Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Powys Dementia Network Day - housing

by Jen Hawkins & Jackie Newey
Health & Wellbeing / Mental Health Information Officers

On Wednesday 20 February we attended the latest Powys Dementia Network event at the Elim Church in Brecon. It was organised by our colleague Sue Newham, Engagement Officer in the team, and attended by a huge variety of organisations and individuals. These included Community Psychiatric Nurses from the Brecon Community Mental Health team, the Macular Society, Mid & West Wales Fire Service and Care & Repair Powys to name but a few.

We will try to capture some of the spirit and information from the day below, but if you would like to find out more and / or attend future events then please get in touch - further details at the end of the post. The last Network event was also captured for the blog in Powys Dementia Network event Spring 2018.

Overview - Heather Wenban, Dementia Lead Nurse, Powys Teaching Health Board

Heather emphasized the importance of continuing to raise the profile of dementia as we have been doing. It is high on the Welsh Government agenda with increasing numbers of people living with dementia as the population ages. She reminded us of the 6 pledges in the Powys Dementia Plan, and also highlighted the significance of working collaboratively with Powys County Council and the Third Sector to achieve the best possible outcomes for people living with dementia.

There have already been many achievements in Powys, including the introduction of the Butterfly Scheme on hospital wards, a rolling programme of dementia awareness training for health board and care home staff, and specialised RITA (Reminiscence Interactive Therapies and Activities) training too.

Heather noted the huge focus on housing in the new Welsh Government Dementia Action Plan for Wales. She is keen to share best practice with colleagues and work towards the goal of ensuring people can live well at home for as long as possible.

Making our communities and housing dementia friendly - Steve Huxton from the office of the Older People’s Commissioner

Steve began by addressing the discrimination and stereotyping that many older people living in Wales face on a daily basis. He said that older people need to feel valued and respected, to lead healthy active lives, to have their voices heard and be acknowledged as “experts by experience” in building communities for the future.

He is pleased to see the rise of dementia friendly communities in Wales, which can make transformative changes for people living with dementia, but recognised that there is a spin-off for communities which become better for all of us as a result.

Whether housing is provided by housing associations, the local authority or Third Sector organisations it is key that important questions are addressed such as - can people access transport, socialise with friends or enjoy green spaces? Steve believed that no one sector can do all that is required - it is important to look at innovative but practical solutions to meet the needs of the over 55,000 people who will be living with dementia in Wales in just the next two years. 

Housing is critical in all aspects of our lives - and creating warm, safe and accessible housing that allows people to live independently for longer reduces the impacts on stretched public sector services as well as improving individuals’ lives. It’s essential to recognise the importance of housing as more than just accomodation, it’s where our days begin and end, where each daily journey starts, it’s the heart of our world that allows us to live the lives we want to lead. We need to move away from theoretical practice and implement something that can make a big difference to people’s lives, creating a Wales that everyone is happy to grow old in.

Understanding housing support needs - Terry Flynn, Powys County Council

Terry is both a team leader for the council’s housing strategy and also a pensioner! After acknowledging the changing demographics of Powys whereby younger people move away for work and education whilst retirees choose to settle here in later years, Terry focused on two specific areas of his work: the bricks and mortar, and housing support needs.

The old sheltered housing model of the 60s and 70s is not fit for purpose in this day and age. Council and housing association stock is being reviewed and refurbished where appropriate to suit the needs of today’s aging population. He was shocked to discover that 30% of accommodation originally designated for older people was no longer suitable, for example, not accessible.

Terry went on to describe a new approach called Extra Care. Working with the health board and housing associations in Powys some of the care homes are being replaced by a different kind of provision. An example of this is Llys Glan Yr Afon in Newtown. Here people can live independently in their own homes but be reassured that extra help and support is available throughout the year. Similar projects are being developed in Ystradgynlais, Welshpool and eventually Brecon.

Terry championed the “unsung service” of Housing Support Needs, who in conjunction with voluntary sector agencies work for one purpose - to ensure people can live independently in their own homes, “to make sure they are on an even keel.”

