Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mums Matter

Mums Matter is a new project being run at two of the Mind centres in Powys – Brecon & District, and Mid Powys Mind in Llandrindod Wells. As the name suggests, the aim is to provide emotional support for new Mums “to manage the everyday, nurture themselves and dispel the many myths of motherhood.”

The project facilitators, Deborah Wilkie in Brecon (left below), and Tracy Lewis in Llandrindod (right below), told me more.

Tell us why you think there is a need for this project in Powys

Deborah: Whilst promoting this programme mums who have had their babies have stated “they wished this sort of course was available to them after they had given birth to their children." They also said “there was no additional support to help mums apart from their GP or health visitor to help them go through such a huge life-changing experience. They felt alone and that they were the only ones suffering and could not fully be honest in how they were struggling with their feelings of anxiety and worries, and feeling very low and isolated”.

Tracy: Powys has the worst access to services and facilities of all 22 principal areas of Wales. There are 30% of households living in poverty in rural Wales. Because of this women can become isolated after childbirth. The stresses of becoming a new mum and all the different advice and opinions can lead mothers to become anxious and worried.

Has Mind rolled out Mums Matter elsewhere in Wales and if so how has it been received?

Deborah: This is the first time this type of support and programme has been rolled out in Wales and we are delighted that Powys has this great opportunity and is leading the way in Wales.

Tracy: This project has been designed by mums with postnatal anxiety and depression who live in deprived and rural areas. The pilot was held in Cardiff and was received very well. Mid Powys Mind is very happy to be rolling this programme out for mums in Mid Powys.

What about motherhood can be different in a largely rural county?

Deborah: Powys is the biggest rural county in Wales covering 2000 square miles with many small country villages and small towns so accessing essential health and social care services for mothers and families can prove to be very difficult especially if they have no transport. The local transport can be infrequent or not at all, leaving a lot of mums and dads trying to cope and do their best for their babies and children. Motherhood can be lonely in these small villages and towns as the population can be very small. They may be the only young family in the area and accessing baby/toddler groups will mean travelling to another area.

Tracy: There are a lack of effective support networks in Powys as its geographic and social isolation is an ongoing problem, mums sometimes don’t feel they can ask for help as it looks like they are a failure in small communities. Many women can struggle to hold on to their identity once becoming a mother.

Tell us about some of the myths around motherhood, and how women can feel in the early days

Deborah: Social media, magazines and TV can portray life is perfect whilst pregnant and after giving birth and concentrates on images of the ideal ‘perfect’ mum. Even when a mum has a quick snapshot of a mum pushing a pram in the street and that mum can seem like they have “got it together” and look like a ‘perfect’ mum in the mind of the viewer, it may not be the case. This programme gives evidence and demonstrates that that’s not the reality and we discuss what motherhood is really like for them. Learning being a ‘good-enough’ mum is essentially a healthy way of bringing up children as it instills realistic expectations in children and teaches them to cope with uncertainties in our realistic world.

Tracy: There are many myths in motherhood and these can lead to self-stigmatising behaviour and negative perceptions of one's self-worth. This can affect any mother of any age and any walk of life.

When women hit a certain age they can feel the pressure to have a baby without being mentally prepared. When you have your baby a mother does not always have the immediate rush of love that you are told you will have as this can be slow to build and can come over time.

There are harmful myths surrounding working mums that they are neglectful and guilty mothers which can add to the pressure and create anxious feelings.

Mums Matter aims to show these women that they are not alone with these feelings, and provide them with the tools they need to overcome these pressures.

How do new mums find out about the project and join in? And when is your next course?

Deborah:  I am running another programme in September 2017 in Brecon during the school term. It's an 8 week course (2 hrs a week) for mums and I provide a crèche for your baby (if you require it) in the same building of the course. If you like to find out more don't hesitate to contact me for a chat….. call or message/text Deborah on 07487 239 150 email Or ask your health visitor or GP to refer you.

Tracy: The next Mums Matter programme I am running is on the 12 September in Knighton Leisure Centre, 1 till 3 every Tuesday for 6 weeks. There is a crèche available which is run by qualified members of staff. If you would like to book onto this programme please contact me on 07960 271 696 message or text, or you can email me on

What kind of support can the sessions provide? 

Deborah:  Being a mum is a very busy role and can be overwhelming and the need to look after yourself is important so we spend time looking at that in a friendly group of mums sharing similar experiences. We explore what it’s really like being a mum and all the feelings of anxieties and worries that go with the role. We look at many coping tools to manage the everyday, looking after yourself and feelings such as negative thoughts and guilt. The aim is to help mums feel much better and more confident in themselves and trusting their own skills and decisions in their role as a mother.

The programme also offers a confidential supporter session for partners and significant others who supports mum, raising their awareness to postnatal depression and anxiety and exploring ways they can support the mum.

Tracy: The sessions will introduce mums to tools such as breathing techniques, meditation and ideas that will help with wellbeing as well as providing an opportunity and space for mums to come together and talk about their experience and feelings. Those in the group, with the help of the Mums Matter Facilitator, will be able to support each other with the changes that becoming a mum demands, and they will realise they are not alone.

