Thursday, 4 December 2014

Powys Mental Health Alliance Winter Open Day 2014

It's that time of year again already! The mental health charity - Powys Mental Health Alliance - holds two open days each year, one in spring/summer (you can see my colleague Freda joining in the Stretch and Smile session in May here), and another each winter. Last week I went along to the Royal British Legion in Llandrindod Wells to find out more about the group's latest activities and also listened to invited speakers on subjects as diverse as mental health research and dog-sitting.

Chair of the organisation, Bryan Douglas-Matthews, and trustee Debra Douglas-Matthews,
check out the latest edition of Headspace magazine with editor Carla Rosenthal.
The Open Day was well attended with individuals travelling from far and wide across the county, including Ystradgynlais in the South and Llanfair Caereinion to the North. Many organisations had stands on the day as it's a great way to share information about their activities - more details about some of those who came along at the end of the post.

The first business of the day was the charity's annual AGM, where members have the opportunity to sign off the annual report and accounts. The trustees are also voted in at this point for the coming year.

Current trustees of the organisation L-R: Christine Field, Bill Fawcett, Debra Douglas-Matthews,
Bryan Douglas-Matthews, John Steadman. Not pictured: Kelvin Mills, Robert Short.

First speaker of the day was Jenna Markham of the National Centre for Mental Health, a research organisation based in Cardiff and backed by Welsh Government, the NHS and Cardiff University. 

Jenna spoke about 
the current research programme which NCMH is running, and invited anyone who is interested to contact her to find out more.

This particular research
 "is working to find out more about mental health conditions so that we can make diagnosis, treatment and support better in the future." Jenna explained that the research started in 2011, and has a target of 6000 participants. So far 3000 people, aged from 4 - 96, have taken part across Wales.
NCMH is interviewing people both with and without a mental health diagnosis, as a control group is required. She said that the process was very informal, and also offered the opportunity to discuss how effective people thought any medication they were taking was, and if they received benefits from other therapies or approaches to their mental health problems.

After the serious matter of mental health research, it was time for some light relief in the form of Michele Hart's Stretch and Smile exercise session.This has proved extremely popular at previous Open Days, and this time was no different! 

Others took the opportunity for some gentle relaxation with Holistic Therapist Liz Gannon from Welshpool, who offered neck, shoulder and head massage and reiki sessions on the day.

Stretch & Smile, with Liz Gannon providing a neck
massage in the background
Liz told me that the benefits of massage included: 
  • Relief from pain, stress and tension, and the release of endorphins - the body's feel good hormones.
  • Increased energy levels and feelings of vitality.
  • A general sense of health and well-being.

A mask-making workshop, with former PMHA trustee Diane Hart, tempted others to put their creative skills to good use during the coffee break. Diane has created designs for a variety of animal masks which can easily be adapted - she showed us her lion, wolf and owl. They look gorgeous!

Diane holds regular Harts & Crafts workshops at Ponthafren Association's Welshpool base - you can find out more here.

Next up to speak was a regular supporter of PMHA - this year's Powys High Sheriff Phil Bowen. Phil has enjoyed an extremely busy year so far - the following week he was due to support the Lord Lieutenant at Princess Anne's visit to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Builth Wells. In his role Phil has provided huge support to a variety of mental health organisations and activities since April, including opening the new Wellness and Recovery Learning Centre at Bronllys Hospital and introducing new drama activities for mental health patients on Felindre Ward at the same hospital.

The Open Day then welcomed Julia Roberts of Dementia Friends, an initiative of the Alzheimer's Society. Julia, who works in a shop in Knighton and is also busy as a school governor, recently took part in a Dementia Friendly Information Session, and became a Dementia Friend.

The Knighton Dementia Friendly Community held its first steering group meeting last week and Julia hopes that the initiative will prove as successful as that already underway in Brecon.

Julia had taken away many messages from her Dementia Friendly session, including that it is possible to live well with dementia, and that there is always more to a person than their dementia.

She said that she hoped to help make a community in Knighton where "I can feel safe, loved and valued if I develop dementia."

And then to Barking Mad. Local organiser Steve Gibbon was unable to attend the Open Day, but, luckily for us, Headspace Editor Carla Rosenthal had two moving doggy tales to tell.... Last summer Carla sadly lost her own much-loved dog and felt very miserable as a result. Whilst writing an article on Bob the Dog for the magazine she realised how depressed she was because she didn't have a dog any more, and then found out about Barking Mad.

Before long Carla found herself looking after a Staffordshire bull terrier called Nancy while her owners went on holiday. She took Nancy for a walk around Clun on a lovely sunny day and spoke to lots of other dog walkers. Her spirits were lifted. She felt energised. "It changed the whole weekend for me."

Carla has since looked after Ozzie for 10 days and went walking every day. She sent a postcard to the owner on behalf of Ozzie and even texts. "I had all the fun of a dog without commitment!" By the end of Carla's talk everyone seemed sold on the idea! Not to be left out, even the cat lovers were throwing out ideas about cat sitting and cat cafes!

PMHA were pleased to welcome a number of other organisations on the day, including the following:

Mel Santorini of Time to Change Wales
Denise Davies of Mid & West Wales
Fire & Rescue Service
Meg Lewis and Linda Jones of Powys Care & Repair
Lucy Taylor of Powys Carers
If you want to find out more about the future activities of Powys Mental Health Alliance, you can check out the organisation's website here.

You can also tweet the charity 

Tel:  07926 862 414

Were you at this year's Open Day? 
Let us know what you thought in the comments section below.

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