Thursday, 22 October 2020

Online therapy service to help with winter blues

by guest author Carol Brown
SilverCloud Project Manager, Powys Teaching Health Board

Every October, the days get shorter, the nights longer, and there’s a rise in demand for mental health services. But the SilverCloud Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) service remains open for business.

Powys residents have unique access to the SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service, which offers people aged 16+, who are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety, depression or stress, a 12-week course of online therapy via their smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, plus six sessions with an Online CBT practitioner.

Pre-Covid, the six sessions with an Online CBT practitioner took place face-to-face at GP surgeries in Powys, now they take place over the phone and by email.

The Online CBT practitioners review users’ progress on SilverCloud, signpost activities and tools available on the online therapy system, and offer encouragement and support.

The SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service is run by Powys Teaching Health Board in partnership with Ponthafren Association in North Powys, Mid and North Powys Mind and Brecon Mind covering South Powys.

Anthea Jones, Mid & North Powys Mind

Anthea Jones from Mid & North Powys Mind tells us how they've adapted their service from in-person to online and how social media has helped them engage with people. 

“The winter blues is a phenomenon. There is always an increase in admissions to mental health services when the clocks go back. It really does help to make sure you get outside and get as much daylight as possible in autumn and winter. Think of it as self-care. It keeps your mood up having the light. 

“As soon as Covid hit, we moved from meeting clients face-to-face in the GP surgery to supporting people over the phone and by email.

“We also widened the referral process so that as well as GPs, other healthcare and mental health professionals can refer people to us. 

“At Mid and North Powys Mind, we responded to a demand in lockdown by recording and sharing videos to our Facebook page to support people with their mental health and wellbeing.

“We’ve made videos explaining SilverCloud and the different tools and activities it features such as how CBT can help with anxiety, the link between food and mood, gratitude, mindfulness, Tai Chi, and the importance of getting out in nature to keep your mood up. There’s lots on our Facebook page.

“The response has been really positive. We get feedback from people saying ‘thanks’ and ‘that’s really helped me’ which is good to hear. Our viewing figures are up to 2,000 per broadcast and that’s spurred us on to keep going.

Tackling overthinking

“One of the common things I’ve found with people who use the SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service is the overthinking. It’s like everyone’s living a second life in their head, thinking about things too much, dwelling on things, especially with the uncertainty that Covid has brought to our lives.

“To help with this, I walk clients through the Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviours cycle, which shows you how what you think affects how you feel and how you behave. This is explained on SilverCloud.

“Keeping a thought diary can help get thoughts out of your head and help you see patterns that you can learn from, such as thoughts that come up every day and thoughts you might need to look at more deeply.

“On a practical level, positive self-talk can help. So ‘I can’t do anything right’ becomes ‘I can do better next time’, for example. Upping your activity levels is also key. Break up the time you spend sitting and thinking and get up and out, using your hands and feet and losing yourself in physical activity. Being active can make such a difference.


How does SilverCloud Blended Online CBT work?

“When people are first referred to SilverCloud Blended Online CBT we’ll have an hour for our first session together where I help them get set up, walk them through how to use it and get the most out of it.

“The amount of time people spend using SilverCloud is flexible, because users can log-in and work through the programme in a way that fits into their lifestyles. Ideally, people log-in for around 15 minutes every day to work their way through the activities and tasks that make up their programme and they’ll complete a fortnightly review online.

“I’ll have a look at their results and use the five follow-up sessions, which are around 20 minutes each, to give them a call – or email if they prefer – to discuss their progress, give feedback and offer support. 

Who do you work with?

“I work with a real range of people on the SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service, aged 16 to 80.

“I have been working with a lady in her seventies who’s been really great with it. She’s put a lot of effort into using SilverCloud and we’ve built up a really good rapport over the 12-week programme and her mental health and wellbeing scores have vastly improved.

“Then, the fact that it’s an online programme naturally attracts younger people, men especially, who like that they can work on their mental health and wellbeing in private, so to speak, without everyone knowing about it.

“For example, I started working with a student in his early twenties during lockdown who was struggling with anxiety. He didn’t feel able to talk about this with family and friends but he started using SilverCloud and likes the conversations we have around it.

“I find the service is also popular with men in their early thirties. Again, anxiety is a common issue and being able to do the programme online with the support from an Online CBT practitioner like myself means the blended approach really works for them.

“SilverCloud gives people the chance to lead a ‘normal’ life but with backup support. Plus, being an online service, it fits around working life and I think because of lockdown, more people are looking for online solutions.

“Now, because of Covid, they don’t have to take the afternoon off for a face-to-face appointment with me at the GP surgery. They know we’ll check in with them over the phone or by email. And an online service is useful for people in rural areas like Powys where the geography can pose a challenge to accessing health services at the best of times. 



Anxiety is a common issue

“Users can choose from a range of mental health and wellbeing programmes to complete at their own pace over 12 weeks. Programme options include help with anxiety, depression, stress, sleep, and money worries.