There is also a supporters' session for family and friends to attend if they wish.

If appropriate and timely support isn’t provided to new mums what could happen? 

Deborah: I see this programme acting as a prevention as well as an intervention of support to help mums feel stronger in their own well-being. This programme has already prevented some mums going onto anti-depressants and their postnatal depression escalating. I am coming across mums who are still suffering from anxiety and depression some years on from when they first started suffering with these symptoms after giving birth to their child. This programme may have prevented these symptoms escalating into a longer-term health problem so timely intervention is of the utmost importance to mums in their postnatal period. Also, fathers can suffer with postnatal depression too. This programme raises mental health awareness and knowledge also to fathers and carers and other family members.

Tracy: If mums don’t get the support in which they need then depression can take hold and mothers can withdraw completely from all social activities and services that they may need and all relationships will suffer.

If it became clear a mum was experiencing severe postnatal depression what would happen? 

Deborah: I would in discussion and permission from the mum share this information with her GP and health visitor and encourage a referral onto the Community Mental Health Team where there is a specialised perinatal team. I would also refer onto any other services which meets any other identified needs.

Tracy: I would refer that mother back to her health visitor and doctor and help her to seek the professional help that is needed and discuss any other pathways that would help her with her recovery.

Does Mind support continue once the 6/8 week course is complete? Alternatively, what support networks can you recommend to mums? 

Deborah: The mums are encouraged in the 7th & 8th week; which is more of a social meet up with their babies to discuss how they are going to continue supporting each other. My mums from the first programme formed a very strong trusting bond and have a message group chat and plan to set up their own baby/toddler group in September for mums who are experiencing very similar experiences so they can share the realities of being a mum in a supportive, ’good-enough’ environment.

I also refer on to other services for continued support if needed such as counselling, Action for Children amongst others. They also have an information pack. I am also still there for mums to contact me post-programme for any further additional information and sign posting if needed.

Tracy: After 6 weeks there is another meeting in 3 months for the mums to come together with myself to see how everyone has been getting on. There is also a questionnaire to fill out to see which tools the mums have been using and if they are still in contact with each other. Mid Powys Mind also offers counselling, arts and crafts, training and a volunteer programme with information about the Mid Powys Mind services. There are also lists of playgroups, parent and toddler groups and other agencies which the mums may need in their packs.

Tell us what a “Mums Matter Powys” looks like to you personally 

Deborah: I am so thrilled that Brecon Mind has had this opportunity to deliver this programme and I feel privileged to be part of it and I get the opportunity to work with so many wonderful mums. The mums I have worked with so far are amazing and inspirational. I hope this 2 year project can demonstrate to funders and the local government that this is an essential part of the perinatal service provision in Powys for mums and their families.

Tracy: Mums Matter is a programme running in different areas in Powys to help mums who are feeling low and anxious and need some support and tools to help with their mental health at this moment. Mums can talk openly and honestly about how they are feeling without being judged and will feel excepted and not alone.

What are the main challenges of the role? 

Deborah: I hope the word gets about across all the services in Powys that play a part in supporting mums in their prenatal and postnatal period of their lives. I have done my best promoting and advertising and attending service team meetings to-date but there is still lots to do on that.  Also, I would like to see an increase in the referrrals from GPs, I hope they can see and get to know of the benefits. I do get some self-referrals but I think it’s also important individuals know they can refer themselves and contact me direct for a friendly chat to find out more about the programme.

Tracy: Finding available rooms and crèche space and also letting mums know the programme is running and how it can really help.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done at Mind so far

Deborah: The biggest reward I had was hearing and seeing the progress and achievements of the mums who attended the first programme in believing in themselves as a mum; they were even using the ‘I am’ statement. They left a lot stronger individuals and even accomplished drinking a ‘hot cup a tea’ daily which I was very proud of. Their feedback is the most rewarding and they did it themselves I was just there!

Tracy: Running my first group and seeing the mums bond and support each other whilst learning to grow in confidence was very rewarding.

When you are not working for Mind, how do you enjoy spending your time?

Deborah: I’m a mum of 2 grown up children and a grandmother of 3 gorgeous little ones so my days of running around teenagers have been replaced by choosing when I want to run around after my grandchildren. This has left me with some spare time to indulge in walking coastal paths and cycling. I love our wet and windy land and try and spend most of my time out in it. My husband and I share a passion for classic cars and go on many classic rallies with our restored classic car. My vocation is practicing Reiki in my other spare spare spare time! I love my cats and peace and quiet when I get it, that might mean me just hiding in a corner somewhere for a while.

Tracy: I am a farmer’s wife so I enjoy getting outside and helping my husband and 3 boys on the farm. I also enjoy playing netball and badminton and having a glass of wine with my friends. 