Sharing information & networking during the day
Approaching dementia differently - Sam Bolam, CEO Dementia Matters in Powys, with Frances Isaacs and Gill Garner

Sam asked us all to think if there is a different way of doing things when working to improve the lives of people living with dementia. “We need to have a beginner’s mind and look at how we can constantly improve and change what we’re doing. It is time for a dementia revolution.”‘When we pause, allow a gap and breathe deeply, we can experience instant refreshment. Suddenly, we slow down, and there's the world,’ Pema Chodron

Sam highlighted the need for change in how we approach supporting people with dementia. It’s not acceptable to just adopt a technical approach, but to recognise and adopt a person centered approach, changing from ‘what matters,’ to ‘you matter.’’ Considering person centered approaches like colour coded tarmac to support people in their daily journeys to and from their homes. Sam showed some stereotypical images of people with dementia and challenged the preconceived view held by many, she called for a dementia revolution, looking at supporting the whole human. 

There followed a conversation between Frances (who lives with dementia) and Gill (who cared for her father who lived with dementia) about some of the difficulties they have and do face and strategies they have used. Frances described, very entertainingly, how she once found herself in a broom cupboard instead of a toilet, and her “Psycho” experience when trying to extricate herself from a steamy shower. But, she said, “there is a life I had never imagined between diagnosis and before I go down the pan.” She went on to describe some of her most rewarding experiences as a volunteer with Dementia Matters in Powys, her love of the open air, and the fun times at Brecon’s Meeting Centre. Frances also impressed upon us that “it is important that you do the things that you love, that are you.”

Information sessions

Alzheimers’ Society’s New Deal on dementia 2017 - 22, and it’s new service model, Dementia Connect - Kerry Phelps

Kerry Phelps introduced the Alzheimers Society as the leading support charity for people with Alzheimers. As an organisation they’re increasing their reach irrespective of circumstances and engaging as many as 1000 people in their consultation processes. She introduced their new service ’Dementia Connect,’ a staged transitional process with five different tiers.

Dementia Connect was trialled in the Pennines, then Birmingham and is now being rolled out in Wales as an early adopter model. The programme followers a befriending model with a dementia support worker assigned to support people with their dementia journey from diagnosis, through to end of life. In Powys Anne Clark is the point of reference for South Powys, whilst Alvine Stewart has been newly appointed as the point of reference for North Powys, both posts offer 28 hours of support a week and are currently based in Talgarth.

The first point of access to the new service is by telephone call to a professional support hub, staffed by trained dementia workers, where each caller has the option to talk to a Welsh speaking support worker should they require it. Most people are able to access support and receive the support and help they need with triage and generalised support. However 70% of people whose queries cannot be dealt with there and then are escalated to the next level of tier 2 support.

Tier 2 support workers offer one to one support in the home with commissioned care plans. After the Tier 2 support has finished a KIT, ‘Keeping In Touch,’ support worker will proactively be in contact six months after the cessation of support to monitor progress and assess whether further support is required. This tiering of service is designed to prevent ‘slippage,’ of people falling through the net and not accessing the support they need.

Access to the service is possible via several pathways. The online referral portal is popular with 90% of current referrals from HSC professionals. Side by Side is a similar model to the Befriending model with the capacity to refer people to the service. Dementia Connect is slowly building momentum in Wales with 30 callers since January to the Welsh speaking support line. There is a wealth of information online with 100 factsheets on the website that anyone can easily access Publications and Factsheets Another useful service provided as part of Dementia Connect is an online talking point forum, lead by people with dementia and their carers, putting people at the heart of the service and helping people to truly connect, sharing support through lived experience, Talking Point - Online Community

Sue Newham, Engagement Officer - PAVO, with Frances Isaacs who spoke about living with dementia

Ambitions in later life

Gill Garner & Frances Isaacs facilitated this workshop looking at practical solutions for people living with dementia.

Finding out about new activities in local areas for people living with dementia - Jenny Hall / PAVO

Watch out for a separate blog post about this recent research project.

Q & A session

The afternoon session gave everybody attending the conference the chance to share their views and opinions about the network and how we shape and develop it moving forward. Sitting in a circle gave a real sense of coming together, connecting and sharing, rather than a “contribute from the floor, more formal feedback” session. The session began by asking what is the purpose of the network? How do we drive it forward? How do people have their needs met and what do we focus on next?

The consensus of opinion was that the service users are our priority and as such they should be more proactively involved in the network, giving us the insight and opportunity to take more purposeful action on specific services. It was suggested that a pre-meeting consultation could be held with a dementia steering group to determine what our focus should be. There was also a felt need to forge stronger, valuable links with other groups working towards a common goal such as the Alzheimer’s Focus on Dementia groups.

