Monday, 16 December 2013

Powys Mental Health Alliance: AGM and Winter Open Day 2013

At the end of November Powys Mental Health Alliance held its Annual General Meeting and Winter Open Day at the Commodore Hotel in Llandrindod Wells. In July I had travelled down to Brecon for the PMHA Summer Open Day to find out how the organisation was doing and this seemed like the ideal opportunity to catch up with activities.

Trustees Bill Fawcett and John Steadman
I was greeted in the hotel foyer by trustee John Steadman from Ystradgynlais alongside a roaring open fire. Days before there had been a christening at the venue and the decorations were still in place – it all looked very cheerful with bunting and colourful paper lanterns.

The meeting kicked off with the formal AGM business. Chairman Bryan Douglas-Matthews welcomed all and we were straight into the Directors’ Report for the previous year followed by the finances. Two new trustees were elected to the Board on the day. Louise Evans is a member of Ponthafren Association in North Powys. She has enjoyed taking part in a variety of activities for the past couple of years, and is now keen to take on this new responsibility with PMHA. Bob Short is an adult learning tutor from Newbridge-on-Wye who is also involved with several voluntary groups.

Louise Evans and Bob Short - new trustees
Next up was – Jane Cooke, DIY Futures Project Manager – to speak about the book – “it’s the inside that matters.” It features thirteen stories from people who came into contact with the DIY service since it started in 2009, alongside artwork described as visual poetry. People have responded very favourably to the book so far, as it is promoted with the aim of helping to reduce stigma around mental distress, with groups from Aberystwyth, Ystradgynlais and Llanfair Caereinion expressing interest.

Jane Cooke, DIY Futures Project Manager, and contributor Adam Payne
Free copies of the book are available to organisations and groups which will set up an event which uses the book to start some discussion around stigma. “That could have been my story,” was the refrain I heard again and again as people chatted enthusiastically about the book.

Magazine editor Carla Rosenthal is currently working on the third issue of Headspace, which is due out in early 2014 – the deadline for submitting articles, letters, poems or artwork is 20 December. She said that PMHA is hoping to produce a book of poetry if funds can be sourced – “a huge amount of people love to send poems for the magazine.” There will also be a new poetry page on the website soon.

The art workshop
Workshops followed, with the option of art with Terri Sweeney, bead-making with Christine Brooks, and poetry with Carla. Then we enjoyed a delicious hot lunch, and a chance to catch up with friends and fellow members.

The afternoon session started with speaker Penny Nicholson, who volunteers with the bereavement counselling charity Cruse – “somewhere to turn when someone dies.” Penny said that 10 – 15% of mental health issues are the result of unresolved grief. “I cannot take your grief away. It is a question of learning to manage it.” She compared it to learning to walk with a broken leg – so that you don’t have a limp for the rest of your life. “It is a process of growth. You will flower eventually as a result of the pain and anguish and the pride of the relationship is still there.”

Penny Nicholson, on volunteering with Cruse
The talk was brought to life by Penny’s reference to her own personal experience of bereavement, as she was widowed unexpectedly at a young age with two young children to care for. “I was cut in half and bleeding from one side.” Penny described driving her MGB car with the hood down and screaming as she drove down the A3. This made her feel a lot better – “but Cruse would have been a softer and cheaper option!”

There are about 30 Cruse volunteers providing counselling across the length and breadth of Powys. People self-refer, and others are referred by social services. The sessions are weekly for the first three weeks, then fortnightly, and then once a month. The longest Penny has supported someone is just over a year – it depends on the age of the person and their personality. All in all it was a really interesting talk, with insights into the Cruse service, the nature of grief and how healing takes place.

Diane Millbury & Penny Nicholson
The day was rounded off with a contrasting but equally valuable session – Diane Millbury spoke briefly about the natural healing therapies and techniques which she practices before encouraging us to participate in a relaxing meditation session ourselves. Diane explained that she used to work for the health service, but that the medical model of the NHS did not suit her ethos in life. She learnt instead about meditation techniques which help people find their true potential by taking a holistic approach.

Once we were all chilled out from the meditation, Diane asked us to stand. “If you’re feeling sad (or happy) move your body and it helps.” So we finished with two exercises, The Palm Tree and The Lion. One thing I can guarantee – you can’t help smiling as you turn into a lion… my final photograph of the day sums it up really!

Let us know what you thought it you were there – and if you have suggestions for future activities I’m sure all at PMHA would appreciate feedback too!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

National Mental Health Partnership Board update

In early November Freda updated us in her post Citizen Power, Active Participation about the process for selecting representatives for the National Mental Health Partnership Board – along with details of the National Forum for Service Users & Carers and the local groups that feed into this board, and representation on those.

As stated on the Welsh Government website, the National Mental Health Partnership Board (NPB) will “oversee the delivery and implementation of Together for Mental Health – A Strategy for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Wales and its Delivery Plan; guiding and monitoring progress, and facilitating co-ordination of the cross-cutting approach required across Welsh Government, Statutory agencies, the Third and Independent Sectors.”