Feedback from some mums who have attended Mums Matter: 

  • Amazing idea and support for those who are worried, feeling down or suffering with post-natal depression. There is no need to suffer in silence, there are others too. It was the best thing I ever did. 
  • I feel more confident in myself and around people. 
  • I could moan and share my feelings without judgment and in a safe place. 
  • The creche gave me time to myself to focus on the course… I feel so much better! 
  • I never left my baby before, was nervous but he enjoyed it and I enjoyed my space and new-found friendship with lovely mums, felt less alone & more myself. 
  • I loved how the course gets you to look at being a realistic mum and not have to stress about being a perfect mum all the time. It’s okay to be a ‘good-enough’ mum! 
  • I’ve decided not to take anti-depressants as this course has made me feel so much stronger, confident and happier… I now walk my dog regularly, relax with colouring and drink HOT tea!! 
  • The course helped me put things into perspective, the past & the present. Things make more sense now. My heart melts now when I see my kids and that’s not happened in a long time.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Connecting with the mental health advocates

Powys mental health advocates Kirstie Morgan and Lynda Evans

“Advocacy”, it says on a whiteboard opposite my desk, is “taking action to help people: say what they want, secure their rights, and obtain the services they need.”

Many are the times I have signposted people calling our Information Service to the mental health advocates working in Powys. Last week two of them, Lynda Evans (North Powys), and Kirstie Morgan (South Powys), came along to the July team meeting of the PAVO Community Connectors to update them about the advocacy services available in the county. I was lucky enough to join them, and this is what we found out.

The three different advocacy roles in Powys

Independent Mental Health Advocate

This role was introduced in 2007 when the Mental Health Act was revised and advocacy was put on the statute books. Advocates suddenly had rights which they had not enjoyed before, such as advocating for mental health patients in hospital, on a Community Treatment Order, or detained under the Mental Health Act.

The provision is much broader in Wales than in England. Anyone in a hospital bed in Wales who is being treated for a mental health “disorder” is entitled to a mental health advocate. The IMHA can support someone who wants to challenge, for example, their detention under a Section 3 of the MHA.

IMHAs can also go into a ward and observe a patient’s treatment and interactions with staff – they cannot be prevented from doing so except in extreme circumstances – such as if the client is unwell and may present a danger to the advocate. IMHAs may, in addition, interview psychiatrists and social workers in private, access the medical notes with permission and share information with the client.

With her IMHA hat on Lynda ensures that proper process is followed, and that a person’s rights are upheld. “If a patient is told they can’t have leave because they’ve not been good, that is punishment. They can’t do that. There has to be a clinical reason to stop leave.” In another situation, a patient who is not being detained under a section may be told that they will be detained if they don’t behave. “This is wrong and totally illegal. Our job is to challenge on behalf of a patient. The first loyalty is always to the client/patient”.

Independent Mental Capacity Advocate

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 introduced the role of the Independent Mental Capacity Advocate. An IMCA is instructed either by Health or Social Services, not by the patient as they lack capacity. The lack of capacity may be due to a brain injury, mental health issues or dementia. IMCAs can be called on when treatment is about to start or to be withdrawn, and the patient has no family or friends who can be consulted. Or, there could be safeguarding issues which mean that it is not appropriate for the family to act on the best interests of the client.

An IMCA has many roles, including:

  1. To support the client whilst a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards assessment is made. The Alzheimer’s Society states that: “If a care home or hospital plans to deprive a person of their liberty… they must get permission. To do this, they must follow strict processes called the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS). DoLS are a set of checks that are designed to ensure that a person who is deprived of their liberty is protected, and that this course of action is both appropriate and in the person’s best interests.” So, for example, when rehousing someone in a nursing home it is important to consider a person’s preferences (they may previously have preferred the countryside to the town).
  2. To support a family member who feels overwhelmed by the whole process of being the “relevant person’s representative” – who must be kept informed about the person’s care and treatment and any changes to it.
  3. To visit the nursing home once a month to make sure all is as it should be. 
Community Mental Health Advocate

People in contact with statutory mental health services from age 18 and over in Powys are entitled to receive support from a Community MH Advocate if they wish. Those in receipt of local primary mental health support services (ie: through a GP surgery) have to be screened first as so many people seek support for mental distress from a GP.

The majority of the work in this area is for people supported by secondary mental health such as Community Mental Health Teams and Crisis Resolution & Home Treatment Teams. Kirstie explained that the work is vast and varied. The work could be long or short-term depending on the situation or the nature of the issue. “Quite often people are very poorly before they come to us and have to address a number of issues.”

Clients can self-refer, be referred by a relative or the voluntary sector (Mind centres or Ponthafren Association for example), or via the Community Mental Health Teams. “People see advocates when everything has gone wrong. In cases where the individuals have a dual diagnosis and their mental health is the prominent issue we will advocate. We work alongside many projects and advocacy schemes in Powys. Our aim is to build a good rapport and understanding with the client and there is a high level of professional trust.”

People have an entitlement under the Mental Health Measure (Wales) to access the CMHT duty desk and regain entry to services within 3 years. Advocates can support clients with this process.

Appropriate Adults

Kirstie and Lynda will also sometimes act as Appropriate Adults at police stations in the county to support and advise vulnerable people known to advocacy in police custody. The mental health charity Hafal is the main provider of Appropriate Adults in Powys.