“The programmes that help with anxiety are most popular with people I work with. I’m keen to point people towards the resilience programme as it can really help with thoughts about going into lockdown again and being down about life.”
  • Mid and North Powys Mind Facebook You can view their mental health and wellbeing videos on www.facebook.com/mnpowysmind/
  • SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service available in Powys. If you are interested in signing up for this combination of online CBT with phone call and email support sessions with an Online CBT practitioner, please contact Mid and North Powys Mind, or Brecon Mind or Ponthafren Association in North Powys. Alternatively, please email Silver.Cloud@Wales.nhs.uk with the subject line ‘SilverCloud Blended Online CBT service’ or call 01874 712 428.
  • SilverCloud Self-Referral available across Wales If you’re aged 16+ you can now sign up directly for SilverCloud Online CBT without needing to go through your GP or other healthcare professional. Although an online self-help service, you will be allocated an Online CBT co-ordinator who will liaise with you via the SilverCloud platform in order to guide you through the programme and monitor your progress.


Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Gearing up to help out: the latest on infoengine


by guest author Melissa Townsend
County Development Officer at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations

infoengine is an online directory of third sector services across Wales. Individuals use infoengine to search for services which can support them in their area; for example, a food bank or club that they would like to get involved with.

infoengine has over 7,000 services registered across Wales and it is a helpful tool for those smaller organisations who do not have a website as infoengine can act as a web page for organisations.

Searching on infoengine is easy, all you need to do is add the keyword for the service you are looking for e.g. football and then add the area e.g. Brecon and infoengine will show you the relevant results.


During lock down, PAVO recruited an infoengine volunteer, Milly, who has been contacting groups in Powys to register on infoengine. Milly has been invaluable and has contacted food banks, community transport schemes and COVID-19 groups to support them to register on infoengine.


Milly recently received her A level results and has been accepted to her first choice university, so she left us in September. This is a really exciting time for Milly and we will sorely miss her and the support she has given to infoengine as a volunteer.

infoengine supports both individuals and organisations.

Age Connects Torfaen 

Here are some quotes from organisations and individuals who have used infoengine:

Emma, who works at Age Connects Torfaen, explains: “Infoengine is a comprehensive online source that we greatly value. It’s a positive step for the third sector to have their own platform, because good work is being carried out locally, by independent charities, many of which have limited marketing budgets. infoengine offers a safety net – for free.”

Powys food bank volunteers

Julia, a food bank volunteer, says: “infoengine is important to us, because we know a good number of people who have used it in order to find us. When people are in crisis they need help urgently, and it acts like a web page.”

Powys Befrienders get-together

Natalie, a volunteer turned employee of Powys Befriending Service, tells her story: “I was googling for a volunteering opportunity when I found their infoengine page. I now work for them full time and one of my tasks is to ensure each of the groups are listed, because I know – from experience – you never know who could be using the site and the difference it can make to their lives!”

If you would like support to register on infoengine or would like to become a volunteer, please contact us: infoengine@pavo.org.uk or telephone 01597 822191.

Click HERE to view our handy ‘How To’ Guide for registering on infoengine

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Yn paratoi i helpu: y diweddaraf ar infoengine



gan yr awdur gwadd Melissa Townsend

Swyddog Datblygu Sirol Cymdeithas Mudiadau Gwirfoddol Powys


Cyfeiriadur ar-lein o wasanaethau trydydd sector ledled Cymru yw infoengine. Mae unigolion yn defnyddio infoengine i chwilio am wasanaethau a all eu cefnogi yn eu hardal; er enghraifft, banc bwyd neu glwb yr hoffent gymryd rhan ynddo.

Mae gan infoengine dros 7,000 o wasanaethau wedi'u cofrestru ledled Cymru ac mae'n arf defnyddiol i'r sefydliadau llai hynny sydd heb wefan, gan y gall infoengine weithredu fel tudalen we i sefydliadau.

Mae’n rhwydd chwilio ar infoengine, y cyfan sydd angen i chi ei wneud yw ychwanegu'r allweddair ar gyfer y gwasanaeth rydych chi'n chwilio amdano e.e. Pêl-droed ac yna ychwanegu'r ardal e.e. Rhaeadr Gwy, a bydd infoengine yn dangos y canlyniadau perthnasol i chi.


Yn ystod y cyfnod clo, mae PAVO wedi recriwtio gwirfoddolwr ar gyfer infoengine - Milly, sydd wedi bod yn cysylltu â grwpiau Powys i gofrestru ar infoengine. Mae Milly wedi bod yn amhrisiadwy ac wedi cysylltu â banciau bwyd, cynlluniau cludiant cymunedol a grwpiau COVID-19 i'w cefnogi i gofrestru ar infoengine.


Yn ddiweddar, derbyniodd Milly ei chanlyniadau Lefel A ac mae wedi cael ei derbyn i'’r brifysgol a’i dewis cyntaf, felly bydd yn ein gadael ym mis Medi. Mae hwn yn amser cyffrous iawn i Milly a byddwn yn gweld ei eisiau yn fawr a'r gefnogaeth y mae wedi'i rhoi i infoengine fel gwirfoddolwr.

Mae infoengine yn cefnogi unigolion a sefydliadau.

