Thursday, 22 January 2015

YAPS project video - I don't let mental health define me

Last year we wrote about the Young Adult Peer Support project (YAPS) at Ponthafren Association in North Powys, and interviewed Zoe Greenslade, one of the members. YAPS offers peer support mentoring to young people (16 - 25 years old) who experience mental health issues, by helping to give them a voice of their own in the development of services.
Robin Green
YAPS Admin Assistant

The first phase of the project has involved recruiting, training and supporting Youth Peer Mentors and coordinating activities and opportunities for them to advocate for the needs of young people who experience mental health issues.

In Autumn 2014 the group decided they wanted to make a music video using music over still photographs. Previously the group had set up various workshops on song writing, music, photography and mental health awareness. 

Inspired by all their learning the young people worked with the YAPS Administrative Assistant, Robin Green, to achieve their aims, and the video has just been published on YouTube. It addresses the theme of stigma, challenging some of the commonly held myths around mental health issues which particularly relate to young people. 

The YAPS group remains a small but passionate group but those involved would like to encourage more people to join them to develop future projects. These include a public relations event and an audio play.

Meetings are held at Ponthafren Association in Newtown for two hours each week, and anyone aged between 16 - 25 is welcome to join the group. You can find out more by calling 01686 621586 or 07792 346 519 or email:

So, watch the group's first video and let us know what you think.

YAPS is one of six projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund as part of the One Powys Connecting Voices programme managed by Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations.

You can find out more about Ponthafren Association here.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Together for Mental Health - Assembly Ministers have their say

Assembly Ministers debated the second Annual Report on Together for Mental Health on Tuesday in the National Assembly for Wales. I watched a large chunk of the debate online on Senedd TV, and you can read the Record of Proceedings here, and dip into video records, to catch up. (Start at 16.26pm, unless you want to find out more about the local government settlement…)

Together for Mental Health sets out Welsh Government ambitions for improving mental health and a vision for mental health services across Wales and was published in 2012. It is the first mental health strategy for Wales that covers people of all ages.

Vaughan Gething, the Deputy Minister for Health, introduced the debate by saying: Mental health services have made real progress throughout 2014. By further embedding the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010, we are continuing to make tangible improvements to care whilst ensuring service users’ views are heard. On average, over 2,600 people are now seen locally every month by primary mental health support services. These deliver advice, information and services, including befriending, books on prescription, physical activity and psychological therapies.

His introduction also included a reference to the work around dementia in Brecon’s dementia friendly community which we have previously written about here. A groundswell of interest in dementia support of communities has seen Brecon and Swansea recently gain official ‘working to become dementia-friendly’ status, and I am proud that we are continuing to fund the charity (The Alzheimer’s Society) to continue this important work in Wales.

Darren Millar, AM, who moved several amendments, said that: There’s no doubt that there has been progress, and long may it continue, but the pace of progress, I think, is something that we need to address. He also acknowledged the contribution of the Third Sector: I would like to put on record… the acknowledgement of the fantastic work that the third sector is doing to address mental ill health issues in Wales, whether that is Mind, Gofal, Hafal or the whole host of other organisations—local organisations, as well—that are doing their bit.

Prior to the debate the mental health charity Gofal had carried out a survey of people who had been in contact with services, and circulated the findings to Assembly Ministers. Whilst the survey highlighted some positive changes, there were also concerns expressed in the findings. Darren continued: One in 10 GPs, and a growing proportion of GPs, according to service users, do not understand or are insufficiently empathetic to mental ill health issues. More alarmingly, a quarter of other staff in primary care are insufficiently understanding or empathetic of people’s concerns.

Darren continued: The other issue, of course, as well, is that it appears that a growing proportion of people are simply having pharmaceutical interventions rather than some of the psychological interventions that I know all parts of this Chamber support the need to increase and improve access to.

Kirsty Williams, AM for Brecon and Radnorshire, wanted to know what steps were being taken to ensure parity between physical and mental health services. She pointed out that progress had been made in reducing the stigma associated with mental health, but that this brought its own problems. Members will have heard those problems highlighted in the all-party group this afternoon, where there certainly was a feeling that, perhaps, the report was on the rosier side of how things felt on the ground to those people using the service, to the third sector organisations involved in helping deliver services for people in communities, and to people caring for relatives or friends who are suffering from mental distress and ill health.

David Rees, AM, who had chaired the cross-party meeting on mental health just prior to the debate, said: It was felt that service user and carer representation on the national partnership board needed greater support to actually ensure that the diverse views across Wales could be fed into the board through improved pathways to achieve that engagement. I therefore hope that the Deputy Minister will be able to give reassurances that the individuals who represent the service users and carers on that partnership board will be given that support to engage with a wide range of bodies to allow a wider spectrum of views to be presented in order that services can be shaped to continue the improvements we have seen to date.

