Monday, 3 December 2018

Connected Generation project

Connected Generation project staff meet the Community Connectors

Zandra Pitt is the Project Officer for this new lottery-funded project - Connected Generation -  in which five organisations work together with people over 50 in Powys.

I met with her recently to find out more about how Age Cymru Powys, Citizens Advice Powys, Credu, Disability Powys and the Royal Voluntary Service are supporting people to build on their strengths and enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing.

How did your involvement start?

I have worked in a variety of roles over the years, in England and Wales, including women’s aid and homelessness charities, a children’s legal centre and various community advice services. I studied law as an older student.

I was the Advice Manager at Cardiff University Student Advice Service for nearly seven years and saw a major increase in mental health problems whilst I was there.

Where did your interest in the project stem from?

The fact that it involves five partner organisations, each bringing their own scope of what they can offer, attracted me. That, and the person-centred approach of the project, really interests me. The project will raise a lot of the challenges that people over 50 have but also the opportunities that are available to them.

Tell us more about the project and your role

The Connected Generation project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund People & Places programme for three years. Of the five partners, Credu (formerly Powys Carers) is the lead organisation. As Project Manager I am based with Credu, along with two Outreach Workers. Then we have two Outreach Workers with Age Cymru Powys, another two with Disability Powys, one Adviser with Citizens Advice Powys, and the Community Development Worker and assistant with the Royal Voluntary Service.

The project is committed to working with people with the aim(s) that they will:

  • Feel more connected to other people and less socially isolated. 
  • Feel more able to shape the services that impact on their lives and feel more listened to, valued and respected in their relationships with services that matter to them. 
  • Feel that information, advice and support is more coherent and enable them to make informed choices. 
My role involved pulling the project together initially. I look after the reporting and monitoring, and raise awareness working with all the partners,

Which organisations do what?

When people are referred to the project the Outreach Workers from the relevant organisation (Credu, Age Cymru Powys or Disability Powys) will aim to build trust and rapport and have a conversation about what matters to them most over time. The outcome is around what that person wants. The workers may have to pull in others rather than signposting or referring on. We operate an “any door” approach. There is no central hub. Rather than turn people away the individual partners will make internal referrals so that people are not put back on the merry-go-round, constantly trying to find the right route in for support.

If reducing isolation is an outcome, then we would look at who or what that person wants to be connected to appropriately.

The staff have received training in “Circles of Support” and “Effective Collaborative Communication”. It is about listening and having the conversation at what matters to someone at a given time.

The client may want to pursue other interests. For example, Credu runs carers’ groups, whilst Age Cymru Powys holds regular crafts and social groups.

We meet regularly with Clair Powell, the Senior Officer Community Connectors at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations. The Connectors refer clients in to the partner organisations for support.

Citizens Advice Powys has a caseworker dedicated to the project and can be pulled in by the outreach workers. She provides advice on a range of issues including benefits, debt, and housing.

The volunteer support element is led by the partner, the Royal Voluntary Service, whose community development worker recruits and trains volunteers to become companions.

Connected Generation get together

Who is the project for?

People in Powys who are 50 + who need support. We aim to create long-term self help and support to build personal resilience for the future. If they require more specialist support, say round their mental health, we will pull in another organisation/service.

What kind of difficult life challenges do older people experience in Powys?

There are many examples. Some of the most common include:

  • The cared for and the carer. 
  • Coping with illnesses. 
  • A need for information and advice in order to move forward. 
  • Wanting to carry on meeting up with friends once a week when there are rural transport and/or mobility issues. 
  • Maintaining own home. 
  • Physical and/or mental health issues (including clinical depression/bipolar disorder/dementia). 
  • Feeling lonely and isolated. 

How does it support people struggling with their mental health?

We will provide support but may also look at pre-existing networks to refer to other specialist support such as Ponthafren Association or the nearest Mind centre as appropriate.

How does the project make a practical difference?

"Many thanks for your kind help and the information you have provided, really useful. I’m going to call Llanidloes Home Support in my lunchtime and I am working from home tomorrow, so if she could visit then that would be great, I’ll stay in touch."

"Carer phoned outreach worker a few weeks later and expressed his thanks again for all the help, his stepson’s anxiety levels were much lower and this makes his caring role more manageable."

"Just speaking to the outreach worker and getting the information he needed, M felt that he had lifted a big weight from his shoulders."

"By this time they were both overwhelmed that someone had stepped in and offered them information and support – ‘No one’s ever done anything like this for us before'."

"Somehow we have been listened to and heard and helped."

"Thanks for the visit. It is time for me to reassess my work / life / caring balance, so your contact couldn't have come at a better time."

How is the project influencing policy and practice at a national level?