Age Connects Torfaen 

Dyma rai dyfyniadau gan sefydliadau ac unigolion sydd wedi defnyddio infoengine:

Eglura Emma, ​​sy'n gweithio yn Age Connects Torfaen: “Mae Infoengine yn ffynhonnell ar-lein gynhwysfawr ac rydym yn ei gwerthfawrogi'n fawr. Mae'n gam pwysig i'r trydydd sector gael ei blatfform ei hun, oherwydd mae gwaith da yn cael ei wneud yn lleol, gan elusennau annibynnol, y mae gan lawer ohonynt gyllidebau marchnata cyfyngedig. Mae infoengine yn cynnig rhwyd ​​ddiogelwch - am ddim.”

Gwirfoddolwyr banc bwyd Powys

Dywed Julia, gwirfoddolwr gyda banc bwyd: “Mae infoengine yn bwysig i ni, oherwydd rydyn ni'n adnabod nifer dda o bobl sydd wedi'i ddefnyddio er mwyn dod o hyd i ni. Pan fydd pobl mewn argyfwng mae angen help arnyn nhw ar frys, ac mae'n gweithredu fel tudalen we."

Cyfeillgarwch Powys yn dod at ei gilydd

Mae Natalie, gwirfoddolwr sydd bellach yn gyflogedig gan Wasanaeth Cyfeillion Powys, yn adrodd ei stori: “Roeddwn yn chwilio am gyfle gwirfoddoli pan ddes o hyd i dudalen infoengine. Bellach, rwyf yn gweithio iddyn nhw’n llawn-amser ac un o fy nhasgau yw sicrhau bod pob un o'r grwpiau wedi'u rhestru, oherwydd rydw i'n gwybod - o brofiad - nad ydych chi byth yn gwybod pwy allai fod yn defnyddio'r wefan a'r gwahaniaeth y gall ei wneud i'w bywydau!"

Os hoffech gael cefnogaeth i gofrestru ar infoengine neu os hoffech ddod yn wirfoddolwr, cysylltwch â ni: infoengine@pavo.org.uk neu ffoniwch 01597 822191.

Cliciwch YMA i weld ein Canllaw defnyddiol ‘How To’ ar gyfer cofrestru ar infoengine

Dilynwch ni ar Twitter a Facebook

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

The Wales Mental Health & Wellbeing Forum – an update

by guest author Sarah Dale 

Sarah Dale is a citizen rep – an unpaid volunteer who sits on regional and national partnership boards, including the Wales Mental Health & Wellbeing Forum (formerly the National Mental Health Service User and Carers’ Forum) – “the voice of lived experience”.

“I became a rep because I don't want others to have to fight for years just to be diagnosed to get the treatment they need. I strongly believe we all have the responsibility to do what we can to change and improve the mental health services that we all use.” 

In the summer of 2020 Sarah attended the latest meetings of the Forum, which took place online over the course of two days (28 July and 12 August). It was Powys’ turn to host and Sarah chaired one of the sessions. Sarah recently reported back to the Engage to Change partnership board (sub-group of the Powys Mental Health Planning & Development Board) about what took place over the course of the two days.


We had a general update and I did a long Powys update because we have done so much. There was a lot of feedback from the other reps that they were surprised how much work we actually do in Powys as reps. Someone said “now that is real co-production!” A lot of the other health boards haven’t actually done a lot during Covid, for example, having meetings or involving reps.

Then we had a quick session on the logo, looking at the new name and design. That was all approved. This was followed by a session on the Terms of Reference which were also approved, including the Easy Read version which I had gone through and amended. I don’t like the term Easy Read, I call it “Sarah readable!”

We looked at the new member roles which were also approved. Some people who have exceeded their term of office are now able to stay on in the Forum. We have other working groups – so there’s a Diversity and Equality Working Group – and we are looking at people we want to include in these groups, so we send out “About Us” emails to organisations.

A representative from Welsh Government updated us. They have asked us to become involved in reviewing some of the Public Health documents. Ministers have invested £5 million towards ending homelessness and are supporting local authorities to provide longer term housing solutions. The three regional Suicide Prevention Coordinators have been appointed and an announcement about suicide prevention grant funding will be made soon. Welsh Government is working with the voluntary sector to develop a framework for better engagement in recognition that there is not enough work in partnership with smaller mental health charities in particular.

The Welsh Government is reviewing the Together for Mental Health and Talk to Me 2 delivery plans to strengthen areas which have been particularly impacted by Covid and to review timescales for delivery on one year actions. The revised plans will be presented at the National Partnership Board and the National Advisory Group in September for feedback. Equalities is one area where there will really be a focus, along with housing and homelessness, wellbeing and public health, and financial impacts. A number of Tier 0 interventions such as online self-help resources have been established. There have been some rapid reviews to changes made during lockdown which are being coordinated by the NHS – on what works based on user surveys and staff feedback.

One thing which Ainsley Blaydon (Mental Health Strategy Lead for Welsh Government) would like is feedback about what it has been like as a “service user” under Covid so I mentioned to her that we had done a survey of people under services in Powys.

Sarah on an interview panel for mental health services at the health board

Previously I have not been able to access the Forum working groups as they have been in South Wales and I don’t like to travel because of my anxiety. Covid has meant that a lot of these meetings are on Zoom so I have been able to join a couple which is really exciting. From each health board you have two service user and two carer reps and they are automatically invited to the Forum. Because of the number of health boards in the South there feels more of a South Wales representation – sometimes it feels like we are forgotten in the North. If I was in the working groups I felt I would have more of a sense of belonging so I joined the Equality and Diversity Group because that is my strong suit and also because there is inequality in representation.