To actively engage people with dementia and to be led by their needs and requirements was commonly felt to the best way forward, considering how we actively engage communities, focussing on tangible issues that make a real difference on a daily basis. Recognising that we all need a plan for aging, asking ‘Are you OK? Can I help,’ are questions that can make a real difference to people’s lives.

Trish Buchan, trustee for Powys Teaching Health Board, summarised the day by saying that ‘Today is a giant step, we have moved forward and come a long way. PAVO’s Engagement Officer Sue Newham agreed and added, ‘big picture thinking starts with lots and lots of steps to get there,’ Lets see what else we can do to make a real difference to people’s lives and change what Frances Isaacs, an attendee living with dementia, calls ‘pyschobabble,’ to productive babble.

To sign up to the Powys Dementia Network and find out about future Awareness Days then please contact Sue Newham, Engagement Officer at PAVO, by emailing sue.newham@pavo.org.uk or ringing 01597 822191.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Perinatal Mental Health Services in Powys

Sophia Bird was, until recently, a Principal Health Promotion Specialist at Powys Public Health. Before she moved on to her new role, she updated us about the work of the Perinatal Mental Health Services in Powys. Sophia was also previously on the Powys Perinatal Mental Health Steering Group.

Colleagues from different sectors across Powys who sit on the Powys perinatal mental health steering group have one shared goal: to ensure that all new parents and their families receive the right care, by the right practitioners and at the right time, irrespective of where they live in Powys.

It is estimated that between 10 and 20% of women will experience poor mental health during pregnancy (antenatally) or after the birth (postnatally) and men can suffer from poor mental health during this time too. After all a new baby means many changes for parents and it can take a while to get comfortable with this new role.

The parent-infant relationship is the key relationship for the infant during the early years and helps shape healthy brain development and patterns for future social and emotional relationships. This developing relationship starts during pregnancy, so it is really important that the parent is well and able to support and nurture their infant. A parent’s poor mental health may affect their relationship with their infant and if there are difficulties in this relationship it can result in a less-securely attached infant because babies need parents to respond sensitively and consistently to their needs. If a parent is not well enough to provide this then there can be longer term effects on the infant.

Over the past few years a number of people from statutory and third sector services have been working to develop services in Powys that support women experiencing poor mental health during pregnancy and after the birth. The steering group has representation from midwifery, health visiting, primary and secondary mental health services, third sector and service users and this partnership has been working to improve the support received by women and their families during this special time.

So the steering group has been keen to ensure that Powys services are set up to provide as much support as possible to new parents and their families. Since 2015, midwives and health visitors have been able to refer any women identified with moderate to severe mental health concerns directly to adult mental health services, and alongside this can offer structured ‘listening visits’ which have been proven to be helpful for those with mild to moderate mental health concerns.

In addition, the nursery nurse service can also provide some practical support, alongside community-based services such as Action for Children, Mind's Mums Matter groups, Bump to Buggy walks and Sblash a Sbri - water-based parent and infant sessions.

So, if a pregnant woman, new parent or family member is concerned about their mental health, what should they do?

The best thing they can do is to talk to their health service provider – their midwife or health visitor in most cases. They will be able to support the family, and can refer and suggest other services that can also help.

More generally, the points below are general top tips from Health Visitors:
  • Babies are born ready to relate, to build relationships and seek companionship.
  • Skin to skin contact helps to build relationships.
  • Good relationships help baby’s brain develop well.
  • Babies know their parent’s voice(s) and find it comforting, so talk and sing to your baby.
  • Engaging with your baby by talking, touching, looking at your baby helps to build your bond with your baby.
  • Looking and gazing at your baby’s face helps your baby’s brain to develop well as well as building your relationship.
  • Mirroring your baby’s expression and tone can help baby feel understood and manage their feelings.
  • Babies communicate using expressions, tone, and body language. When you watch your baby you learn to understand them better.
  • When your baby cries, think about what the crying may mean. Touch and comfort can soothe your baby.
  • Try putting yourself in your baby’s shoes, babies need their parent to help learn to manage their emotions. Give them a loving, timely response.
  • What your baby experiences, what they hear, feel and see, will shape their brain development, personalities and experiences of relationships and the world, so show them your love.
  • How a mother/ father feels may impact on their baby – so their needs are really important too, they need support.
  • Happy parents = happy baby.
  • Breastfeeding is best for your baby, but however you feed, try to respond to your baby’s feeding cues and hold them close when feeding.
  • Offering your baby lots of opportunity to explore and play will support their physical, social and emotional learning and development. Tummy-time is great for this when they are little.
  • Providing a loving, calm and consistent home life will help your baby regulate and feel secure.
For further information about Perinatal Mental Health Services in Powys contact Suzy Fairclough, tel: 
1597 828711 or email: perinatalMH@wales.nhs.uk

