Last Thursday I made a scenic detour around the Royal Welsh Showground at Builth to attend the Powys Mental Health Alliance (PMHA) Open Day at Bishop Bevan Hall in a beautiful sunny Brecon. The day was attended by individuals and also staff working for the following organisations - Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Brecon & District Contact Association, Hafal, Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (DIY Futures project, Powys Befrienders' project, and me - the Powys Mental Health Information Service), and Ponthafren Association. People had travelled from further afield than me - including some from Welshpool and also Ystradgynlais.
The first session was an update from the PMHA trustees about recent developments within the organisation. A new logo was presented, and Chair Bryan Douglas-Matthews explained that the charity had gone through a radical overhaul of late. The eight trustees running the charity have recently developed a new vision - "We believe the collective voice of individuals has the power to improve the world of mental health."
Trustee Lee Watmough was joined by magazine editor Carla Rosenthal to talk about the revamp and relaunch of the PMHA magazine - now called Headspace. The first issue (1,000 copies have been circulated throughout Powys, and an online version is available) has been extremely well-received, and plans are now under way for an Autumn issue. The magazine is more colourful, vibrant and light-hearted than the previous incarnation, and Lee said that he hopes it draws together the collective voices of not just individuals, professionals and carers, but everybody - "everyone is touched in some way by mental health or emotional difficulties." Carla encouraged people to submit articles, poems, photographs and artwork - the deadline is 30 August. "We want to give a platform to your voice. We want to let people who create services change the way they offer them by listening to people who use them."
Lee and Carla also explained that a brand new website is currently being developed - it is viewed as an opportunity to talk about mental health issues in Powys and break down stigma - watch this space for the launch date!
Lee then described some of the future projects the charity hopes to focus on, including Powys Patients' Council in the Community, teaching others how to lobby effectively, reaching out to the rural community including farmers, helping people deliver a message through innovative drama and fundraising with a difference. Events featuring inspirational speakers and debating topics such as medication are also part of the proposed mix.
Before lunch, and our chance to sample trustee Diane Hart's amazing artwork, there was also a long discussion about the disparity between mental health services available in the North and South of the county, with a focus on crisis teams. Whilst there was acknowledgement of the important developments in both areas (we have written previously about the Home Treatment Teams in the North and South), it was clear that there are still gaps in provision out-of-hours which need to be addressed.
Following lunch the main speaker of the day, Reverend Dr Melanie Santorini, outlined the Time to Change Wales campaign - "don't be afraid to talk about mental health." The campaign is jointly run by three mental health charities - Gofal, Hafal and Mind Cymru, and funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Comic Relief and Welsh Government. So far about 150 Welsh champions have been recruited by the campaign to challenge stigma, perhaps by writing a blog post, or talking to the media, or volunteering at events. Locally there is an event on 3 October in Llandrindod Wells to coincide with World Mental Health week and the aim is to boost the number of champions to 200 by the end of the project.
Melanie also spoke about the importance of talking about mental health with family, friends and colleagues, and politely challenging those who stigmatise people experiencing mental distress. The campaign regularly refers to the 1 in 4 people who supposedly experience a "mental health problem" (we posted about this here). However, it was good to hear challenges from the audience at this event - "it's not 1 in 4 it's everyone!" and Melanie herself referred to people who "think they don't have the experience." She told us a personal story of explaining to someone she knew recently - "I have a mental health diagnosis". The man nearly fell off his chair. He then said - "but you look normal!"
The day was rounded off for me by a question and answer session with two Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPNs) from the Brecon area - Andrew Stephenson (Team Leader) and Dawn Carey. They talked about a variety of issues, including:
- Working alongside the Home Treatment Team in the South to ensure people have a supported transition from hospital to home, and also to reduce admissions.
- Outlining the referral process and distinguishing between Primary Care Services (GPs, nurses and counsellors based at health centres) and Secondary Care Services (CPNs, psychiatrists and support staff in Community Mental Health Teams).
- The impact of the Mental Health Measure on the ability of an individual to self-refer back to a Community Mental Health Team for further treatment.
- The new Care Treatment Plans which were launched in June 2012 and the role of a Care Co-ordinator (nurse, doctor or social worker for example) in developing them with an individual. Paper and electronic copies are available - and Shropdoc can access these via the Home Treatment Team staff as appropriate.
- Out-of-hours support as provided by Shropdoc and possible referral to out-of-county 24 hour assessment units.
- The pros and cons of having three different health boards providing mental health services throughout Powys.
- The involvement of advocacy services to support inpatients at Bronllys Hospital.
I found this session particularly useful as it is a real luxury to have staff providing mental health services in a specific area to be available to fill in the many gaps in our knowledge in such a complex and ever-changing area.
All in all a really interesting and useful day - and I look forward to the next one that PMHA organise! If you were there - tell us what you thought.