In the group they have identified people they want to join – these are people from travelling communities, those experiencing homelessness, LGBTQIA, digitally excluded and Welsh language speakers. So I asked – do you even know who in the Forum fits into these categories? I’m here, I fit into the homelessness one because I’ve been made homeless. So I made them look inwards at the start – and now I’m doing some of that work. I was assigned the LGBTQIA list, so I did a lot of Google searching on all the different groups – most of them are Facebook groups and very hard to find, which is something we need to tackle, but I have compiled a list.

When I joined the Forum I just turned up, there was no Equality & Diversity form, so I’m creating a form I’ve dubbed the “Diversity Form”. It’s optional whether people fill out the details about their gender, sexuality, race – the usual equal opportunities but extended so that we can identify specific groups like people who use Personality Disorder Services or Eating Disorder Services or have been homeless. At the end of the document we explain that we are looking for people from these specific groups to talk about their experiences if they are comfortable with that.

I then joined the Future Planning group – one of the questions they have posed is – “Why are we losing so many members? Why can’t we get people to join?” So I explained that there are a lot of people from South Wales and if you’re not from there you feel left out, plus some of the topics don’t really apply to us in Powys. 

At the last Forum meeting the special topic was “Alternative to inpatient care,” which is good but as I said it would be nice to have the basics in Powys. We do not have a 24-hour crisis team – all the other areas do. When I was an outpatient at the Child & Adolescent Unit in Bridgend I missed out on the therapies, treatments and groups that are available to people who live locally. As a Powys resident I saw two different people who came up to Powys for two days a week for half a day by comparison. So one of the suggestions I made was to make it more welcoming to people so there isn’t that divide.

Locally I’ve been invited to join interview panels which I’ve really enjoyed – I did the Suicide & Self Harm Coordinator’s role, a Harm Reduction role and a Crisis Team Practitioner. My thoughts were totally taken into consideration and it was a really good experience. 


Many thanks to Sarah for telling us about the Forum meetings. If you would like to find out more about volunteering as a mental health “citizen rep” in Powys then get in touch with us by emailing mentalhealth@pavo.org.uk or call 01597 822191 and ask to speak to Owen Griffkin.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Sharing the Load at The DPJ Foundation

Kate, Emma & Kay of the DPJ Foundation

At our next Powys Agri Wellbeing Support network meeting in September we will welcome Kate Miles, the new Charity Manager at farming charity The DPJ Foundation, to the group.

The DPJ Foundation was set up in Pembrokeshire in July 2016 following the death of agricultural contractor Daniel Picton-Jones. Daniel’s suicide rocked the community, and his wife Emma realised very quickly the lack of support that was available for those struggling with poor mental health in rural communities. Over the past four years the charity has grown to cover the whole of Wales, providing bespoke counselling services to farmers under the banner Share the Load, and mental health awareness training sessions to an increasing number of organisations working in this sector.

Kate started work with the charity just a few weeks ago, but is already settling in to her now role, as we found out when we caught up recently.


What is your role at The DPJ Foundation?

I'm the charity manager, so that covers the financial management, the marketing and business development, liaison with funders, potential funders, and partners and volunteer management. I also manage Kay Helyar, our new training manager, who works part-time and who’ll be delivering our training. I'm also the ultimate “troubleshooter” if there are safeguarding queries or concerns around the service. 


Kate Miles, DPJ Foundation's charity manager

Tell us more about the service you offer at The DPJ Foundation

There are three main strands to our service:

1. Awareness raising 


We have largely done this through social media (Facebook and Twitter). So every day we post an uplifting message with an agricultural related photo to make people aware of the telephone number for our Share the Load service. We also do talks in Young Farmers’ Clubs, Round Table, smallholders and various other groups of various descriptions. We are about to launch a campaign that ran successfully last year calling for knitters to knit bobble hats for us that we can sell to raise funds as well as raising awareness of our work.

2. Mental Health Awareness training 


We've recently concluded six sessions online. So we were delivering face-to-face training, but we've now moved to online delivery due to the pandemic which has positives and negatives. We find that the dropout rate is higher, but it means that we can obviously run a lot more sessions and potentially reach far more people.

3. Share the Load – counselling service

This is the main strand. Share the Load is our 24/7 call line
(0800 587 4262) and we also operate by text. It's staffed by volunteers who have received training from the Samaritans and they provide a listening service initially. Some of these calls will then lead to referrals to a counsellor. People should receive contact within 24 to 48 hours from a qualified counsellor to make an appointment for a meeting within a week. We will offer as many sessions as that person needs but six is our core offer and generally most are concluded within that period. 

We have a panel of counsellors across Wales. Some are able to offer counselling in Welsh as well as in English, some are able to work with under 18s. 

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training for the volunteers

Do you work with children?

Generally, no. We would only do that if the school counselling hasn't worked or isn’t an option. That would be our first route because there's funded counselling already in place and also in terms of the holistic well-being for that individual it is quite important that the whole system is there in place to support them.

Saying that, we do have some counsellors who are able to work with younger people and we have some who are also able to offer support online and / or by text. But in general it's the face-to-face counselling although obviously a lot of this has switched to telephone during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Where does the face-to-face counselling take place?