Together for Mental Health is the Welsh Government 10 year strategy for improving the lives of people using mental health services, their carers and their families.
 At the Shaping Services Together conference, which took place on 19 September in Llandrindod Wells, we were introduced to several members of the NPB, see photo below.

We have now received further updates from David Crepaz-Keay, Mental Health National Forum for Service Users & Carers and Sian Richards, Strategy Lead, Mental Health & Vulnerable Groups Division, Welsh Government. 

Let’s start with David:

“Back in the spring the Wales Alliance for Mental Health was asked by 

Welsh Government to oversee the process to identify two service users and two carers to become members of the National Mental Health Partnership Board (NPB) in time for the December meeting. I’m proud to report that we have achieved this.

Junaid Iqbal, Jane Treharne-Davies, Carina Edwards and Rhydian Parry have become members of the NPB; we also have a team of skilled deputies to support them in these roles and to step onto the board when needed. Alan Meudell, Julie Murray, Tracy Elliott and Steve Hails have been selected deputies. All eight people will become members of the Forum and met the other Forum members at the Forum meeting in Swansea (in late November).

The eight people were chosen following an open recruitment process by a panel of Forum members following interviews (in mid November). The process has been a long and challenging one and has only been made possible by the hard work of a few and the good will and support of many.

We now have Forum members from Betsi Cadwaladr, Hywel Dda, Cardiff and Vale, Powys and ABMU. We have also completed selection of the ten national members of the Forum, but this will be revisited once all Local Partnership Board service user and carer members are in place as we already have a number of vacancies.”

And over to Sian:

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the roles that you have played in establishing service user and carer arrangements for the National Mental Health Partnership Board.

The importance of strong service user and carer engagement at both an individual care level and strategically in the planning and monitoring of services is one of the underpinning goals of Together for Mental Health. The need for a national forum bringing together service users and carers who are active across Wales and the establishment of an open and transparent mechanism to appoint service users and carers on to the new National Partnership Board were clear recommendations from last year’s service user conferences. Earlier in the year Welsh Government asked the Wales Alliance for Mental Health to co-ordinate the process to respond to these requirements. David took on the lead role and has done absolutely sterling work to get us to a position this week where the recruitment process is now complete for the Partnership Board and we had over 40 people from across Wales attending our National Forum meeting in late November.

Every one of you has had a key role in this process and I would very much like to thank you for the energy and enthusiasm that you have shown in helping us to deliver this, and for the time commitment that you have been prepared to put in to it, often at short notice and on top of many other demands.

I think that we are now in a very exciting place in terms of the development of this approach in Wales and it would not have happened without your input.

Many, many thanks and I look forward to meeting with many of you over the coming months.”

Rhydian Parry, one of four people recruited from across Wales to the NPB, is from Powys, as is one of the reserves, Steve Hails. Congratulations to them!

5 of the 9 representatives from Powys attended the first Powys Mental Health Planning and Development partnership as new members of the group on December 5th 2013. 

Over to Freda:

“Wow, what a week it's been! I was really in awe yesterday as we sat around the table at the first Powys Local Partnership Board meeting where we had individuals in contact with services around the table. Laura and I were speaking afterwards and we felt it was the best Local Partnership Board meeting we'd attended. The atmosphere and energy in the room was very different, it really felt like we were coming together, management were listening and your contribution was really valued.”

We’ll keep you updated about how the National Mental Health Partnership Board and National Forum for Service Users & Carers are going. Meanwhile, if you have any questions just get in touch with us or leave a comment below. You can email

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Dementia Champions

I recently attended the Dyfed-Powys Police Confidence & Equality Group which met to raise awareness of dementia. I was there not only representing the PAVO Mental Health team but also because of my interest in learning more about dementia. The meeting was also attended by a wide range of representatives which included Powys County Council Equalities, Disability Powys, Powys Teaching Health Board, Mid & West Wales Fire Service, Youth Services, neighbourhood Policing Teams from each of the areas of Powys and Police Chaplaincy.

Multi agency Dementia Awareness Day
For many people with dementia the battle is not just about getting diagnosed and support from the health and social care system, but about everyday things we all take for granted. The majority of those living with dementia live within their own community and are cared for by their families. I have a particular interest in all that is dementia as a close family member suffers with this progressive atrocity, so for me it was interesting and captivating to listen and learn from the three guest speakers.

The meeting was chaired by Inspector Brian Jones who introduced the three speakers. The first was Rhiannon Davies, an Alzheimer’s Society volunteer and chair of Brecon & Hay Dementia Support which represents a growing group of people who are working towards developing Hay and Brecon to become a dementia Friendship Community. This would mean a community that demonstrates a high level of public awareness around dementia.
Rhiannon asked the question: What are the issues and why do we need this?