Monday, 25 February 2019

Celf o Gwmpas – Reaching Out, Drawing In

Maud & Pauline beneath a display of their artwork
Last week I attended the opening of this truly inspiring exhibition at Centre Celf in Llandrindod Wells. We originally wrote about one of the art organisation’s workshops for people living with dementia in Looking at me – an arts and dementia initiative - in 2017 in the early days of the project. 

This exhibition – "Reaching Out, Drawing In" - is the result of all the many workshops that have taken place over the past two years, for people living with dementia and learning disabled adults. 

Anne Evans is the chair of Celf o Gwmpas, and she told us more about the show:

In 2017 Celf o Gwmpas received funding from the Arwain LEADER programme for an ambitious project piloting new ways of delivering arts workshops to adults with a learning disability and people living with dementia and their carers.

We partnered this with funding from the Arts Council of Wales to run four residencies for artists with disabilities; two engagement residencies bringing to Powys highly regarded artists such as Helen Ivory and Ira Lightman, and a ground-breaking digital residency linking, in real time, with Canadian learning-disabled artist Scott Berry and participants with learning disabilities here.

We have run 174 workshop sessions, with an average attendance of 7 per workshop, and provided around 1218 places with this funding. It’s phenomenal really. Participants have experienced a huge range of art forms, developed skills in making and have taken up opportunities to explore aspects of their own lives through art. 

Artist Jane Mason worked with learning disabled adults in Tile Tales

The creativity really is amazing. We’ve had print making, puppet-making, film and animation, tile making, mosaics, watercolour painting, sewing and quilting, linocuts, multi-media personal mapping, poetry, instrument making and creative bird box construction. 

The Tile Tales ceramics workshops followed the story of tile making and explored ancient and modern decorative techniques to create two dimensional and relief designs out of clay.

In Dreamlands and Landscapes learning disabled adults worked with Vagabondi Puppets to explore their fears and dreams with puppeteer and sculptress Jo Munton using different techniques and materials.

Ruth Hogg, Project Coordinator, playing drums made from recycled materials
Some of the women in this wonderful project looked at what they were wearing when they were 25 years old in Fashion Memories: When we were 25. Artists Jane Titley and Annie Levy worked with people living with dementia to create quilted pieces using patterns and costumes which I remember from my childhood. The quality and creativity is excellent.

People may be living with dementia or as a learning-disabled adult, but that does not stop them from being artistic, creative and having skills that really should be shown which tells us about who they are. 

In the mosaic workshops participants worked with artist Terri Sweeney
Celf o Gwmpas is at the forefront of arts and health work in Powys, based on a 21 year history of working with socially excluded people and mentoring artists living with physical and learning disabilities, mental health difficulties and other ‘outsider’ experiences. 

We do a lot of work on very small amounts of money, and there are very few staff. This year we are starting up a membership scheme, so you can pay a small amount of money per month to support the work Celf o Gwmpas does such as offering arts activities like these.

You can continue to enjoy the exhibition until 4 April 2019 but gallery opening times are variable so please ring for details on 01597 822777 or email: centrecelf@celfogwmpas.org

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Mwy na Geiriau ac y Cynnig Rhagweithiol / More than just Words and the Active Offer

Helo sumai! Gwern dwi, y Swyddog Datblygu’r Iaith Gymraeg newydd yma’n PAVO. Un o fy nyletswyddau yw cefnogi’r iaith Gymraeg o fewn y drydydd sector a thu hwnt ym Mhowys. Rwyf am ffocysu ar ambell i faes, yn cynnwys Iechyd Meddwl.

Ehangwch ar eich rôl

Byddaf yn gobeithio cyflwyno’r Cynnig Rhagweithiol fel strategaeth i geisio cynyddu defnydd y iaith Gymraeg o fewn y setctor.

Beth yw’r Cynnig Rhagweithiol?