We try to work with the individual. So if they want that counselling to take place on their farm, for example, then we have counsellors who can provide outreach and will do that. It might be that it's at a neutral location or it might be at the usual rooms that the counsellor uses. We try to make it as accessible as possible for the individual so that they will take up the counselling that is on offer and get the help they need.

Our counsellors are registered with the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (or other accredited bodies). So they've all been through the training. They are paid counsellors who have their own qualifications and insurance.

Tell us about the Regional Champions

As well as the 20 - 26 volunteers who staff the Share the Load helpline we have about the same number of Regional Champion volunteers, who are our eyes and ears on the ground in the community, including several in Powys. So for example they're making sure that there's a poster up in the local pub or feed merchants through to giving talks and collecting donations, but again, their role has changed during the pandemic because they're not able to get out and about in the same way. But equally as a lot of them are farmers, they are out and about because they are key workers, so they're still working. 

Fundraising presentation

Do the counsellors offer practical as well as mental health support?

Just mental health. There are organisations like Tir Dewi, the Farming Community Network and RABI who offer practical and financial support. If somebody's looking for practical help then we would signpost to one of those other organisations. When someone accesses our service we send a welcome email which includes a list of useful contact telephone numbers including the above organisations and others such as the NHS CALL helpline and Farmwell.

What are some of the key themes coming out of the counselling sessions?

Obviously the counselling sessions themselves are totally confidential. Broadly speaking though we have seen during the lockdown an increase in the number of young people accessing our service. And I think that's been echoed with other mental health services from what I can gather. There's been a lot of negative chatter on social media around young people breaking the lockdown whereas, in fact, there's been a lot of good work done by young people as well. So a young person I imagine could feel quite got at throughout this time really.

Then physical health problems can have an impact on mental health, perhaps even leading to self-harm. I also know we've now provided domestic violence training for all our volunteers on the basis that we were seeing an increase in these cases.

The farming community is often regarded as ‘hard-to-reach’. What are you doing differently to engage so successfully?

We are very focused on the industry and we try to use people within that community. Many of our volunteers come from a farming background whilst others are from a mental health background. They have an understanding of the community. Also some people who've accessed our service tend to become advocates for us – they share their story as they want others to benefit as they have.

It's really important to be where farmers are and that might be their home, it might be their farm or where they actually go to trade. To reach everybody we need to be in all those. Social media is great because it reaches people who are on social media, but there's a large demographic that aren't and so it's trying then to use more traditional means. So for example, we've got the bale stickers which are popping up across Wales at the moment and it's about drip feeding the message so that people who want help almost can't say they don't know where to go. 

A DPJ Foundation training session

How does the mental health awareness training fit into the overall picture?

We've probably reached around a thousand people in total since we've been in existence over the last four years. So people will be aware of different types of mental health disorder and have a very initial introduction to suicide and suicide prevention. And our real objective is that they come away feeling more ready to have conversations with other people about their mental health, but also we include a section about keeping themselves safe and how to look after their own mental health. So it's almost like a preventative session in some respects.

We're training people who are working in that farming community, so Young Farmers’ Clubs, vets, Animal Health officers, feed reps, etc. Hopefully after the training they feel able and equipped to have a conversation with somebody, or leave one of our flyers on a kitchen table, or know to ask our advice about what steps to take next. We would love to be even more successful and we really want to be in a position where everybody knows that we exist (although we aren't quite there yet). 


Many thanks to Kate for telling us all about her new role at The DPJ Foundation. 
If you want to find out more, or are interested in volunteering, you can contact Kate by emailing kate@thedpjfoundation.co.uk or ringing 07984 169 652.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Mums Matter in a Changing World

Ros Sandhu, Mums Matter facilitator
In our latest blog post Ros Sandhu, a Mums Matter Facilitator, explains how the support that Brecon and District Mind provides has been adapted to continue to safely help families who are living through the pandemic.

I am one of the two Mums Matter Facilitators. My background is in education and I was a secondary school teacher for 20 years before training to be a Health and Wellbeing Facilitator.


I have a special interest in using mindfulness techniques to enhance our health and wellbeing. I am mum to 2 daughters who are 12 and 18 and, like most women with children, I recognize that the journey that I have been on since becoming a mum has been by far the most powerful and important part of my life with many challenges, as well as opportunities for growth. 



I joined the team in April 2020 and it feels wonderful to be using my experiences and skills to be supporting women with the most important and difficult job that we face. I passionately believe that sharing experiences is by far the most helpful and healing part of any support service because we feel less alone, we connect with others and learn that it is not just us or our ‘fault’. We are reminded that this is all part of the messy business of simply being a human being. 

I would encourage any mums with babies to get in touch; you will almost certainly meet some like-minded women and feel supported through your experiences of motherhood. In these especially challenging times, the Mums Matter Team are here for you.


Practicing our Zoom skills: I’m at the top, Sarah is next & Clare Searle, our fantastic administrator, is next.


My colleague Sarah James has worked as a Mums Matter Facilitator since 2019. She is a proud mum to a 3 year-old little boy and her empathy, warmth and current life experiences make her wonderfully approachable – she is great at keeping things very real. Sarah has a background in community and youth work, and she is also a trained counsellor.

