Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The BAT Project in North Wales

Staff from the Ablett Unit in Rhyl with voluntary sector agencies including Vale of Clwyd Mind, Unllais,
Therapy Dogs Nationwide and Twix the dog.
I recently found out about a new partnership project in North Wales called BAT - Bringing Agencies Together. It's all about supporting people who have been in contact with mental health services, specifically hospital, and bridging that gap between leaving the ward and returning to the community.

The BAT Project has been running in the two neighbouring counties of Conwy and Denbighshire for just over a year now. It is a massive geographical area to cover, taking in the sandy beaches of the North Wales coast from Llandudno across to Prestatyn, and sweeping south across parts of the Snowdonia National Park, east into the Clwydian Hills and right down to Llangollen. On its southern edge Denbighshire borders Powys, so we can definitely count the locals there as our near neighbours! 

Hannah Luhde-Thompson (4th from left in photo) is the Improvement and Partnerships Development Officer at Unllais, the mental health development, involvement, information and training agency covering North Wales (our sister agency in the North!) She told me more about the initiative:

Service users at the Ablett Unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Rhyl are being supported in their recovery and return to the community thanks to an innovative multi-agency group. The Bringing Agencies Together (BAT) project supports patients in identifying activities and groups which can help them in the transition back into their local community and continue to promote their health and wellbeing. We formed the BAT group (patients in the unit chose the name) in early 2016 and it has been a very successful, multi agency partnership. 

The project is a collaboration between the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board staff (including Ablett based Occupational Therapists, Clinical Psychologist, and Home Treatment and ward staff), the North Wales mental health development agency Unllais, and Vale of Clwyd Mind, service user and carer representatives, as well as a range of community groups and charities from throughout Conwy and Denbighshire. The occupational therapists from the unit lead the group, but the service user & carer rep on the group played a big part in pulling it all together. 

The BAT group organises community groups to facilitate therapeutic sessions jointly with staff as part of the patient therapeutic programme. These include shared reading delivered by the library service, taster sessions run by the Women’s Centre in Rhyl, massage sessions run by the Red Cross, therapy dog sessions supported by the Therapy Dogs Nationwide and courses run by Llandrillo College to commence in May of this year.

The project group also held two open events in July and November of last year to support patients once discharged back into the community. The project welcomed Conwy and Denbighshire based groups, clubs and organisations to the unit to showcase activities available to service users and their carers out in the community.

More than 24 groups, including Conwy Community Wellbeing Team, Men’s sheds, and Denbighshire Walking For Health, attended the event to provide information on how to sign up to their activities.

The aim was to showcase community activities to service users, as well as their families and carers. It has been really helpful, enabling people to continue pursuits which support their health and wellbeing. The two events were true networking and celebration events and have connected many people in the unit to groups in the community. I frequently hear from third sector colleagues who attended the events that they have since linked with people when they go home! 

Feedback following the open events:

'Everyone was really friendly and approachable.'

'I think all the organisers and volunteers have done an excellent job today.'

'Excellent day, really inclusive and positive. In line with the Social Services & Wellbeing (Wales) Act, partnership working and integration,' - someone from the Community Mental Health Team.

'Wonderful event bringing services together. Promoting wellbeing.'

We were really keen that people were aware of the things available AND they could meet a friendly face from the organisation and understand what to expect if approaching the organisation when they got home.

In Powys Mandy Pearce works as a Reablement Worker with Mid Powys Mind to help support people in transition from hospital back to the community. Mandy also works very closely with the statutory provider of health services, in this case, Powys Teaching Health Board, and other third sector groups.  We would love to hear what you think about initiatives like these in the comments box below.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

LGBTQ+ - setting up a new Powys group

This week's guest author introduces himself:

My name is Shaun and I am a volunteer at Mid Powys Mind.

I should start by saying that LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questing) is not a mental health condition although it has a huge impact on mental health. Before we decided to have a LGBTQ+ peer support group I read an article that said 70% of people who identify as trans will contemplate suicide, members of the LGBTQ+ community are twice as likely to developed a mental health condition and LGBTQ+ youths are twice as likely to attempt suicide. The reasons for this are isolation, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and ignorance.

As an openly gay man, who has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, this didn't shock me as much as as it should have. What shocked me was how little support there is in Powys; although Powys is the largest county in Wales it doesn't even have a sexual health clinic.

Mid Powys Mind's Wellbeing Coordinator asked me if I wanted to organise and run a LGBTQ+ peer support group and I jumped at the chance. I started by researching and soon found that there were far more sexuality and gender identities than I was aware of. I think it must be so confusing these days for LGBTQ+ youths, coming to terms with their sexuality/gender. We spoke about whether we need to add the Q. Some places will say that Q stands for queer, but I'm now aware that some find this offensive - for a long time queer was used as an insult and although a lot of LGBTQ+ have reclaimed the word queer, if asked I say the Q is for questioning. I have also been taken back how many times I have had to explain what LGBTQ+ stood for, I assumed everyone knew, maybe that is because I am the G in LGBTQ+.

Other things came up that I hadn't thought of since being a teenager. Mainly “coming out” and how we come out as a teenager and think that is it, but the truth is we “come out” through out our lives, friendships, work, socially... there is always that moment when someone says: "Do you have a girlfriend?"

Going around Llandrindod and asking strangers if they would put up a poster to advertise the LGBTQ+ group I was more or less “coming out” in every place I visited. In the back of my mind the same insecurities that plagued me as a teenager came back.... Is this the time I will have to face a negative reaction? And a certain amount of shame. If I feel this way as a confident middle-aged gay man, imagine how a teenager or someone who has low self-confidence may feel?

The group meets on the last Tuesday of each month (5pm - 7pm) in the basement at Mid Powys Mind's Wellbeing Centre in Llandrindod Wells. It is a small, diverse and friendly group. We have guest speakers: so far we have had someone from the Terence Higgins Trust and the Dyfed Powys Police LGBTQ+ Liaison Officer. Future plans for the group include arranging a social evening, a session to raise awareness, trips to the Pride festival and discussions to secure funding.

Anne Woods, one of the PAVO mental health team’s Participation Officers, has been attending the group.

Anne says, “I think it’s very important to be able to get together with people who share similar experiences, especially when we have something in common that can set us apart from others. Although I’ve not experienced much overt prejudice since moving to Powys, I have noticed some and I think it’s vital to have a safe place where we can explore issues around gender and sexuality with people who understand.

As part of the Comic Relief funded project I’m running, we have an opportunity to link up with the Iris Prize community outreach team to produce a short film about issues affecting people from the LGBTQ+ community in Powys and members of the group will be taking part. I would encourage anyone to contact me if they would be interested in taking part.”

For more information about the LGBTQ+ monthly group call Mid Powys Mind on 01597 824411, or email: vo@midpowysmind.org.uk

You might be interested in these links...

Anne Woods wrote about taking part in the 2016 Pride event in London in Taking Pride in Diversity.

At the start of LGBT History Month in February 2017, Sarah Carr, Associate Professor of Mental Health Research at Middlesex University, wrote "Queer in the head"? Do LGB people in the UK have poorer mental health?