A bit more about our Powys advocates

Lynda has been an advocate for 14 years now She is employed by Powys Teaching Health Board to be an IMCA and a community advocate, and for a small number of hours a week by Conwy & Denbighshire Mental Health Advocacy Service to be an IMHA in North Powys. Her current base is Fan Gorau at the Montgomery County Infirmary in Newtown, tel: 07736 120 924.

Kirstie is employed as a Community Mental Health Advocate by Powys Teaching Health Board, and provides advocacy in Mid and South Powys. She has worked in the field for 13 years now and is currently based at Neuadd Brycheiniog in Brecon, tel: 01874 615996 or mobile: 07967 808 145.

Linda Woodward also provides IMCA services across the county, and community advocacy for over 65s in North Powys. She is based with Lynda at Fan Gorau and can be contacted on 07974 935 355.

CADMHAS employs three other advocates in Powys – John Curtis in the North, and Adrianne Cleverly and Jane Wazir cover the South. You can contact them by ringing: 01745 816501.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Looking at Me - an arts and dementia initiative

Artist Terri Sweeney has been running some innovative mosaic workshops at the arts charity Celf o Gwmpas in Llandrindod Wells over the past few weeks (the last session was earlier today). They were specifically aimed at people living with dementia and those close to them.

Last week the PAVO meeting rooms were fully booked so we relocated to the Celf gallery for our team meeting. During a break I had the perfect opportunity to catch up with Anca Pancu, Project Co-ordinator at Celf, to find out more about how the workshops went.

Tell us more about your role at Celf

In this particular project, ‘Reaching Out, Drawing In,’ my role was to schedule dates and select artists to deliver sessions in liaison with the artists, volunteers and participants for each of the series of workshop sessions. I market our programme of workshop activities to relevant audiences and networks, manage the workshop bookings, and collect the relevant materials for evaluation purposes.

Who were the workshops for?

The workshops were for people in the early stages of dementia who were able to attend, communicate and participate in creative workshops. Sessions were free of charge for carers who were welcome to participate in the creative activities and socialise.

The weekly workshops are part of a two-year, European Union funded, Powys-based programme of arts & health activities (2017-2018). The programme aims to benefit over 150 participants and also includes:

  • 3 engagement artists’ residencies – working with people with a range of support needs.
  • Year-round weekly creative workshops for learning disabled adults at Centre Celf.
  • Outreach dementia support programme – creative opportunities for individuals in care settings & at home.
The programme is piloting and evaluating new ways of engaging with some of the most isolated people in Powys.

Tell us more about the workshops

Through our workshops we aim to reduce isolation for our participants, allowing people to develop new social connections and networks. We also bring disabled people into contact with wider society. 

We enable this process through exhibitions and events associated with residencies, improving communication and mutual understanding. We are helping people to develop new skills and to increase confidence which we hope will lead them towards engaging with the wider arts world. This is the reason we observe and act on the unmet needs of participants and we tailor work to support their needs and interests.

‘I wasn’t sure about the self-portrait mosaic workshop,
 if I will be able to do it, but the result surprised me, great fun!’

Why did you choose Terri to run the workshops?

We have chosen Terri Sweeney for the ‘Looking at me’ – mosaic workshops on the basis of her professional level of practice and experience of working with people with dementia. She works in a variety of media including mosaic, felt and mixed media painting and she has many years' experience working as an artist with people of all ages and background.

Why was there a focus on self-portraits in the mosaics?

This is a project that works very well for people with dementia. When they look down to their self-portrait they relate to their own identity as they are using an abstract manner of portraying. This method is challenging their preconceived ideas about who they are, it’s a reflection back in time: ‘this is who I am, this is who I always be’. 

It is a way for them to gain a better understanding of their condition in relation to dementia and to regain a sense of time, place and identity.

How did the participants find the sessions?

The participants were challenged by some of the activities in the beginning but they persevered and succeeded in producing mosaic work that they are happy with. 

They became more confident as the sessions went on, interacting with the artist and the volunteer. New skills were learnt and they interacted with each other and had fun. As the participants gained confidence they became more comfortable within the group.

What are the benefits of the creative arts for people with dementia?

The participants seemed to enjoy the social interaction of the group very much; they are very keen to come back. Through our research, preparation and running of these sessions they have learnt new skills, learning how to develop exercises that combine an appropriate level of intellectual stimulation with sufficient demands on manual dexterity. There was plenty of social interaction and with the right level of support the production of a satisfying result. 

At the end of the sessions they were pleasantly surprised by the standard of the work they have achieved. They have had fun and in the same time they have gained a sense of validation through their creative expression. ‘Looking at Me’ is not only about a memory journey, it's about finding strength inside yourself to do the best you can do, enjoying the moment, and the reflection of yourself in the present moment.

Do you have any other workshops coming up?

