-to-follow action plan, and information about professional and other support available.

From my perspective, the course has given me the confidence to ask how people really are, and to navigate those conversations so, where appropriate, I can give the right support and information. It’s also made me more aware of the mental health warning signs to look out for so, if needed, now I can actually do something to help.

That includes in the workplace. Mental health can affect any of us, at any stage of life, and as employers, line mangers and colleagues, we can play a really important role in supporting good mental health at work. At Makara Health, our open and honest culture, and our ‘kindness’ value help to ensure an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health with managers and colleagues, without judgement or stigma, with professional support available via the private health scheme where needed. So whether through initiatives and strategies to support employee wellbeing and work-life balance, or by simply being aware of the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and being there to listen and support colleagues, we can all make a difference.

To find out more about MHFA training courses, visit:

Written by El Craven, Business Unit Director, PR (maternity cover)

  1. McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.
  2. MHFA England (2023) Survey shows managers are ‘out of their depth’ on mental health. Available at: Accessed May 2023.

It’s a team game – what we can learn from sporting principles to get the win

by Matt Wheeler |

I think of myself as a pretty straightforward sort of person – and perhaps a fairly predictable one!

During the week, you’ll find me at my desk, working on all kinds of different medical communications projects. At the weekend, I am almost certainly indulging my love of sports – generally observing, although I’m hoping to get back on the squash court soon. My absolute favourite place to be is at Franklin’s Gardens, home of the Northampton Saints rugby side.

The truth is that there is plenty in common between agency and sports teams. We have to be able to work in synergy to achieve a common goal, we have to be focussed, we have to communicate, and we have to have effective leadership.

If you’re a fan of tortured metaphors, then please do continue on…


“If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.”

Mark Spitz, 9-time Olympic champion swimmer

In the project run up, we get ready. We work to get the brief exactly right, make sure the project team is well constructed and has the right experience to deliver, and know what an ideal performance looks like.

3pm on a Saturday – (or hopefully not)

“Do you know what my favourite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”

Mike Singletary, former linebacker and head coach in the NFL

This is the fun bit – the opportunity to ‘do what we do’, whether we’re crafting the beautifully-written claim, designing the perfect ad, or building a website with the best UX – we all want to put our best work on tape, and on the field.

Half time – no time for the hairdryer

“Champions keep playing until they get it right.”

Billie Jean King, former world No. 1 tennis player and pioneer for equality and social justice

So, the draft is back from review, and it’s time to push the project through to the end. We need to understand what’s happened so far, make any tactical adjustments and get ready for the next steps. The team needs to know the plan for the second half, and the leaders need to make sure that morale stays high.

The last five minutes – it’s money time

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.”

Dean Karnazes, ultra endurance athlete

The end of the project can sometimes be the hardest part – the team has given their all, and the ‘final whistle’ is approaching. It’s vital to stay switched on and give the last bit of effort needed to get over the line.

Post-match – collecting the corner flags

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan, world renowned basketball player

Before we can move on, we need to learn any lessons we can for the next go around. It’s easy to see where to improve when you lose, but the best teams strive to learn from their victories too.

So, a tortured metaphor, and not a totally original one – what’s my point?

Nowadays, in top level sport, coaches have access to vast amounts of sport science data, and can watch their players out on the field, giving them the information they need to optimise performance.

For agencies working in remote teams, that kind of immediate feedback can be harder to come by. Effective communication is paramount in helping all members of the team deliver their best – whether it’s veterans coaching up the newer recruits, or if the manager needs a lift from their charges after a challenging couple of weeks. It’s something we work hard at, no matter the stage of career or job title, whether it’s through regular catch-ups, or providing concise and actionable feedback.

Working in that kind of environment leads to success – and some trophies on the mantelpiece. It’s no coincidence that we have that kind of award-winning squad at Makara – talented players, of course, but supported by a set-up designed so that we can flourish: working remotely physically, but very much part of a team.

The future of patient partnerships

by Victoria Morton |

The work we do as a Patient Insights and Support function at Makara Health has always had a strong focus on input and insights from real people – patients are also people after all, and we have a strong commitment to empathy and respect in everything we do. We support our clients to build and create strong partnerships with patient organisations and implement successful collaborations for the benefit of patients.

Developing good relationships through patient engagement and support is not a new concept. The pharmaceutical industry has been increasingly focused on patient centricity and the importance of partnering with patient organisations over the past 20 years, and rightly so. This consistent and increasing focus on patient engagement activities can enormously enhance the delivery of patient information, support and potentially the treatments themselves. As industry and patient groups continue to work together partnerships change and evolve and grow.

All good stuff right?

Yes of course. At Makara Health, we want to continue to help our clients and the organisations we work with explore how these critical relationships can be improved and deepened. Our Makara mindset is there’s always room for improvement in our book.

The pharmaceutical industry is the most patient focused it’s ever been. 80% of the top pharmaceutical companies cite some iteration of a patient-centred approach as a core value to their organisation. But what does a truly patient-approach mean? It’s a board term, and it takes different forms and has varying degrees. Patient centricity and patient engagement are inherently linked but are different. For us, patient centricity is a mindset and patient engagement is the delivery/ways in which patient centricity is delivered.

With impending industry-wide changes to measurements and reporting guidance for patient-focused drug development (PFDD), encouraging an end-to-end patient strategy, are pharma companies across the board ready for this upcoming change in 2025? If the pharmaceutical industry wants to be truly patient centric throughout the product life cycle, then surely that starts with:

  1. Consistently embracing a patient centric mindset and keeping the patient front of mind
  2. Considering how we interact in every way with the groups that represent those patients

Makara Health has initiated a project to explore these interactions and partnerships to uncover the perspective of patient groups when it comes to partnerships with industry.  An in depth listening exercise to uncover how critical partnerships between industry and the third sector can be enhanced for the good of patients.  The Good Patient Partnership Guide contains concise insights and clear, tangible recommendations for industry professionals striving to initiate or improve engagement policy and process and for those already doing great work, looking to up their game in this space, with our ‘great’ and ‘stellar’ recommendations.

Want to know more about the insights and recommendations then stay tuned for our Guide launching very soon…