We want to influence local government, the health board, National Government and hear the voices of older people to make changes to policy and improve services. It is about enabling the individual and collective voices to be heard in the right place.

Some of the groups come together with other stakeholders to inform and give evidence to various inquiries and consultations.

We’re aiming to work in a coproductive way. I attend the Older People’s Partnership Board along with Gail Hamer, the Chief Officer at Age Cymru Powys. The project started in January 2018 and we are already reviewing how it goes and learning all the time.

At the same time the five partners are all continuing to feed into their national networks.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

As I am new to the area – getting to know it better, as I’ve not worked in Powys before. Developing essential networks and understanding the scope of the organisations and other services. Ensuring that we keep true to the people centred approach.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done on the project so far

Meeting an incredible group of committed people. Myself, I’m a step away from working with individuals, but I’m very aware of the work they do in the team. They are very supportive to people who have powerful stories to tell.

When you’re not working how do you enjoy spending your time?

I like art, socialising with family and friends, and walking. I recently completed a three-day course on stained glass, which was really good. 

Many thanks to Zandra for telling us all about this exciting new project. To find out more about the Connected Generation project contact Zandra Pitt by emailing or ring 07971 637 447.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Meeting the Farming Community Network in Powys

Mark Suthern, Chairman of the Farming Community Network

Earlier this autumn Freda Lacey (Senior Officer Health & Wellbeing team) and I joined the Farming Community Network for a Harvest Service of Thanksgiving and AGM at the Royal Welsh Showground near Builth Wells. This was the prelude to a 2-day national conference for the charity’s volunteers, staff and trustees.

Christopher Jones MBE founded FCN (then known as the Farming Crisis Network), in 1995. This followed two decades of falling farming prices in the 1980s and 90s, which led to a rise in the number of farmer suicides. Unfortunately, suicide cases in the farming community are still some of the highest recorded in the UK, and today the charity is increasingly called upon to support members of the farming community across England and Wales.

The PAVO mental health team first worked with David Williams, the FCN Regional Director for Wales, and himself a farmer in Monmouthshire, late last year. We hosted Ramble with a Big Cheese, a farming engagement activity in Powys, where we listened to people close to, or working within, the farming community to hear first-hand some of the current issues. Our aim is to make sure that people, not just farming families but support organisations, know where they can best access support and help around their mental health if they’re based in Powys.

Photo © Farming Community Network
Walking with farmers

FCN has a network of over 400 volunteers across England and Wales, many of whom are involved in farming, or have close links with agriculture, and therefore have a great understanding of the issues that farmers, farm workers and farming families regularly face. These volunteers provide free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help, regardless of whether the issue is personal or business-related. They will "walk with" anyone who seeks support and help them find a positive way through their problems - for as long as it is needed. Issues range from financial difficulties, animal disease, mental health and family disputes.

In addition to local groups of volunteers, FCN runs a confidential national helpline and an e-helpline, which is open every day of the year from 7am - 11pm (tel: 03000 111 999).

David welcomed us to the first FCN conference in Wales. He said, “We can live in our own bubble in the farming world and think that we are the only one with issues. But you will find that a lot of people are suffering and need the help that we supply.”

Dr Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales

The FCN has its roots in Christian theology and ethics. One of the Mid Wales volunteers, the Reverend Ifor Williams (“I used to milk cows”) led the harvest service, whilst Dr Christianne Glossop, the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, spoke about the importance of faith to agricultural and rural communities.

FCN Chair, Mark Suthern, described a “period of history repeating itself.” First there was the agricultural revolution, when pioneers set about farming for the first time following centuries of a hunter-gathering lifestyle. During the Industrial Revolution many farmers were displaced by machines and switched to factory work in rapidly expanding urban areas. More recently there has been a Green Revolution, with new pesticides impacting on agriculture. And now we are in a digital and agri-tech led revolution – another massive period of change for the farming community.

The farmer of today has to be a finance expert, a frustrated engineer, a soil scientist, a stockman, a vet and an environmentalist all rolled into one.

Mark asked, “how do we help those frightened by a period of change? We need to harness our strengths and support people through this.” He talked us through the current challenges for FCN, gave a summary of last year’s casework, and highlighted in more detail some of the problems presenting.

David Williams, FCN Regional Director for Wales, addresses AGM guests

Planning for the future

Two of FCN’s vital tasks for the coming year are:
  • To expand the helpline services.
  • Training people to have confidence to engage in those important conversations with farming families.
Mark concluded by saying: “it is about transferring our values and beliefs to listen to farming families and help them through this long transition period where there are opportunities but also challenges.”

Powys FCN Volunteer Coordinator Pat Borland speaks at the Harvest Service

Farming Community Network volunteers

It was an excellent opportunity for us at PAVO to meet and find out more about some of the work that FCN volunteers are doing to support farming families. Some volunteers, with experience of farming and their own mental health issues, now give talks to local farming groups to raise awareness and reduce the stigma.