Trained artist facilitators are working with small groups, supporting them to use professional arts techniques and materials to keep their minds active and engaged. Examples include poetry and sculpture as well as sculpture, music and dance. The workshops take place year round in blocks of 6 x 2 hour sessions. The 2.5 hour workshops cost £3.50 to attend, and are free for carers. Participants should pre-book where possible.

All the workshops are listed on the Celf o Gwmpas website, but do get in touch if you want further information by ringing 01597 822777.

Many thanks to Anca for telling more about the mosaic workshops - and keep an eye out for more of their exciting programme of events and courses coming up in Llandrindod.

You can also read about Celf's 2016 project running sessional weekends for artists who have experience or knowledge of the arts and mental health.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Team building with a Treasure Hunt

The end is finally in sight! But yew won't need the buoyancy aid to rescue Clue No 8
Take two PAVO staff teams, 8 clues, an amazing outdoor local venue and a dry June afternoon day – and what do you have? Well, as it turns out, a really fun opportunity to find out more about your colleagues’ work whilst exercising and enjoying Nature at the same time! The perfect team building session!

It all started when our mental health team was asked to devise a “walk and talk” style engagement activity – along the lines of the dementia walks which have been taking place in North Powys for the past couple of years and which we wrote about here. The idea is that people in contact with mental health services, and those close to them, will have the opportunity to participate in a walk with people planning and providing those services (this activity is being planned for Autumn 2017). The dementia walks are very successful, as participants feel relaxed and happy to open up in a more informal environment. In other words, walking does prompt talking!

We decided it would be a good idea to stage a pilot event and troubleshoot any issues which may crop up before launching straight into the main gig. For example… when we did a risk assessment we realised a few fundamental things such as…. that at our chosen location – Llandrindod Lake – it is important to have a few twenty pence pieces in your pocket in case you want to use the facilities!

We had been trying to meet up with the new Community Connectors’ team at PAVO for some weeks, without much success, because how do you manage to find one day that all fourteen of us can make it for an office meeting? Tempt people with fresh strawberries and a treasure hunt though… and it’s surprising how quickly they get back to you with a positive response!

With a venue and a date confirmed, two of us walked the route for inspiration and set to writing our clues and picking hiding places. We also set eight questions for the Connectors which would reveal how much/little they knew about our work. On the day we planned to fill in any gaps and answer questions as we walked from one clue to the next.

Llandrindod Lake provided the perfect spot for the activity as it has well-spaced clue-hiding sites, a ready-made circular route, some mature trees for shade, and the stunning dragon fountain as a backdrop. The landowner, Powys County Council, gave us permission to go ahead once we clarified the details of our activity (and produced a copy of our insurance certificate!) We also informed the local police in case anyone reported “suspicious” activity. We bought some cheap sandwich boxes for clues and questions, and translated a couple into Welsh (with some “Emergency English” for non-Welsh speakers).

On the day Jane, our team manager, set up a base at the Capel Maelog stone circle a short distance from the Lake. After the briefest of briefings (no swimming in the Lake, no climbing the trees) and light refreshments we were ready for the off. We split the Connectors’ team into three groups and staggered their start times on the hunt. One of us went with each team to answer questions and help if the clues proved too testing. But mostly they were pretty straightforward…

Clue no 1: Bear left along the pavement towards the Lake: find a guarded question (sword and axe: both fake).

Community Connectors L:R - Suzanne Iuppa, Carla Rosenthal & Sally Richards

And Question no 1: What are the mental health team’s two core activities? (Answer: Information & Participation - just in case you haven't  worked it out already).

Over about the period of an hour and a half the teams then hunted high and low for their next clues and questions, and between clue locations staff chatted about their work, their feelings about their work, and the issues that were coming up regularly that they needed help with. Staff in the Community Connectors’ teams were also given the chance to ask their mental health colleagues one main question at each clue location. The three Connectors in my group paused at the jetty on the Lake (where they didn’t get “stumped or stung”) to ask “what is the biggest barrier to accessing mental health services?” This was where the thorny issue of waiting lists first came into the conversation…

Ella's favourite birdwatching seat sent us here...

Personally I found the activity the perfect way to get to know new colleagues in an informal and friendly yet also focussed way (if our conversations started to stray from the main agenda then the next clue just round the corner soon got us back on track). I had not previously met Sally Richards, the Connector from Ystradgynlais, so I was very pleased to have the chance to get to know her and also learn what was happening (or not) in Ystrad. And another bonus: we all laughed a lot on our way round – and not just because the previous team had sneakily hidden all the sandwich boxes in much less obvious places!

When we all regrouped at the end to talk through the activity, pretty much everyone had found it a positive experience. Several wondered what we would have done if it had poured down… so we need to take that on board when planning future outdoor activities.

Chwiliwch am greadur barfog ddwfn yn ei lyfr / Look for a bearded creature reading a book

When it came to conversation topics it turned out that one of the most popular questions was around counselling. There are currently many cases of counselling waiting lists across the county as we have previously discussed on this blog. However, the Connectors were pleased to discover that we have a Counselling Links page on our website with information about options other than NHS counselling in Powys. And one of the key things all the Connectors really wanted to find more about was: What are the participation opportunities in our team? At this point Anne and Philip were able to tell them all about their respective projects – Stand up! for emotional health & wellbeing, and supporting the individual representatives to feed back to various boards.