Sarah says, “I have experienced the same challenges as many other mums have, especially during lockdown - juggling childcare, working from home, and getting shopping slots. I also know that the techniques that we teach in Mums Matter really work as I use them every day." 

It feels especially important at the moment, to be able to share the Mums Matter toolkit with mums to help them get through each day. I would encourage mums to get in touch – these techniques are tried and tested, and take it from me, they really work!”

A bit of background …

The basic premise of the whole Family Support Service at Brecon and District Mind is that happy and supported parents equals happy and healthy children.

The original Mums Matter was co-produced by a group of Mums in Peterborough with national Mind, who then led and supported local Minds in the UK to deliver the programme alongside Mind Cymru for Powys.

It is an 8 week programme which offers groups of around 6 - 8 mums an informal weekly 2 hour workshop where they can share their experiences of early motherhood and also learn some very practical tools and coping techniques to help them manage things like negative self-talk and develop a greater understanding of the importance of self-care. 

At the heart of the approach is the idea that amazing things happen when women support each other and there are many ways to be a great mum. Crucially in the original Mums Matter course, we provide a creche facility during the weekly 2 hour meet ups and so mums have the time and headspace to really focus on themselves and even get to drink a hot cup of tea!

In Brecon, Mums Matter has been running for over 3 years, originally with Deborah Wilkie as the only facilitator. It has become a highly successful and popular programme and as such now employs 2 facilitators in the Mums Matter team funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. Deborah now oversees Brecon & District Mind’s growing Family Support Service which also provides a peer group for Dads, as well as family support for parents with older children, both one to one and in a group setting – this has also all been moved online.

“I would like to thank the amazing support from the Mums that have attended the programme. They have been hugely inspiring and great advocates by promoting and sharing their own experiences of the programme to other Mums in groups and the wider community." Debs x

We see our role as facilitating peer support for parents by providing spaces where mums and dads can talk openly about the challenges that they are experiencing and have the space to feel listened to. We also introduce them to some very practical tools and skills that they can use to take care of themselves and manage the inevitable stresses of family life.

Mums Matter in a Changing World

Mums Matter in a Changing World is our remote version of Mums Matter – it is delivered using Zoom (the online communication platform) and we meet together online for an hour a week, for 8 weeks. We chose the name ‘Mums Matter in a Changing World’ to reflect how different and difficult things currently are for people, because of the pandemic, and how quickly things have, and will continue to change. We offer one to one support on the phone and in texts in between the sessions as well.

“It was so comforting to learn that other mums have been having the same feelings and experiences as me. Actually seeing their faces and hearing their voices has made me feel less alone.”  Mum July 2020

In our first Mums Matter in a Changing World course we have found the mums have needed to share their understandable sense of loss. Most of our mums gave birth around the time that Covid 19 was already in the community. As a result of this they have not been able to spend their maternity leave as they imagined. For example, they haven’t been able to share the cuddles with their newborns with families and friends. Some mums were not able to have the shared birth experience that they had planned. 

Mums have been faced with many other challenges for example, due to lockdown, finding novel ways to weigh their babies at home and grappling with the challenges of breast feeding and establishing routines. They have truly tapped into their motherly instincts; over and again, we have been struck by the resilience and tenacity that they have shown.

“I am finding it really helpful to talk through the decisions that I am having to make with the facilitators and the other mums – there is the pull of wanting to keep my baby safe and the push of wanting to return to some kind of normality and see friends and family.”  Mum, July 2020

As lockdown is easing mums are facing a whole new set of challenges and dilemmas. How much risk to take in terms of meeting up with friends and families and perhaps a reminder of how much the world has changed. Mums are having to balance their needs as mums with the safety of their babies and families within an environment of constantly changing government guidelines and scientific understanding of the virus still unfolding. The project can provide a safe space to start to look at these and to share the experiences that they are having and some tools and techniques to manage the understandable anxiety that many are facing. 



The next Mums Matter in a Changing World course will start in September and we will also be back doing face to face courses as soon as it is safe to do so. 

To find out more about this specially adapted remote Mums Matter course by Zoom call Sarah on 07535 385 512 or Ros on 07399 583 415.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Bereavement support in Powys

Powys Bereavement Project Stakeholder Engagement Event 2019

As I write some 93 people from Powys have sadly died due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Across the UK as a whole the huge number of deaths is hard to take in by anyone; sometimes it’s just another awful statistic at the end of our day, but for the close family members and friends of those who have been lost to this awful disease, the pain will be only too real. 

Today we talk to Charity Garnett, a Palliative Care Nurse for North Powys and a Bereavement Project Co-ordinator, to find out more about bereavement support services in the county. 




First tell us what brought you to work in the field of palliative care nursing?

My Dad died suddenly when I was 15, so I understood earlier than most about the impact of death and dying. 

Then when I was 22, my Grandma died really beautifully, over Christmas, in a local hospital. I saw the way the nurses supported her, and supported us, and I thought ‘that is a real job.’ 

It was another 8 years before I trained as a nurse, but I always knew I wanted to work with dying people and their families. It is the biggest honour in the world to support people at these important moments.

What is your role as a Palliative Care Nurse?