Whilst at the AGM I also met Mid Wales Volunteer Coordinator Pat Borland, who will be writing a separate blog post about the work she does supporting volunteers across Powys. Earlier this year Owen Griffkin, (Mental Health Participation Officer) went to the Farming Community Network’s Powys volunteers’ event and met with the people who deal with enquiries from farmers in crisis in Powys.

Some of the enquiries the volunteers receive can be wellbeing related and they said it would be good to have more information about specialised services in the area. Owen worked on an information pack specifically for the volunteers, with a handy info sheet with lots of local organisations featured. The idea is that the volunteers can have it ready-to-hand when on a call with somebody, so that they can quickly find the right help. We also collated leaflets from all the local groups (such as Ponthafren Association and the Mind centres across Powys) to help the volunteers find out more details about each organisation and what services they offer. 

We handed over the completed packs at the FCN’s AGM so that the volunteers can start using them straight away. David Williams, Wales’ Regional Director of FCN said, ‘I am sure this will be a very useful tool for the Powys group.’

If you want to find out more about volunteering with FCN in Powys then contact David by emailing:

If you need support, then ring the helpline no: 03000 111 999 (7am – 11pm daily) or email:

Thursday, 15 November 2018

What is it???

The menopause and women's wellbeing

This week we feature a blog post by a new guest author from North Powys. The author writes about the impact of the menopause on women's daily lives.

The menopause is part of the natural ageing process for women. Commonly known as ‘the change.’

What is it? Not the physiological process, but …..what is it? Do we know? Women experience it in isolation, in silence and pretend to others around them that it is not even happening. Resulting in us all ‘going it alone’ and often thinking we are useless, incompetent, weak and always petrified someone will find out that we are not coping so well and on some days not coping at all!

So, why am I talking about this now? I am nearing the end of the process and watching other women around me going through it. All the signs are there to see - the mood swings, women being snappy, tearful or even displaying a strange vagueness when normally this is not the way they are. Then there is the loss of names of people or the names of everyday objects, general tiredness and the dreaded FLUSHES - like someone has lit a match inside you and the heat spreads and spreads until its unbearable!

And what do we do?…. we LIE!

We pretend we are OK.

We ignore it and in doing so, it becomes TABOO and not only is it hidden, we don’t support one another. Sometimes just to hear another women mentioning some silly thing that happened to them like -  “I couldn’t remember the word for hairbrush” - makes menopausal women feel better. Then they know this happens. Otherwise the silly thing becomes an enormous thing and women begin to think they have some type of dementia or a brain tumour or worse. You think I am being dramatic? I promise you I am not.

Grieving for your reproductive abilities, even if you never wanted children, or you didn’t want any more babies anyway!

And more...
  • Writing endless lists because we are petrified our memory will fail us at work. 
  • Dealing with all the physical things, like bleeding, sometimes for weeks, until finally your periods stop. Vaginal dryness, painful sex, hot flushes, brain fog, breast tenderness, lower sex drive, fatigue, feeling old and even urine leakage when coughing or sneezing. OH what it is to be a woman! 
  • Dealing with the sadness, a depression that seems to have no cause, even when everything else in your life seems just fine. 
I have cried a lot, and still do some days. I was lucky, I had very few physical symptoms, but my memory was shot to pieces! The doctor told me it would return and you know what? It is… returning, even though I still look at someone I have known for years and think: “OH no, I can’t remember their name.”

Every woman experiences the menopause differently. Some have a terrible time, while some appear to sail through it, but what we all have in common is the "secretness". I do not even know if that is a real word but it’s how I describe society making women feel - ashamed of a natural process and trying desperately to hide it and then...  inadvertently not enabling us to help other women understand that what is happening to them is perfectly NORMAL.

The menopause needs to be regarded as a normal part of life, like pregnancy is, not a taboo subject. Little conversations about the menopause could normalise and encourage understanding of the subject and make life at work (and home) so much better.

So, celebrate your womanhood, celebrate your strength, even celebrate ‘the change’. Tell people about it. Oh, they might get embarrassed but they will have learnt something new about wonderful, amazing women and, you never know, one woman might go home thinking “Thank goodness, I am not going insane.” And one man might leave the building – thinking…

.... and here I am hiding in plain sight ANON.

“It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed.” 

– Doe Zantamata

In 2017 The Wales TUC published its new report ‘The Menopause: a workplace issue’. The report, based on a survey of almost 4000 workers, found that 88% of women workers who've experienced the menopause felt it has an effect on working life, while around 6 in 10 had witnessed the issue being treated as a joke in the workplace. The survey also showed that only a very small number of workplaces have policies in place to support women who experience difficulties during the menopause.