So… no blisters. No one stole our PAVO sandwich boxes. No one lost or missing. Just lots of smiley faces! Real faces! Bring on the next staff treasure hunt!

If you have any questions for us and can’t wait for the next treasure hunt activity, just pop them in the comments box below.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Pegasus – changing the way we talk to Dyfed-Powys Police

PCSO Aileen Stewart - 2nd from right, with colleagues from Dyfed Powys Police, PAVO and Mid & West Wales Fire Service

In May I met Police Community Support Officer Aileen Stewart at the Dementia Information Day in Newtown during Dementia Awareness Week. Aileen gave me an update about the Pegasus communication scheme used by police officers in the Dyfed Powys force area, and it seemed like a blog post would provide the ideal opportunity to share the information with a wider audience to further promote the scheme’s use.

First tell us a little about yourself and your role in Dyfed Powys Police

I am PCSO Aileen Stewart and I work within the Neighbourhood Policing team in Newtown. I have worked as a PCSO for five years.

As a PCSO we have various duties including high visibility patrols, public reassurance, safeguarding our community, gathering intelligence and dealing with anti-social behaviour. We also work closely with local agencies, for example housing, mental health services and voluntary services to deal with issues and solve problems, for example neighbourhood disputes.

What is the Pegasus scheme?

The Pegasus scheme is a service for people who live and/or work in the Dyfed Powys Police area aimed at those whose disability or illness makes it difficult for them to communicate when calling or speaking face to face to the Police.

It’s designed to make it easier to contact Dyfed Powys Police quickly and easily on both the 101 and 999 numbers.

How does Pegasus work?

Registering for the scheme is free. Once a person is registered and their selected password is approved the individual becomes a member of the scheme. The information will be stored securely.

Pegasus is really simple. The caller will only have to say ‘Pegasus’ and give their password to be identified by the call handlers.

The call handlers will then have access to details of the person calling – full name, home address, contact details for family member/support worker, and how best to communicate with the caller – this information will also be available to the incident handlers who can advise the officers on route to the call of the nature of the caller’s disabilities and how best to communicate with the caller.

Pegasus users will also be provided with a Pegasus key fob to carry. If they speak to Police Officers or PCSOs and find it difficult to communicate they can show this card, provide the officer with their password and they will be informed via radio of the person's details.

How would Pegasus work for people experiencing a mental health crisis?

The person calling would only have to concentrate on telling us what is happening once they have used their password and confirmed their details.

The call handler will have all the caller's personal information and be able to communicate with the caller in the way which they have said will help them or contact the family member/support worker that has been provided.

The attending officers will then be fully aware of the caller's need when dealing with them making it a more positive experience and aid in getting them the help they need as quickly as possible.

Where did the idea for the Pegasus scheme come from and when was it launched?

Pegasus was officially launched on 2nd April 2012 in Dyfed-Powys.

The idea originated in Nottinghamshire Police in 2008/9, from a member of the public who had suffered a stroke, and was also a victim of anti-social behaviour. When he called the police to report the anti-social behaviour he was told to phone back when he was sober. He then contacted the Chief Constable in Nottinghamshire and put forward an idea of having a PIN number which he could provide and they would have his details already.

After Nottinghamshire Police, City of London Police also adopted the scheme, and then ourselves, therefore we were the first force in Wales to adopt this kind of scheme.

How many people have signed up to Pegasus since then, and what kind of feedback do you get?

We currently have 440 members.

Some people that have signed up to the scheme have previously had a negative experience due to the officers dealing with them not having enough information about them before. They feel reassured about us having information about them that can make their experience with the Police a good one and also that we can deal with their needs should they need to contact us.

What is your personal experience of working with the Pegasus scheme out on the beat? 

There is a person that I speak to regularly that I signed up to the scheme. Due to knowing their needs I have been able to see when their mental health has begun to decline and get in touch with their mental health worker to begin the ball rolling for the person to have a psychiatric assessment.

And finally, why was the scheme named after a creature from Greek mythology?

The victim of the anti-social behaviour that prompted the creation of the scheme stated that in the worst times of the anti-social behaviour he used to imagine being whisked away by the Greek mythological flying horse “Pegasus” – hence the name.

Many thanks to Aileen for telling us all about the Pegasus communication scheme used by Dyfed Powys . What do you think of the scheme? We would love to hear from you - comment below or send us an email.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

CRAZYWISE - the Brecon screening

“Crazy…or wise? The traditional wisdom of indigenous cultures often contradicts modern views about a mental health crisis. Is it a ‘calling’ to grow or just a ‘broken brain’? The documentary CRAZYWISE explores what can be learned from people around the world who have turned their psychological crisis into a positive transformative experience.”