I support people and their loved ones with the full range of things that affect them when approaching the end of life. From helping with physical problems like pain or nausea, to practical and financial worries, and emotional and spiritual support. We help people to think about the future and explore what is most important to them - we call it ‘advance care planning’ and it can be so helpful. The My Life, My Wishes project in Powys is brilliant. Anyone can download the documents here.

What key qualities does a good Palliative Care Nurse need to have?

Compassion is key and an open mind. It is so important to remember that everyone deals with death differently, just as they deal with life differently, and none of us know how we will feel about approaching the end of our lives until we get there ourselves. You have to be able to build relationships over a long time, and work with other health and social care professionals, and be good at co-ordinating often complicated situations. Good self-care is important, because supporting people with so much loss all the time means you need to have good reserves.




Tell us about the Bereavement Project – why now, and how it started.

We were aware in palliative care that we supported people really closely up until someone died, and then we would always call and often visit, but then for relatives sometimes the really hard work of grieving begins. People living with grief often struggle to know what they need or make decisions. Across Wales people are recognising bereaved people need more support and information. People grieve in very individual ways, but there are some common themes and we know some kinds of losses need more support for example children and young people, people bereaved by suicide, sudden and traumatic deaths.

We started by inviting everyone with an interest together to share experience and vision what excellent bereavement support would look like in Powys – and that is what we are now working towards.

Which organisations do you work most closely with on the Bereavement Project? And which organisation might it surprise us to find out you work with?

We’ve worked very closely with the bereavement charity Powys Cruse, our local hospices, and Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations, and many of their members have been brilliant. Grief and loss are a part of life so there is no part of our community that is not affected. The police and the ambulance service have been really motivated to be involved, as they are often there at traumatic moments, and then worry about what support is available for people later on.

Many people who are currently struggling to cope with grief caused by the loss of a loved one may not know about the Bereavement Project. How do they access support?

With the pandemic, grieving has become even more challenging for many people. We have put together some advice and local organisations that people can contact. The new Powys Teaching Health Board website has just been launched and will soon feature a whole page on bereavement resources. All our local Community Connectors are aware of local support for people dealing with bereavement. I am also really happy for people to contact me directly at charity.garnett@wales.nhs.uk






People’s reactions to grief can vary widely. Can you give us some examples, and also of the types of death aside from COVID-19 

Grief can seep into all areas of your life, and people can feel like their brain isn’t functioning very well, have difficulty eating and sleeping. They may feel angry, sad, overwhelmed, numb, relieved – so many different emotions. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it often comes in waves, especially around anniversaries, birthdays or big life events. My favourite quote about grief is ‘Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot… Grief is just love with no place to go.’ Jamie Anderson

In Powys during the pandemic, a lot of our deaths have been more difficult for patients, their families, and staff because of visiting restrictions in care homes and hospitals. Even people at home have struggled with decisions about seeing family or not close to the end. Goodbyes can be so important for people. I’ve encouraged some people who didn’t feel they said what they wanted to say to write a letter to their loved one who has died, even 15 or 20 years later. Although you can’t send it, expressing the feelings can be really helpful in releasing them.

People can grieve the loss of a pet just as much as a family member. Does the project provide support in these cases?

That is so true, my dog died two years ago and I cried for months – they have such an unconditional place of love in our lives. The Blue Cross provides support on 0800 096 6606 in the UK. Rainbows Bridge also has an online forum for people grieving pets. A fantastic resource is The Good Grief Trust, which was set up by bereaved people, for bereaved people. You can type in the kind of loss you have experienced, and where you live, and it will give you a range of options for support.

The Llanidloes Tenovus Choir performing at the Engagement event


What do you suggest to family and friends when someone they know is bereaved, and really struggling with grief, but finds it hard to ask for help?

I think just being alongside someone, for the long haul, is the best you can do. I often suggest taking the lead from them, and asking them what they do want. Sometimes people just want to talk about something normal, or be distracted for a while. Finding ways to show them you care, which might be very practical, can be very helpful. Sometimes it can take a long time for someone to seek help. There are a big range of support organisations out there, sometimes doing someone’s research for them can help – they can then decide to make the call to reach out.

If you could change one thing in the bereavement support world what would it be?


That we recognise that grief and loss is a part of life, and we don’t need to hide it away from ourselves, and from each other. When we lose someone, or something we love, it is totally natural that we would grieve and feel sad. I wish it held a more honoured place in our culture, it can feel like the thing that everyone feels but no one wants to talk about!

When you are not working as a Palliative Care Nurse, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I find being in nature very supportive, with my lovely dog. I enjoy dancing, meditation, hanging out with children, and being near (or in) the sea. I read a lot – if I could recommend one book it would be Kathryn Mannix’s ‘With the end in mind’ – it contains so much practical wisdom. 


Many thanks to Charity for telling us all about her work as a Palliative Care Nurse. If you want to find out more about the Bereavement Project you can contact Charity by emailing charity.garnett@wales.nhs.uk

You can also find out more about Powys Palliative Care Services.


My colleague Jen Hawkins wrote more about the launch of the Powys Bereavement Project held in December 2019 in her post It's Time to Talk about Dying.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Powys Dementia Network - first online event!



by Sue Newham, Health & Wellbeing Engagement Officer

It was great to have 26 people attending the online Dementia Network event on 15th July. It seemed to go very well. 20 people filled in the post event evaluation and said it was either excellent or very good. Three people tried but were unable to attend because of technology issues.