Other issues debated included:

  • The pressure on Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services.
  • The Veterans NHS Wales Service.
  • Access to crisis beds.
  • Care and treatment plans.
  • Mental distress in the workplace.
Vaughan Gething made closing comments to respond to many of the issues raised. There is not space to address all of these here, but I will just pick out his response to David Rees’ point above. Vaughan said: Patient voice and choice in designing healthcare is a core element of our prudent healthcare approach….I want to, in closing, recognise again the contribution of the wider voluntary sector in helping to deliver not just support, both the design and delivery of our services here in Wales.

You can read more about the amendments that were tabled and voted upon and the outcomes on the Record of Proceedings here (from 17.27pm).

The Assembly Ministers have had their say. Do you think Together for Mental Health is working effectively to bring about improvements in the planning and delivery of mental health services in Wales? Let us know in the comments box below.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Dementia - who is blogging about it?

For the past couple of years we have greeted the New Year here on the blog with a round-up of some award winning mental health blogs. Some of these bloggers, such as Mental Health Cop, are well-known and have attracted large numbers of readers. The more niche the topic, often the more useful the information/comment provided by these blog authors.

This year, however, we have decided to focus on dementia blogs. With the growing success of dementia friendly communities around Powys, and an increasing awareness around dementia with schemes such as Dementia Friends, it seemed not just appropriate but high time!

So here are some of our favourite dementia blogs, written by people with dementia, those close to them, and others who are working to support them – whether in the statutory, voluntary or private sectors.

We hope you enjoy dipping into their blog pages, and if you know of others you would like to recommend just add a comment below. We would really like to hear from you.

1. Adventures with dementia

“My wife has dementia. She first attended a memory clinic in 2000, aged 52, and suffered a marked decline in the autumn of 2011. Since then there have been some improvements, despite the fact that she has now (after 12 years investigation) been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.
We try to follow the advice of our Guru: 'Live a Good Life'. It's not easy but there doesn't seem to be any better advice around.
I found myself saying to a friend that I would find my wife's condition very interesting if I wasn't so involved. I've realised now that I do find it, and the issues it raises, interesting.”

This blog was started in 2011 and is packed full of useful information. The latest posts focus on A visit to the dentist, Paying GPs £55 for diagnosing dementia, and Disability Living Centres.

2. (Dementia just Ain’t) Sexy

“No photos of wizened hands here! Not a daily care blog or advice site, this is a place to share thoughts about the impact of dementia on those who live with it – who could be any of us.”

3. What I’d have done differently if I’d known my Mother had dementia

“I thought I didn’t know much about dementia until I read a research proposal on unusual experiences of people living with severe dementia – such as confusion, hallucinations and delusions. Suddenly an old and squeaky door opened and I found myself looking into a dark and scary room in broad daylight for the first time.”

A post on the Changing Minds, Changing Lives mental health and learning disability website that has provoked some interesting comments too.

4. Living in the shadow of Alzheimer’s

“This blog is about life with my husband who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Frontal Lobe Dementia in 2008. He was 64 at the time although now, knowing more about the disease, Alzheimer's was present many, many years ago, which is why early detection is so important. As you read the blog "Al" represents the way that Alzheimer's is invading our daily lives.”

Daily updates on living with Alzheimer’s from across the Atlantic, but so many of the day-to-day issues are relevant too here in Wales.

5. A dementia voice

“You can still live a life with dementia” is the strapline of this community of bloggers from across the UK, some of them living in remote parts of the Scottish Highlands. Several are members of the Scottish Dementia Working Group.

6. Dementia Journeys

“We aim to share dementia related news and information from around the world as well as sharing your Dementia Journey stories.”

Dipping into recent blog posts we find articles on Activities and stories to share with adults with dementia, Hospices and their ethos of care, and raising awareness of dementia with The Purple Angel – a new symbol emerging from Dementia Action Alliances in Devon.

7. Pippa Kelly

“I write every day about one thing or another, mostly about the elderly, their care and its funding, and about dementia, which stole my mum from her family in a drawn-out 10-year raid.”

Pippa originally wrote an article which appeared in a Sunday newspaper called Dementia: the longest, cruellest goodbye.

In 2014 she received an Older People in the Media Award from John Sargeant.

8. Young Dementia

This site has links to numerous blogs, some written by people with young onset dementia, and others written by the family members of those with this diagnosis.

So, that’s a lot of reading to dip into! We hope you find a blog that can help, inform, interest or inspire you – but if there are others out there you want to let us know about, please comment below.

And if you would like to write about your experience of dementia, especially if you are based in Powys or have a family member or friend who is, please get in touch.