Mae’r Cynnig Rhagweithiol yn un o egwyddorion allweddol ‘Mwy na Geiriau…’ sydd yn fframwaith strategol ar gyfer iechyd, gwasanaethau cymdeithasol a gofal cymdeithasol a gyhoeddwyd gan Llywodraeth Cymru er mwyn cefnogi gwasanaethau Cymraeg yn y meysydd hyn.

Sut allith hyn fod yn fuddiol i ddefnyddwyr gwasanaeth iechyd meddwl ym Mhowys?

Wrth drafod materion personol gall defnyddwyr gwasanaeth iechyd meddwl deimlo’n fregus wrth drafod y materion hyn yn eu hail iaith. Dylent allu derbyn gwasanaeth yn eu mamiaith heb orfod gofyn amdano, ac mae’r cynnig rhagweithiol yn galluogi hyn.

Ydy’r Cynnig Rhagweithiol yn hanfodol?

Mae rhaid i fudiadau ar draws y drydydd sector a thu hwnt cydymffurfio â gofynion cyfreithiol a statudol Mesur y Gymraeg (Cymru) 2011 sydd yn ffocysu ar sefydlu hawliau, creu safonau a sicrhau y gall siaradwyr Cymraeg dderbyn gwasanaethau yng Nghymraeg.

Sut byddwch yn gweithio gyda mudiadau i hybu defnydd yr iaith Gymraeg?

Byddaf yn cyflenwi mudiadau yn y drydydd sector gyda gwybodaeth, hyfforddiant a chefnogi unrhyw angen arall ynglŷn â’r iaith Gymraeg. Gwelaf newid agwedd tuag at yr iaith Gymraeg fel blaenoriaeth, felly rwyf yn gobeithio ymwneud â’r mudiadau ar lefel personol fel bod fy angerdd at yr iaith a’r diwylliant yn gallu dylanwadu arnynt i ystyried bod cynyddu defnydd a pharch tuag at yr iaith yn gallu gwneud byd o wahaniaeth.

Beth ydych chi’n mwynhau gwneud tra boch chi ddim yn PAVO?

Tu hwnt i PAVO, fy mhrif ddiddordeb yw cerddoriaeth! Rwyf mewn band gyda fy mrodyr ac rydym yn gigio’n aml. Ein henw yw Casset ac rydym yn canu’n Gymraeg fel arfer ac rwyf yn dilyn y sîn roc Gymraeg. Dwi hefyd yn gweithredu systemau sain, creu celf pan dwi’n gallu ac rwyf yn weddol hyderus yn fy sgiliau coginio.

Ac yn olaf...

Does dim dwywaith amdani fod gennai lot o waith i wneud ond cam dros y trothwy yw hanner y daith ac rwyf yn gobeithio creu newid go iawn yma ym Mhowys!

Os hofffwch ddarganfod mwy am y cynnig rhagweithiol, cysylltwch a Gwern trwy email: gwern.apgwyn@pavo.org.uk neu ffoniwch 01597 822191.

Helo sumai! I’m Gwern, the new Welsh Language Development Officer here at PAVO. One of my responsibilities is to support the Welsh Language throughout the third sector and beyond in Powys. I shall be focusing on a number of areas within the sector including Mental Health.

Tell us more about your role

I’m hoping to introduce the Active Offer as a strategy to try and increase the use of the Welsh Language within the sector.

What is the Active Offer?

The Active Offer is one of the key principles of ‘More than just words...’, a strategic framework designed for health, social services and social care that was issued by the Welsh Government to support Welsh services in these fields.

Why could this be beneficial to people using mental health services in Powys?

Mental health service users might feel vulnerable whilst discussing personal matters in their second language. They should be able to receive services in their mother tongue without having to ask, and the active offer enables this.

Is the Active Offer essential?

Organisations across the third sector and beyond have a responsibility to comply with legal and statutory requirements of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 that focuses on creating standards and rights being established that will ensure Welsh speakers can receive services in Welsh.

How will you be working with organisations to increase use of the Welsh language?

I shall be supplying third sector organisations with information, training and any other need they have regarding the Welsh language. I believe that changing attitude towards the Welsh language is a priority and so I hope to engage with these organisations on a personal level so that my passion for the language and the culture can inspire them to think more about how increased use and respect for the language can go a long way.

What do you like to do when you’re not working at PAVO?