If you need support around the menopause, check out the charity Women's Health Concern, which is the patient arm of the British Menopause Society.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Mental health & policing

Penny Price, Frank Bruno & Lisa Hale
by guest authors Penny Price & Lisa Hale 

Penny is the Service Manager for Adult Mental Health Services in South Powys. In late September 2018 she and Lisa Hale, manager of Felindre Ward, the inpatient mental health ward at Bronllys Hospital, attended the third national conference on mental health and policing in Cardiff. The annual conference is jointly organised by The National Police Chiefs' Council, The College of Policing, and The Association of Police & Crime Commissioners.

The theme this year was “demand-data-diversity” as these were felt to be the challenges that mental health services would face in the coming years.


It is recognised that the demand for policing services is on the increase rapidly where mental health is concerned. The police have raised concerns about responding to people experiencing a mental health crisis which could leave vulnerable people stigmatised and criminalised. They are attempting to ensure that the police services are not inappropriately and over-used as part of the wider mental health systems.


It is recognised that the day-to-day challenges of the police force are spent finding beds, places of safety and matters relating to patients AWOL (absent without leave) from inpatient services. The current IT systems are not built to harvest this information – they need to find ways of understanding the various kinds of demands being faced.


Those of us from diverse backgrounds are more likely to live with mental health problems because of issues relating to race, sexuality or other protected characteristics. Racial inequality in the application of the Mental Health Act (1983) was one of the main reasons the Prime Minister recommended changes to the Act itself. 

Highlights, day 1

Frank Bruno MBE

In 2003 Frank was diagnosed with bipolar. His well-documented profile put Frank in the public eye, and he used the media attention to help raise the standards of care and to reduce the stigma attached to those living with a mental illness.

In this Q&A session Frank spoke of his experience being detained under the MHA on 3 occasions. He believed the number of officers called to attend was excessive, and felt embarrassed when they turned up at his house with sirens blazing and neighbours’ curtains twitching.

Frank recalls the MHA assessment and feels that he was listened to more by the police than the doctors undertaking the assessment. Once detained and moved to the inpatient unit, Frank felt that he was not listened to and felt over-medicated on medication he felt he did not need. Frank felt that there was a need to improve communication by just spending time with people and talking.

Frank has now been free from all medication for the past 3 years and says that his only medication is attending the gym daily and having a steamer.

Mair Elliot

Mair is a 21 year old inspirational young woman from West Wales. She is a mental health and autism campaigner throughout Wales. Mair described herself as a young patient activist and spoke openly about her experience and the challenges of growing up as a child living with autism and mental illness.

Mair spoke of her disappointment with access to Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and found herself spending many nights in A&E in order to receive the support she and her family needed. On one occasion the police were called due to Mair experiencing a mental health crisis and they conveyed her to the local mental health hospital. Mair asked the police officers if she could stay in the police car rather than go on to the unit. Again, this was due to poor communication between staff and service users.

Neil Laybourn & Jonny Benjamin

Jonny Benjamin was a 20 year old man suffering with suicidal thoughts and poor mental health. He was admitted to a mental health unit and whilst there decided he was going to end his life the following day. Jonny asked to go outside for cigarette, left the hospital grounds and proceeded to Waterloo Bridge, where he sat on the edge contemplating jumping into the river.

Jonny's original #findmike flyer from 2014

Neil Laybourn – a passer-by on his way to work – noticed Jonny and stopped to talk to him. Neil spent 25 minutes talking to Jonny – reassuring him that life can get better. Neil asked Jonny to go for a coffee out of the cold and away from the bridge. Jonny agreed. However, as Jonny came from the bridge – the police attended with sirens blazing and Jonny was arrested, handcuffed and put in the back of the police car.

Jonny reports that the police contacted the inpatient unit and the staff on the unit were unaware that Jonny had been off the ward. He was returned to the unit – detained under MHA, and remained in the unit for the following 3 weeks.

6 years later – Jonny campaigned alongside Rethink the mental health charity to find the stranger on the bridge using the hashtag #findmike. Jonny had no idea who Mike was – it was just a name that came to him. The story went nationwide, with over 38 people coming forward claiming to be Mike, and saying that they had stopped someone from jumping off Waterloo Bridge in January 2008.

Since Jonny and Neil were reunited in 2014, they have campaigned together around suicide prevention and adverse mental health. Their campaign looks #beyondshamebeyondstigma.

Cambridgeshire first response crisis mental health service model

In Cambridgeshire people experiencing a mental health crisis can call NHS 111 Option 2 to seek support. This innovative model is totally reliant on strong and effective partnership, involving NHS services, the Third Sector (MIND) and the police. It is proven that this system reduces demand whilst aiming to provide the right care, at the right time, from the right agency.