On the longest (and probably hottest) day of 2017 I was at The Wellington Hotel in Brecon with PAVO colleagues, community groups, staff from mental health services and individuals to watch this new documentary film by directors Phil Borges and Kevin Tomlinson. The free community screening had been arranged by Avril Meyler of Emerging Paradigms in partnership with PAVO and Brecon community organisations. My colleagues Anne Woods, Philip Moisson and Jane Cooke helped organise the event and also facilitated the open discussion sessions following the screening.

Regular readers of this blog will know that we are keen to promote alternative approaches to looking at mental health distress, asking what has happened to a person who is in mental health crisis rather than concluding that something is wrong with them. So we were delighted to be asked to be involved in the first screening of this groundbreaking, powerful and as it turned out, very moving film, in Powys.

Avril explained in her introduction that she first saw CRAZYWISE at an #EmergingProud event 
in London during Mental Health Awareness Week in May and knew immediately that she wanted to bring it to her local community. (She has written about the Brecon screening on her blog: A Multidimensional Paradigm).  Avril anticipated that the documentary would prompt much interesting discussion, and suggested some of the questions we might ask at our tables once we'd watched the film, such as: “What can we learn from people who have successfully navigated a psychological crisis?” and “Is it time to pay more attention to the psycho/social and spiritual underpinnings of mental health and bring a more balanced approach to mental health care?”

Phil Moisson, Anne Woods, Avril Meyler, Jane Cooke, Andy Hall, Paul Stephens
And so to the film. “CRAZYWISE follows two young Americans diagnosed with “mental illness.” Adam, 27, suffers devastating side effects from medications before embracing meditation in hopes of recovery. Ekhaya, 32, survives childhood molestation and several suicide attempts before spiritual training to become a traditional South African healer gives her suffering meaning and brings a deeper purpose to her life.” 

Interspersed with Adam and Ekhaya’s stories are interviews with mental health professionals and indigenous peoples, and the director Phil Borges discovers: “a growing movement of professionals and psychiatric survivors who demand alternative treatments that focus on recovery, nurturing social connections, and finding meaning.” 

In the early scenes of CRAZYWISE, human-rights photographer and filmmaker Phil tells us what inspired him to start filming. After many years documenting indigenous cultures, he realised that their interpretation of “psychotic” symptoms as a journey of spiritual transformation is completely different to the way that psychosis is regarded in the West and a deep curiosity drew him to find out more. In an interview with Frontier Therapy magazine Phil describes changing his mind about “mental illness” – which he used to think was caused by a “chemical inbalance in the brain. “I now look at it as a natural transformational process waiting to happen. Unfortunately our culture does not look at it this way and so there is little support in helping the individual find meaning and purpose in their suffering."

Round table discussions

The film prompted some really thought-provoking discussion throughout the remainder of the day. Without divulging personal stories, I picked up on several key themes: 

The not so good…
  • Questions about what has happened to you are never asked.
  • In Powys the first port of call for someone in mental health distress is the GP – so people are set on to the medical route right at the start.
  • If a GP was amenable to other options what would they offer? What is the alternative in Powys?
  • It is horrendous trying to fight for help if labelled as an “alcoholic” or “nicotine-dependent.”
  • People are labelled as having a problem when often the problem is external, such as work-related stress.
  • If you have a problem outside Mon-Fri 9 – 5 you are stuck mental health-wise.
  • Some people feared that if they referred to a spiritual experience that this would just add to their medical diagnosis.
  • Patients with a physical illness are trusted to understand and monitor their medication. This happens far less with mental “illness”. 
  • Being challenging is not an illness.
  • Doctors will always be in control as they prescribe the medication.
Jane Cooke, Senior Officer Mental Health at PAVO and Tania Dolley, Psychologist at Powys Teaching Health Board

The opportunities for different approaches…
  • “When I am in emotional crisis I want a community that welcomes the symptoms and says it will be alright. That is so healing.”
  • “This could be a half-way house that accepts me for who I am. I don’t mind if the people there are peers or professionals, so long as they are the right people. This would save money as it would prevent long-term issues from developing and also possibly hospitalisation.”
  • There should be a support system for people using services to empower them to question treatments and medication.
  • In the film the professionals who supported The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) are now against it. Some people in the system are more open-minded.
  • "It would be nice to present a “basket of fruit” to the world – what works for one person is different for another. Someone might want a peach one day and a nectarine the next."

Andy Hall edits One in Four three times a year, available from Brecon & District Mind

And other questions and comments…
  • Several people were keen to find out more about shamanism. (In some cultures a psychotic experience is viewed as a calling to become a healer or shaman). Others pointed out that a spiritual way is different for everybody – it could be a drumming session…. it could be being a mother….
  • Medication works for some people and sometimes it can be helpful. In the film this was also stated.
  • There are no psychiatrists or community psychiatric nurses in the room today. Where are they? We want them to hear our story.
  • Are the professionals the community leaders of our time in terms of spiritual growth and connection? Or can it just be about grassroots social connections?
The hope now is that we can acquire the licence to show CRAZYWISE to many more audiences throughout Powys, so that further discussion can be stimulated and ideas gathered about changing the response to mental distress in the county.
What do you think? Would you be interested to see the film? If so, get in touch, or leave a comment below. You may also like to find out more about Open Dialogue, the Spiritual Crisis Network, and the Hearing Voices Network.