Outside of work, my main interest is music! I’m in a band with my two brothers and we gig regularly. We’re called Casset and we sing mainly in Welsh and I’m an avid follower of the Welsh music scene.

I also operate sound systems, delve into art as much as I can and I’m quite confident in my culinary skills.

And finally...

No two ways about it, I’ve got my work cut out for me, but every journey begins with a single step and I hope to make some real changes here in Powys!

If you would like to find out more about the Active Offer then do get in touch with Gwern by emailing: gwern.apgwyn@pavo.org.uk or ring 01597 822191.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Supporting families – Brecon & District Mind

Jessica Cocozza-Clack is the new Family Support Worker for Brecon & District Mind.

I chatted to her this week to find out more about her role, which grew out of the popular Mums Matter programme.

Tell us about your role at Brecon & District Mind

I work in and around Brecon offering support to pregnant mums and mums with children that need a little bit of extra support. My role was initially developed to work alongside the Brecon and District Mind Mums Matter Programme, an amazing 8 week course for mums with mild to moderate worries, anxieties and post-natal depression.

As my role has developed, I now provide one on one support for mums that have attended the programme/are attending the programme. I also get referrals from the midwifery team, the health visiting team and the community mental health team for those mums that are experiencing poor perinatal mental health and just need extra support.

What brought you to this role?

My background is in women’s human rights and more recently I worked as a palliative care nurse. I am very passionate about communication and feel that if we all had a chance to say how we feel a bit more, in a safe and non-judgmental environment, we would all be a little happier. There is an increased acknowledgement about the equal importance of addressing mental health issues alongside physical health issues. I value the opportunity to do a job that reflects that growing understanding of how important our mental health is.

What geographic area do you cover and where are you based? 

I am based in Brecon but can travel a bit further afield such as areas around Hay-on-Wye, Talgarth, Crickhowell and Sennybridge. I make home visits but also meet with mums at the Brecon and District Wellbeing Centre on Free Street in Brecon (behind Morrisons).

Can mums self-refer and if so how?

Absolutely! If mums come across my name and they need extra help, they can contact me for support via the Brecon and District Mind office. So far all my referrals have been from the midwifery team, the health visiting team, the community mental health team, from my colleagues at Mind and from the Mums Matter Programme, but I would welcome self-referrals.

Tell us more about the new group and how it was set up

We run a fortnightly support group at the Job Centre in Brecon. 

Some of the mums on the first Mums Matter course came up with the idea of having a mum and baby group with a focus on support. Both as a social meetup but also as a way of bridging the support gap once the mums had finished the course. After some amazing fundraising by the mums, ‘For Mums By Mums’ started in November 2018.

We now meet every two weeks between 10am – 12noon, normally on Tuesdays, in a lovely warm room at the Job Centre. It is for all mums, including expectant mums with babies and toddlers up to 2 years. It is an opportunity to get together with other mums for peer support, tea/coffee, chit chat and cake!

Following dates booked in are:

Tue 5th February, Tue 19th February, Mon 4th March, Tue 19th March, Tue 2nd April. 

What kind of things are mums struggling with? 

As I see mums antenatally as well as postnatally there are all sorts of things mums struggle with. Pregnancy is a major life event and as lovely as it can be, it can also be a difficult time. It can bring up past traumas from previous births, or past life traumas that haven’t been dealt with. Mums with young children can struggle with feeling isolated, managing societal expectations, juggling work and everyday life. Transition to parenthood can prove to be a big learning curve with no manual.

If mums did not receive the support you offer what might happen to them?

Sessions with me are really an opportunity for mums to offload and release stress or pressure, and also to help them find out what issues really matter to them. In identifying what matters, I am also then able to signpost to the relevant agency/organisation. Without accessing this extra support mums could be left feeling increased isolation, increased anxiety or worry, and also not be able to find out about practical solutions to problems.

Is there any support for dads?

During the mums matter programme there is a supporter session for dads and they have requested a programme for themselves. Debs the facilitator is now working in partnership with the local heath board to explore the options of co-producing a tailored programme with dads.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

It would be nice to have a magic wand and make people’s problems go away! Unfortunately, I don’t have one and sometimes it is hard to not be able to fix things. That said, it is amazing how an hour to offload can help people feel more positive and help people identify what issues are causing them problems and how to move forwards.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done in your role so far

It has been lovely to support mums as they have gone through Mums Matter. It has also been wonderful to help work through past issues that have been affecting mums, seeing them work through it and come out the other side. I like the opportunity I have to work with other agencies and organisations. I find it rewarding being part of a stronger, wider net that can stop people from falling through the gaps. So, if you work with mums that you think could do with some extra support please get in touch with us at Brecon and District Mind.