The First Response Service in Cambridge provides assessment and support to people in mental health crisis out-of-hours. Working with existing teams, the team focuses on responding to urgent referrals from both the emergency services and NHS 111 Option 2. The team has clinical space based with GPs’ out-of-hours services to ensure co-ordination of care.

The dedicated phone line is staffed by a system-wide coordinator who triages the calls. 

Highlights, day 2: 

The value of joint working and early intervention – mental health emergency care

Yorkshire Ambulance Service has started a journey to make a difference in developing a quality approach for mental health patients. They are doing this by evaluating and measuring front line interventions that support mental health front-facing care.

A team of mental health nurses/practitioners is based in the ambulance crew control room where they triage emergencies. They class this as a single point of access. The mental health practitioner then follows up on the call and actions appropriately.

For example – a 25 year old woman contacted 999, requesting an ambulance due to experiencing suicidal thoughts. The call was triaged to the mental health practitioners who spoke to the woman and completed an initial assessment.

It became clear that there was no requirement for a blue light service as she was not in immediate danger. The mental health practitioner was able to gather information, give advice and have access to the person’s mental health notes. A taxi was then sent to collect the woman so that she was able to attend for assessment by the team.

This approach is successful in reducing unnecessary conveyance, avoidable 136 sections, and associated transport delays.

Improving care, reducing demand

Inspector Huw Griffiths, Mental Health Lead with Hampshire Constabulary, talked about the team he leads. This consists of three police officers who are embedded in the NHS mental health teams.

“Over policing is as bad as over caring, “ is a quote carried forward from the previous year’s conference. Nationally the police service is still seen as the default mental health emergency service in many areas and the first point of call for many people in crisis. Huw’s team has spent the past 5 years trying to change that, ensuring that through partnership working the police do not attempt to carry out the highly skilled role of another agency. This has led to locally to a 45% drop in police mental health deployments along with other areas of significant demand reduction.


We both found the conference an excellent learning opportunity. We were able to see the point of view from different services of what it is like dealing with mental health crisis. We heard the opinions of the police on mental health services and the impact dealing with crisis has on a workforce that is not equipped to deal with the complexity of cases. It was so interesting to listen to the personal accounts of their involvement with services during a crisis.

The service users’ and relatives’ accounts of their experiences were the most powerful, however. And, finally, the discussion forums we attended inspired us to look at our own service to see how we can make improvements.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

World Mental Health Day 2018 - students, young people & mental health

Earlier this month we celebrated World Mental Health Day on Wednesday 10 October. The World Federation for Mental Health is the driver behind this important awareness day.

The theme this year was “young people and mental health in a changing world.” So what better place to raise awareness about caring for the emotional health and wellbeing of young people than the two college bases in Powys – Newtown in the North, and Brecon in the South. We worked closely with colleagues at NPTC Group of Colleges, which is one of the largest Further Education providers in Wales, to run an information event at each campus.

Brecon High School pupils on a visit to the Brecon college campus

The day was a great success. Rather than write a long blog post, I am posting photographs and feedback from some of those who attended to capture a flavour of what happened on the day.

Julia Gorman (Ponthafren Association), Claire Powell (Community Connector),
Jen Hawkins (PAVO), Sarah Dale (Individual Rep), and a student from the Newtown college campus

Jen Hawkins, Health & Social Care Information Officer, PAVO

It’s good to talk, especially when it comes to mental health. Emojis and cake provided the perfect way to start conversations around mental health at Newtown College as part of PAVO’s World Mental Health Day event.

Cake was definitely an added advantage with lots of people initially attracted by free cake to start their day but it soon proved a perfect way to begin to talk about feelings.

An Emoji wall of fame provided a great backdrop for students and staff to identify how they were feeling in a supportive, open way. Before long the wall was soon covered with a colourful range of post it notes that covered a whole spectrum of emotions. It was great to read all the positive comments, where people were feeling great, happy and excited but poignant to have people share that they felt broken, numb and worried or anxious. This was a good opportunity to point people in the right direction of supportive services such as the college counsellor and third sector organisations like Ponthafren Association.

Comments were also received in Arabic and Spanish, which just goes to show that no matter what language we may speak it’s good to talk about mental health.

Claire Powell, Community Connector - Newtown, Llanfair Caereinion, Montgomery

I was surprised at how well some of the students were able to express how they felt using just one word and it gets you thinking - do they have enough opportunity to express their true feelings in a safe and supportive environment..?? I work with adults over the age of 18 but the event really opened my eyes to the daily challenges faced by younger students, and also how important it is for them to know where to go for support.

It was fantastic to hear that so many students are already volunteering and are looking for more opportunities to do this to give back to the community. 