People started by showing an object that linked with their lockdown experience. Gill used a pickaxe to create a new flowerbed on a steep slope and Mark's bucket full of nails, bolts and DIY bits was finally sorted out during lockdown!

These videos featuring people living with dementia and their carers were shown:

Life in Lockdown (6.5 minutes)


In 'Life in Lockdown' four people living with dementia speak with Dr Jennifer Roberts from the Dementia Services Development Centre. They talk about both the difficulties and and the upsides of Covid isolation. You can find out more here.

Yn 'Life in Lockdown' mae pedwar o bobl sy'n byw gyda dementia yn siarad â Dr Jennifer Roberts o Ganolfan Ymchwil DSDC. Maent yn siarad am anawsterau ac anfanteision ynysu Covid. Gallwch ddarganfod mwy yma.

Frannie's lockdown story (10 minutes)



Shirley's lockdown story  (5.5 minutes)

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These videos by Dementia Matters in Powys and their service users were shown:

DMiP Service User Review (8 minutes)



What we offer - DMiP Staff (4.5 minutes)


What people thought about the online Dementia Network

Comments about what people liked about the event included:

“Virtual friendship and enthusiasm of everyone.”

“I felt that people spoke very freely, despite or maybe because of the online setting.”

“Got a chance to exchange more ideas than we have at physical meetings.”


When asked about what to change for next time, more discussion group time was mentioned, along with having more people with dementia organising it. Most people felt that the length of the meeting was about right.



People discussed “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” of the Covid 19 crisis

Good

  • Many people enjoyed having more time for gardening, hobbies and spending time with family.
  • Technology was mentioned as a learning point and virtual meetings as a good way to keep in touch with family and friends. Many felt they had got to know people better through using virtual meetings.
  • People expressed pleasure in being at home, seeing more of partners and immediate family.
  • Some people who were working were happy about working at home and travelling less, feeling that less travel gave them more time to meet clients’ needs.
  • People working or volunteering for third sector organisations had seen a big increase in people volunteering, as well as in referrals.
  • People mentioned strong community spirit as a real benefit of the situation.
  • Getting outdoors, including gardening was enjoyed by many and felt to be good for wellbeing.
  • A few people mentioned learning new skills or doing online courses.
Bad – things which were difficult or frustrating, but bearable
  • Cancellation of planned trips or events.
  • Shielding, social distancing and unclear Covid rules.
  • Reduction of some statutory services and support, so there was not the same level of support coming into the home.
  • Trying to get supermarket delivery slots was frustrating for many, as was shopping in person for those with sensory impairment.
  • Being confined at home with several others was a frustration for some.
  • The lack of family visits or not seeing family was difficult, including those living in care homes or shielding.
  • Greater pressure on carers affected both those with older relatives to care for and parents looking after children. Many didn’t get any time off and found they were needing to take a lead where other services had been involved before.
  • Technology was less of a positive aspect where poor internet was involved, and affected both service users and some staff working from home. Some people struggled with confidence around using tablets, laptops or smartphones to access meetings.
  • Not being able to go to funerals upset some participants.
  • For some people, having to carry on working outside the home put them under a lot of pressure.
  • Service providers expressed sadness and frustration about clients they had not been able to connect with. They felt that for some services, you need face to face to be able to really understand the support that is needed.
Ugly - things that were very difficult to cope with
  • Lack of tolerance and people getting angry.
  • Lack of physical contact and hugs.
  • Fear of the unknown and future economic uncertainty.
  • Not being able to visit family and elderly parents.
  • Had toothache all lockdown and no services to go to.
  • Not being able to visit dying loved one.
  • Those living with dementia have suffered from lack of contact and their condition has deteriorated through lockdown.
  • Increased pressure on carers.
  • It was difficult to accept the isolation that some clients were facing.
The second discussion group was about things we would like to “Keep, Chuck or Change” as we move forward

Keep


People wanted to keep the increased use of technology for keeping in touch, the closer community spirit and support, the better work/ life balance and the networking between grass roots groups and services.

Chuck

  • The virus! We all hope for a vaccine.
  • Queues.
Change
  • Technology was felt to be very beneficial, but there needs to be more user friendly tech, more training and support for those who lack confidence, more emphasis on people being equipped for virtual meetings and better broadband coverage so rural communities don’t get left behind.
  • There was concern for people with dementia who also have sensory loss, and the need to develop more proactive ways of reaching out to them and supporting them.
  • The expansion of Dementia Friendly Communities across the county would help to raise awareness of dementia. People living with dementia may forget about social distancing or forget to wear masks.
  • There is a role for “crisis experts” to be employed to help people deal with sudden, traumatic and unexpected crises. In a crisis, it’s difficult to make sense of all the information and to know how to access support.
  • People felt that non-digital information such as leaflets, and mobile services such as Post Offices and Libraries were an important lifeline.
If you didn't attend this Dementia Network meeting and want to be included on the mailing list, please contact Sue Newham by emailing sue.newham@pavo.co.uk

Thanks to Dementia Matters in Powys for providing the technical support for the event and for liaising with members to get their input. DMiP staff have worked with PAVO to ensure that this event is relevant and informative for those living with dementia, their carers and organisations offering support. Diolch yn fawr.