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

I spend time with my family, love music, I enjoy walking and probably bake and eat too much cake!

Many thanks to Jessica for telling us all about her new role. To find out more about her work contact Jessica by emailing jessica@breconmind.org.uk or ringing 07535 385 512.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Rural stress – working together to support the agri sector in Powys

PAVO brings together people representing agricultural and mental health sector organisations across Powys
“It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to do something that you hadn’t done, because if we don’t do those things, we never grow.”  The DPJ Foundation

On Tuesday I attended a packed first meeting of what looks like a new PAVO network. It was organised by my Engagement colleague Sue Newham, and facilitated by Freda Lacey (Senior Officer Health & Wellbeing PAVO) to look at how organisations can better work together to address the worsening issue of mental health distress and stigma in the agricultural community in Powys.

Men in particular, but also women working in this sector, such as farmers and vets, are vulnerable to high levels of stress due to many factors beyond their control including the weather, isolation, animal disease, farm succession, and, even as I write, who knows what future Brexit holds….?

In our team we had been conscious of the issues for some time, alerted by our colleagues in the health board that this community was not so readily accessing mental health services as other people in Powys. However, after recognising some of the barriers in reaching out to this community ourselves (as detailed in Farming and mental health: the challenge) we realised that it was essential to collaborate closely with other key groups for us to make any kind of impact.

The BIG issue we identified at Tuesday’s meeting

Men working in the agri sector in Powys are still reluctant to ask for help when they need it. There could be hundreds of support services available, but if help is never sought it will make absolutely no difference to that person. The real challenge is encouraging men that “it’s OK to say” – as recognised by a Farmers’ Union of Wales event at the Royal Welsh Show in 2017.

Share the load

Emma Picton Jones lost her husband Daniel when he chose to end his life in 2016 after struggling with mental health issues. She subsequently set up The DPJ Foundation to support the agri sector in Pembrokeshire, and attended Tuesday’s meeting with her fellow trustee Sophie Adams. 

After a successful first year providing free counselling sessions and training for the sector in south-west Wales, the charity is now extending into Powys. 18 volunteers staff the telephone / text helpline. New Powys counsellors have been recruited who can provide the first counselling session within a week at a mutually convenient location in Welsh or English.

If you, or someone you know, would like to talk to someone confidentially then call 0800 587 4262 or text 07860 048 799. The helpline service is available 24/7. 

Man to man

Tracy Lewis, a farmer who also works for Mid Powys Mind in Radnorshire, told us about a new initiative the organisation is piloting to encourage men to talk to and support each other. It is aimed at all men, but she is visiting markets in the area and encouraging farmers to “take the Pledge with a friend”. 

As part of the Pledge the men agree that if they are struggling they will tell their friend that they need help, particularly if they are feeling suicidal, and contact support services. Friends also pledge to listen to each other without judgment, to ask directly if they think they may be suicidal, and support each other to seek appropriate help.

Tracy Lewis of Mid Powys Mind with Owen Griffkin, Participation Officer Mental Health - PAVO

Numerous other organisations attended on the day, bringing massive expertise and experience into this new network. They included Age Cymru Powys, Brecon & District Mind, Care & Repair Powys, Dementia Matters in Powys, the Farming Community Network, the Farmers’ Union of Wales, the National Union of Farmers, Ponthafren Association, Powys Teaching Health Board, and the local Young Farmers’ Clubs. Two PAVO trustees with extensive experience in the field - Trish Buchan and Ian Charlesworth, joined them.

Many of these organisations already provide support services for people in the agricultural sector struggling with stress or low mood. The challenge now is to work collaboratively to provide the best possible support to those that need it.