Lisa Harding & Debbie Rees, Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services

Lisa Harding, Team Leader North Powys, and Debbie Rees, Support Worker - Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

We felt the day was fantastic in relation to networking with other agencies, putting faces to names! So that we can communicate on a regular basis.

It was great to make contact with the young people of north Powys from the age of 16+. What we felt went well was the connection with the lecturers asking questions about the young people they support day-to-day in relation to their mental health, offering advice and support.

One of our service users came to see us while there, to say ‘thank you’ for all the help and support from CAMHS.

The day was positive and productive in nature.

Hazel Osborne, College Counselling Service, Newtown campus

Hazel Osborne, College Counselling Service, NPTC Newtown

It was great to see a presence of many local mental health services at this event.

Our students very much enjoyed the cake and engaged with the mood board. It felt an important chance to continue developing a normalisation of accessing these sorts of services and an opportunity for us to further deepen the students’ awareness of the counselling and support services available on site.

Danielle Lewis & Neil Rees, Detached Youth Work team, Powys County Council

Rosemary Denham, Student Services Manager, NPTC Group of Colleges

The day was really positive for our students. PAVO had invited the professional organisations, and our own Health and Social Care students decided to be involved as well. Having these young people taking part meant that it was easier for other students to engage in the event and speak with the outside organisations without feeling embarrassed. It was a very good mix.

Spin-offs included:
  • The Newtown Health & Social Care students gave an on-the-spot donation to Ponthafren – this was money that had been proffered for the lovely cakes which they had provided themselves and were giving away at no cost.
  • Our Enterprise Officer is running a project near to Christmas and the funds raised there will be given to a mental health charity.
  • Our college subject tutors had the opportunity to network with professionals working in the mental health field, and arrangements have been made for talks to be given by the organisations to specific student groups in the coming weeks. 
  • Our college counsellors were also able to discuss their work and referral pathways to outside agencies. 
  • Our student welfare staff re-established a working relationship with the Powys Teaching Health Board C-card organisers and ensured a renewed supply of condoms.
Sophie Jones, PCSO, Brecon Neighbourhood Policing team

Emojiis on a blank wall prompted students to comment on their feelings – 62% said they were happy, 8% were hungry – and 32% expressed negative emotions (including being stressed, anxious, tired, paranoid, depressed, worried) – this highlighted the need for the college to do all we can to help with mental health awareness.

PAVO offered the opportunity to work with our Health and Social Care students on volunteering, and also mentioned the possibility of a work placement in Llandrindod Wells.

I was invited to feed back on the day to Louisa Kerr from Powys Teaching Health Board, Vanessa Young from the NHS Confederation, PAVO and staff from mental health services in Mid Wales .It was a great opportunity to reinforce the need for improved mental health services for young people.

Thanks again to PAVO, I also attended the NHS Wales/Powys Teaching Health Board workshop in Builth Wells to contribute to the Powys Sexual Health Improvement Plan about services available / needed for our young people.

Louisa Kerr (PTHB), Vanessa Young (Welsh Confederation), Owen Griffkin (PAVO), Rosemary Denham (NPTC Group), Melanie Davies (PTHB), Lucy Taylor (PAVO), Jolene Duggan (PTHB)

Gateway/Foundation students at Brecon College
  • Good information given.
  • Excellent day.
  • Seeking awareness for students with mental health issues.
  • Excellent advice on the stalls.
  • Good advice given.
  • Fun.
  • Interesting.
  • Helpful advice.
  • Fun activities.
  • Informative.

Kemal Keeble from Rekindle chatting to some of the students in Newtown

Kemal Keeble, Recovery Practitioner, Small Steps Project, Rekindle

It was really great to be a part of the World Mental Health Day at NPTC. It opened the door to many conversations about "what positive mental health means to many of the students" and insight into the work we carry out at Rekindle's The Small Steps Project. It was lovely to see so many young people getting involved and gaining a greater understanding about what services are available to them within the community they study and live in.

Suzanne Fairclough (R) and colleague from Sexual Health Services, Powys Teaching Health Board

Suzy Fairclough, Development Officer for Sexual Health & Support to Perinatal Mental Health, Powys Teaching Health Board

It was a pleasure to attend World Mental Health Day on the 10th October with information boards on Sexual Health Services and to have the opportunity to speak and hand out information to the young people on this subject and explain how Sexual Health links in with mental health, health and wellbeing. 

Abby Sims & Lorna Jones, Mid Powys Mind

Lorna Jones, Youth Worker, Mid Powys Mind

It was a good day with great networking and a privilege to meet young people who wish to make a difference with the outlook and positive attitude toward mental health. 