Whilst the film was running I was transfixed. It’s compelling stuff. I lifted my pen only once to write down a quote from mental health advocate and counsellor Will Hall who said: “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is basically a sophisticated way of not listening to people...” 

But as the film reinforced over and over again – people just want to be listened to no matter what they're going through.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

In memory of Kelvin Mills: trustee, volunteer and life affirmer

Powys Patients' Council team 2014: L - R Freda Lacey, Rhydian Parry, Penny Price (Ward Manager), John Lilley, Kelvin Mills
by guest author, Freda Lacey
PAVO Senior Officer, Health & Social Care

I wrote recently about “Dying Matters” and in May, one of the long standing volunteers of the PAVO Mental Health team, Powys Mental Health Alliance (PMHA) and Mid Powys Mind - Kelvin Mills - died.

When I facilitated Powys Patients’ Council several years ago now, which goes into Bronllys Hospital Mental Health Inpatient Unit, I was privileged to work with three volunteers. Kelvin was one of the liveliest volunteers who dedicated his time to speaking with patients and rallying them around to come in and visit us to talk about how they were doing and/or speaking up about any issues, compliments, concerns they had whilst being an inpatient on the mental health ward.

It is no secret that Kelvin used to be a patient, both at Bronllys for some time but also at “Mid Wales Hospital”. He was known, far and wide, by staff and other people in contact with services, volunteers and members of the public. Everyone seemed to know Kelvin. I don’t think he ever met a stranger. If he didn’t know you, he’d know all about you within minutes, and you’d know about him! He would have treated you to a story or two, shared some history, told a joke (quite often “politically incorrect”) and laugh hilariously so you had no choice but to laugh with him. He was incredibly generous and very funny, sometimes without meaning to be.

Kelvin at a PMHA trustee meeting in 2010 with fellow trustee Jill Dibling
I remember fondly some of the PMHA Trustee meetings, when trying to have a serious conversation about some order of business, Kelvin would break out the crisps from his rucksack (which he was never without) and start to share them out, not caring a whit about whether it was the right time for a break. Kelvin could get quite passionate about rights and would tell you straight if he thought something wasn’t right. He wasn’t shy about saying what needed to happen - he expected people to step up to the plate and do what was necessary.

Kelvin's Poems & Jokes page in the PMHA newsletter

He was a nostalgic and used to quite often tell stories of his time in Mid Wales Hospital and the fun and community they had. He spoke about his catering experience and I know from attending his funeral, and hearing some more about his life, that he was a very good cook. I believe he used to volunteer/cook with Mid Powys Mind on occasion.

Before going into Bronllys Hospital for our meetings with patients, we’d always have lunch, the volunteers and I, and have a bit of a briefing about issues we’d picked up from the last meeting and actions that had taken place. Kelvin was known to the staff at “The Honey Café” where he would chat away to them as if they were his friends. He would order the same thing always, a cheese sandwich, a cup of coffee and an apple or berry tart with vanilla ice cream, all to come at the same time. He is the only person I knew who could stand whilst having a cup of coffee in one hand, a cigarette in another and fall asleep - an incredible feat of balance.

Despite Kelvin’s physical ailments, he would always be ready to come to Patients’ Council and looked forward to his outings. He was always telling me about ways of saving the public purse and would speak quite often about the amount of money being spent on services and whether it was really value for money. He made me reflect on how things were and are now.

I think Kelvin always sought for ways to belong, to local community. He was incredibly attached to Llandrindod Wells Football Club and used to go to games with his Dad. He was dedicated to helping the club in many ways. He was also a bit of a rock and roller, liked wearing leather jackets, jeans and loved Elvis Presley and was seriously attached to watching Westerns.

Gravel Baptist Chapel
People I’ve spoken to remember Kelvin very fondly. One of the Senior Managers at Bronllys mentioned a Christmas on the ward she’d never forget, especially given what Kelvin had bought for all the nurses!

We will miss Kelvin. We will miss his laughter, his humour, his stories and his abilities to break down the barriers of what is expected and the unusual. He took risks without knowing he showed us how to push the boundaries. He didn’t do what was usual and yet he was so very familiar. He wasn’t silent and sometimes his stories meant you got lost or side tracked. I learned to be patient with him as he sometimes wouldn’t take no for an answer. He demanded respect and well, he deserved it. His life, whilst too short, packed a punch, I’ll never forget him.

There is a saying at the end of the novel, “Middlemarch” which I feel appropriate to end with (and have taken some liberties of changing some words).... "His full nature spent itself in deeds which left no great name on the Earth, but the effect of his being on those around him was uncapturable. For the growing good of the World is partly dependant on unhistoric acts, and on all those people who live faithfully their hidden lives and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Kelvin lies at rest in Gravel Baptist Church’s graveyard, overlooking the peaceful countryside near Llangunllo. I’d like to think he won’t rest in an unvisited tomb…

RIP Kelvin Mills: died 6 May 2017, aged 59 years.