Some of the challenges & proposed approaches

These points / questions were raised during the meeting:
  • Do we focus on normalising mental health issues with young people now in college so that in twenty years they will be better equipped to deal with what life throws at them, or, support those in their 40s and 50s who are struggling now? Or both? 
  • It is no one person’s job to help support people working in the agri sector. We need to tap into the whole community – we all have contact with farmers. (I do. My cat goes on holiday to a cattery – a diversification scheme - on a farm). 
  • Mental Health First Aid training, tailored specifically for the agri sector, is key. Vets, feed merchants, market staff, farmers’ union staff, the list goes on… The DPJ Foundation provides this training and raises awareness about how to spot the first signs of mental health struggles and what support is available. 
  • Powys Teaching Health Board is looking at a more integrated approach, so that people can seek support about both their physical and mental health issues at the same time. In Pembrokeshire The DPJ Foundation will be trialling a mobile unit which will go to markets, shows and even farms. A blood pressure check, a bit of an all-round physical MOT, and a chat. 
  • Ambassadors in the community who can speak about their own experiences can be very powerful in sowing the seed – that “it’s OK to say” and support is available. The DPJ Foundation invested a huge amount of time giving talks in the early days and people would ring for help – some several months later. 
  • Clarity around what support third parties can give (families, friends and neighbours) is needed. So often it is down to the individual to make that first contact (or not) which leaves others feeling helpless and hopeless. 
  • Sustainability is also key: 20 years ago following the Foot & Mouth crisis a number of initiatives were set up such as the Rural Stress Helpline, but ultimately they ended as funding ceased. We need to try, together, to embed support within the community not just in short-term services. 
This post is just a brief summary of a much wider and deeper discussion about the current situation and fuller notes will be available to anyone interested in joining this network. You can find out more by contacting Sue Newham, tel: 01597 822191 or email mentalhealth@pavo.org.uk

The next meeting of this network (which has yet to have a name!) will be in May after the lambing season.

The Mid Powys Mind Pledge sign-up 
For me the key message I took away from this valuable session was that we all, as Powys people, need to work on raising awareness, and normalising asking for help, amongst the agricultural community.

“It’s OK to say”. 

We would be very interested to know your thoughts – please comment below or contact us in the Health & Wellbeing team at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Welsh Ambulance Service on mental health - Keep Talking

This New Year we start by promoting the theme that talking is vital when our mental health is low and particularly when we feel things are heading out of control and into crisis. Sometimes we forget that staff working in the emergency services, and intervening to help people in the middle of a crisis, may well be struggling with their own mental health issues. 

Here at PAVO Mental Health we honestly believe that any of us, not just 1 in 4 of us, could potentially struggle with mental health issues at any point in our lives. But that aside, we agree with everything else Steve tells us, and are particularly keen to share an extremely powerful film. It features WAST colleagues speaking out about their own mental health struggles, and explaining what really helped them, when life's challenges began to feel too overwhelming. Over to Steve at WAST:

I’m Steve Clarke and I’m Head of Mental Health for the Welsh Ambulance Service. I joined the Welsh Ambulance Service in April 2018, having previously held positions in London mental health trusts, and in mental health charities, and I was previously Deputy Director of Mental Health for England. 

Steve Clarke, Head of Mental Health, WAST
As Head of Mental Health for the Welsh Ambulance Service, my role entails the delivery of the Mental Health Improvement Plan for the Welsh Ambulance Service, which has three broad areas: 
  1. The mental wellbeing of our staff. 
  2. Our mental health practice. 
  3. Our mental health pathways. 
This involves ensuring that our staff have access to the right treatment and the right care at the right time, ensuring that they are equipped to deal with people that have mental health problems in whatever environment they are working in, and to make sure that we work in concert with our partners in the health boards to make sure that we’ve got referral routes-on for people so we don’t just convey them to an Emergency Department. 

Since joining WAST I have been working to raise awareness of mental health problems within our workforce, and in particular to highlight the importance of talking about our mental health as an important step in de-stigmatising the subject. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives, and many of the people we work with every day will be experiencing mental illness, crisis and distress. However, some of us find it difficult to talk about our own experiences, for fear of being judged or that our employment will somehow be affected. 

Our staff made this film to try and break through some of these challenges. Talking frankly about their own experiences, people from across the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) wanted to let others know that talking to someone really helps, that support is available and your colleagues, managers and families will support you. You can view our film below – please share it, encourage others to watch it, and above all listen....

Steve's piece was originally published in the Winter 2018/19 edition of Network News, the Welsh Ambulance Service's Patient Engagement & Community Involvement team newsletter.

Read more about mental health and the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust in a post by Isobel Jones, who works for the WAST Patient Engagement & Community Involvement team.