Lucy Taylor, Senior Officer Children & Young People, PAVO

Thank you to all the students and organisations that joined PAVO in making our World Mental Health Day celebrations with NPTC Colleges in Brecon and Newtown a success. It was so good to see everyone chatting about wellbeing, mental health and just how they were feeling that day. Our Emoji walls captured an image of "How are you feeling today?" 

We would be really pleased to know how you felt the day went and whether you would like to partner with PAVO on future events/ collaborative working? Comment in the box below, or contact us by emailing or ringing 01597 822191.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Self-harm research project - SHARE UK - can you help?

by guest author Amanda Marchant

I'm Amanda, a PhD student and research assistant at Swansea University. I run the SHARE UK webpage, Facebook and Twitter accounts. I also work on other research projects looking at childhood and adolescent mental health, self-harm and suicide prevention. As a team we want our research to help improve mental health support. 

Reports out in the summer suggest that 1 in 4 fourteen year old girls and 1 in 10 boys have harmed themselves in the past year. Self-harm is very common but research suggests that up to half of young people who self-harm don’t receive help from anyone. 

We want this to change and for this we need your help! SHARE UK is a ground breaking study looking to learn more about self-harm from people who have experienced it themselves. We want to make a real change but we need you to help us learn about what would make a difference to you. This could be better support in hospitals, schools, anti-bullying policies, help online or maybe even some new ideas! 

The study can be completed all online and you can tell us as much or as little as you like. If you have any ideas or comments or if you would like to write for our blog then we’d love to hear from you too at

The UK's first self-harm research register – over 200 people strong so far! 

The most important part of any research with self-harm is real people. We can’t make change without you to tell us about your experience. We have created a register that gives everyone the chance to sign up to hear more about future research and studies that they might like to take part in. People can sign up online and we hope that this will give everyone a voice in research.

We have had over 200 people sign up already and this is amazing! Research is an important part of the push for services, government spending and how support is organised. If as many people as possible take part then we can make this push for change even stronger.

What you guys say

We’ve had some amazing feedback and ideas from you guys especially from our feedback survey where you get to write pretty much whatever you like! Here are some of our highlights:

‘There needs to be more work on the barriers to finding help for self-harm. Things could change to help people engage with services.’

‘There needs to be more community based mental health education classes. This could improve social skills, confidence and give people a chance to support one another.’

‘There needs to be more support for new mums.’

‘The topic of self-harm is very important to me and to so many people. Thank you so much for working in this field!’

The good? Not so good? Dark or not? Role of the internet

World Suicide Prevention Day brought about a lot of debate about the press and the internet and the way we talk about suicide, self-harm and mental health. Creators of content online can reach so many people and have an important role in starting conversations and reducing stigma. This doesn’t always happen though and there have been several high profile cases of online bullying, predators and other dangers conjuring images of a dark and precarious online world.

We want to know more about what you think. What’s good and what’s bad? This can help to make guidance for bloggers, internet service providers and anyone who makes content online for how best to talk about suicide, self-harm and mental health in a sensitive way.

By learning more about how people use the NHS we can help to make it better. Every time we use the health service data happens. This can be from a seeing a GP to visiting A&E or staying in hospital. This data has been anonymised and secured to be used for research.

Here at SHARE UK we want to take this even further. We are giving people the option of linking the information from the SHARE UK site to anonymised healthcare data. All the information is separated from personal details so even our researchers cannot identify anyone. The possibilities for research from this anonymised data are huge and it means that we can give extra meaning to the information collected from the NHS. This could help us make a real impact on healthcare.

To learn more we have created a Pinboard style dashboard where you can add anything you have viewed online to our media databank. Anything you upload will only be seen by you and our research team and you can add comments about sites or groups if you want to. We use this databank to look at things like quality, images and potential for harm or for support.   

Want to know more? 

We need your help to make a real difference. Your story can help make sure that in the future no one has to face self-harm alone. 

If you are aged 16 or over and would like to learn more or sign up visit or email 

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Introducing SilverCloud – online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Becka Williams, Project Manager, SilverCloud CBT
Last month I was pleased to accept an invitation to attend a Mental Health Partnership Board meeting at our Llandrindod offices, as it gave me the chance to find out more about the new online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy offering in Powys. It is called SilverCloud

Becka Williams, the Project Manager overseeing roll out of this new service across the county, gave us some background, an update on project progress and outlined plans for future development.

It was an interesting session to learn more about the new service, as individual representatives attend this quarterly partnership meeting. The reps are people who either have used, or care for somebody who has used, mental health services in Powys. Their role is to make sure user/carer voice is included in the planning of services, and here they were able to voice some immediate thoughts about online CBT.

Joy Garfitt, Assistant Director of Mental Health Services for Powys Teaching Health Board, began by explaining that CBT is a therapy that can help us think differently, particularly if we have unhelpful thoughts.