For people with dementia the problem is not just about diagnosis and help from The Alzheimer’s Society. It is about the everyday needs that we all take for granted, for example, spending time with family and friends or following hobbies. It means people can have their confidence maintained allowing them to live in their community and be able to manage their everyday lives. In Powys there are currently 2000 people diagnosed with dementia; with an aging population this will rise to 3000 within the next eight years. It is a growing issue.

The majority of people live within the community and are cared for by their families, with many of those families reluctant to share what they are facing because of the stigma. It became very clear that just going to the bank or visiting the shops can be a battle. It can lead to loneliness and is compounded by the geography that is Powys. Rhiannon spoke with passion when she told us that these people genuinely need our help, that these people deserve to be valued, respected and very importantly we can all learn from each other.

There have been several initiatives that have started up recently such as The Hay Day project and the Dementia Supportive Community in Brecon which Laura wrote about here. but there is a lot more that needs to be done. A grass roots project is needed within communities with the voluntary and public sector organisations all working together with shared aims to enable people with dementia and their carers to live well. This initiative would raise the profile of dementia in statutory and voluntary organisations appropriate to the needs of the people working in services.

Rhiannon spoke about Dementia friends and champions, a pilot scheme that would be initiated across Wales. There was an opportunity to sign up to this initiative after the meeting with the aim of working together to raise dementia awareness as Dementia Champions. It was hoped that the way forward would be good housing, good transport, good facilities and social inclusion.

The second guest speaker, Cherry Jones, had been a carer for her mother until she had been moved into a residential home. Cherry spoke about her experience of dementia whilst supporting and caring for her mother. She shared her experience of the impact of dementia, through the media of her storybook, on herself, on her family and friends. This was very emotive, powerful and informative; from the issues of inappropriate chats between her mother and young people, her mother’s vulnerability issues from visiting adhoc door to door salesman, driving hazards, losing possessions ……a minefield of confusion. The concerns for her mother were very real:

"What will happen to me?  I want to be an ordinary woman."

Someone in the audience responded: “They are robbed of this part of their life so it is up to us to help them to live as well and as fully as possible …….for as long as possible”.

The third guest speaker was Jean Nowell, an Alzheimer’s Society support worker from the Brecon area. She was keen to work to promote the Dementia Friendship Society. Dementia affects people in different ways and essentially leads to cognitive impairment and she explained the various diseases that came under the umbrella of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society currently has a five year strategy “delivering on dementia” to provide maximum benefit to people through national and local services. This links in with dementia support in the community.

There is a national helpline: 0845 300 0336, a monthly magazine here and an online community forum, details here.
  • A series of memory walks have been taking place, all raising money to provide vital support to people living with dementia and to help research a cure for the future. 
  • A befriending service has been introduced. 
  • Information and practical help initiative (e.g. lasting Power of Attorney, respite options, relevant agencies to contact).
  • Singing for the brain (structured singing groups that have a positive impact for those with dementia). 
  • Dementia Cafes in a supportive environment, keeping all active and involved.
  • Jean spoke about the fears, anxieties and effects on the carer, the 24/7 toll, you can read more in her presentation here
A question and answer session ensued and it was clear that there are a number of occasions where the police are called upon to assist those living with dementia and their family members such as when a person is reported missing and there is concern for their safety. I certainly felt that having an increased awareness would mean that a more integrated approach could be taken to support those requiring assistance and which would ultimately enhance the confidence that members of communities across Powys have in the partnership work.

It was very encouraging to see the thirty four attendees all signed up to be ‘Dementia Champions’ and encouraging to learn that this is only the second group to have done so in Wales. All of us will now be doing something different to support those living with dementia.

The ultimate goal: a world without dementia

Featured in the photo at the top of the post:
L to R: back row: Inspector Brian Jones, Partnership Inspector & Chair of Confidence & Equality Group, Neil Evans – Community Safety Manager Mid & West Wales Fire Service, Police Constable Paul Dyer – Llandrindod Wells Neighbourhood Policing Team, Police Sergeant Craig Morgan - Brecknockshire Neighbourhood Policing Team, Harold Proctor – Performance Mental Health Manager - Powys teaching Health Board (Dementia Lead), Leigh Spicer - Dyfed Powys Police Chaplain.
middle row: Rob Beardall – Powys County Council Equality Officer, Sheelagh Hughes – Disability Powys, Cherry Jones - Dementia Carer, Rhiannon Davies - Alzheimers Society Volunteer & Chair of Brecon & Hay Dementia Support Community Steering group, Jean Nowell - Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Support WorkerBecky Jones – Community Psychiatric Nurse, Older Adults, Powys Teaching Health Board, Police Community Support Officer  Graham Jennings – Newtown Neighbourhood Policing Team.
front rowsSue Cox – Powys Youth Services, Sharon Sharmon – Service Manager Adult Mental Health, Powys teaching Health Board, Jan Rogers - Ponthafren Association (member and trustee), PCSO Sally-Ann Neville – Welshpool Neighbourhood Policing Team.