Some regular readers may remember that we wrote about an earlier provision of online CBT in Powys, which was called Beating the Blues. This 3 year pilot scheme was spearheaded by a European funded project called Mastermind, but unfortunately engagement with this model was not brilliant. Out of 543 referrals to Beating the Blues, only 100 people completed the full course. Many disengaged with the process and some did not even start after being referred. Mastermind’s key aim, however, was to implement online therapies in rural areas across Europe, rather than to monitor the effectiveness of the actual CBT programme. But the project was invaluable in that many lessons were taken from this early work to help inform a new improved provision of online CBT in Powys.

In fact, many benefits of online CBT were identified directly as a result of the Mastermind scheme:

  • Online CBT provides care closer to home – anytime, anywhere. 
  • It reduces the number of unnecessary appointments. 
  • It gives almost immediate access to therapy for people. 
  • It reduces the travel time of people using services, carers and healthcare professionals. 
  • It supports Prudent Healthcare – an approach at the heart of A Healthier Wales, the Welsh Government's long-term plan for health and care. 
The Welsh Government is now providing funding to continue and upscale online CBT not just in Powys but across the length and breadth of Wales. Powys Teaching Health Board is leading on the roll-out of SilverCloud across the country, starting with Powys. The aim is to:
  • Increase options available to people experiencing mild / moderate anxiety and / or depression. 
  • Reduce waiting lists / times by improving quicker access to therapies. 
  • Improve equality of access to mental health care across both urban and rural areas.

Project progress 

SilverCloud online CBT went live in Powys on 1 May 2018. There are now 8 programmes available, including Space from Anxiety & Depression, Space from Stress and Space from Chronic Pain. Since the launch about 300 people have been referred to the programme, which can be accessed on smartphones and tablets as well as computers. Referrers can be GPs, Occupational Therapists, staff in the Community Mental Health, Local Primary Care and Long Term Conditions teams. In future people will be able to refer themselves onto the programme.

At this point in the meeting the individual reps began asking questions about managing risk. What happens if someone is considering self-harming? If it’s midnight? If someone is extremely lonely and this is all they have been offered to deal with their depression or anxiety? Joy described the online CBT as “adding another tool in the box for people”. It might not be right for those wanting face-to-face talking therapy, but others may prefer to do it privately. It is not aimed at people experiencing severe and enduring mental health issues. If someone has complex needs they will be referred to a different service. They may still access SilverCloud CBT but as an additional therapy to enhance what is already being done by mental health practitioners working to provide care in primary (via GP services) and secondary (via Community Mental Health) teams.

From day one when people register on SilverCloud, they have access to all the programmes for 12 months. Staff closely monitor their engagement with the platform for 3 months, but people can provide feedback for the whole period. Risk alerts are set in place, so that if anyone expresses an intention to self-harm they are contacted straight away and referred to a health care professional as appropriate. The service is monitored between 9am – 5pm during the week, but details of support / help out-of-hours are provided. Online CBT is not designed as an emergency response service.

People can write in journals as part of the programme, and choose to share (or not) the content with the online CBT co-ordinator. Some online content, such as the Mindfulness videos, can be downloaded onto a computer for future use. If access to an online device is not available people can use computers with privacy screens at their local libraries and further options will be available at Job Centres ultimately. Regular online reviews take place with the co-ordinator, and phone conversations are also possible. The whole process is confidential unless policies around safeguarding issues and / or criminal intent are set in motion.

Future development

Work is currently underway to further develop some of the strands of the online CBT, including:

  • A combination of online CBT and face-to-face counselling, known as ‘blended’ counselling. The health board will be working with third sector organisations to provide additional support to some people using SilverCloud CBT. 
  • The self-referral model for those who do not see their GP or access any other help. This will be the first time in Powys that open access is given to such a service and should be available in the New Year. 
Whilst Welsh translation of relevant forms and help pages has already taken place, the platform as a whole now needs to be translated. The design and roll-out of an All-Wales SilverCloud online CBT platform is then the key next step.

And, importantly, Becka is very keen to receive feedback from people who have used SilverCloud CBT, to help inform future development of the online provision in Powys and further afield.

If you have used SilverCloud online CBT and would like to let us know what you think, you can email us at Alternatively contact Becka Williams directly at

And what are your thoughts on online CBT generally? Let us know in the comments box below.

Feedback about SilverCloud CBT 

I found SilverCloud very easy to use and was surprised at how well developed and researched the platform was. 

I have found SilverCloud hugely useful in teaching me ways to improve my mental health and managing stressful situations. I am excited to continue using the skills I’ve learnt. 

I have been feeling more positive since taking part in this programme. I have been able to do simple things like taking the bus and going for a walk alone a lot more easily than about a month ago.