Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Music therapy - Olivia & Finding Frank

Olivia Bradbury is a musician and performer, who uses music as a therapeutic tool, who recently moved to Powys from London. She has considerable experience of working with people in mental distress. She tells us more about her past work, her play 'Finding Frank' which will be staged in Hay-on-Wye in June 2015, and her hopes for the future.

Olivia leading an orchestra
About me

I am a musician and creative facilitator working for the past few years mainly in mental health settings. This is where I am most interested in working and where I feel music is badly needed. Music workshops provide a way to connect with people who, for whatever reason, struggle with communicating their feelings. I have found that if patients and service users can find ways to speak through making music, they generally feel happier and consequently feel more motivated to take a positive, proactive approach to improving their mental health.

Olivia conducting the Crisis Choir
My workshops

My workshops provide environments in which participants feel supported to express what they want to express through the more abstract route of music/poetry/rhythm which may feel safer and more satisfying than communicating verbally. I provide starting points for participants’ ideas and frameworks in which their ideas can grow. This helps people not 
to  feel overwhelmed by the freedom of creativity. This careful balance of structure versus freedom is something that is tricky to get right and I have spent years trying to achieve this!

Too much freedom = overwhelmed, too much structure = stifled. I feel this is what is special about what I can offer and what is central to the nature of my workshops.

Olivia in 'Finding Frank'
My play

One of the places I have led workshops in London is Bethlem Royal Hospital. Here I met an elderly man who was suffering from severe anxiety and depression which was having a devastating effect on his communication skills, his memory, his relationships and his senses.

Over six months I saw him improve. It was the most rewarding experience of my career so far. I was so moved by what I saw in this man that I wrote a play about it -  'Finding Frank'. I had questioned whether making music did anything significant in the past, but this confirmed my belief that it most certainly did. This man was transformed! He used to get lost walking from the music room back to his ward, but not after the music work. He began communicating with his wife again and he was remembering how to play chord progressions on his guitar having initially described it to me like holding a foreign object - like an aubergine! He was cracking jokes, looking at me in the eye... I won’t say what else he achieved as I don’t want to ruin the story if you come to see the play.

When the funding cuts hit, I lost my work at Bethlem. Many who work in the arts have lost work over the last few years and it is only depriving thousands of people from a way of healing which is natural, sustainable and life enhancing. The play draws attention to this issue and my touring the piece is my way of building up awareness of the importance of music in treating mental health. 

Whilst making Finding Frank, I carried out many interviews of other people. I ran workshops with people who lived with mental health issues. I wanted to hear as many people's stories as possible - of their experiences of their minds and of their interactions with music. I learnt a great deal and felt very lucky to be able to gain this insight. I used audio clips of some of these interviews in the play (with their permission) and those that were featured came to see it and told me they were "proud to be part of a genuine piece" that talks "fearlessly and respectfully" about mental health. I felt very relieved that they approved! It was music that brought me close to all of these people. Music which is a bonding and unifying experience for any that get involved in it.

And now?

I have just moved to Powys after 11 years in London working in this field. I would love to continue my work here but need to find opportunities to do so. I know that organisations have an allowance for workshops but I know that funding is tight across the board. If you work for a hospital that would benefit from some musical activities and/or know of how I could source some funding to carry on with my work, I would love to hear from you!

For more information about what I have been up to and for contact details do have a look at my website.

Finding Frank is on at The Globe Theatre in Hay-on-Wye for three nights - 18, 19 and 20 June. Watch this YouTube video made for the production in London:

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Dementia Awareness Week 2015

Last week I attended an event in Llandrindod Wells organised by my colleague Jane Cooke to update the Wellness & Recovery Learning Centres (the Mind centres and Ponthafren) about dementia services in Powys. As this week is Dementia Awareness Week it seemed appropriate to share some of the information, so here is what I found out (in brief, but check out the links) from some of the people speaking at the event.

Rhiannon Davies – Brecon Dementia Friendly Community

Rhiannon gave up her full-time job to set up Brecon Dementia Friendly Community as a volunteer two years ago – and the inspirational work that is being carried out in Brecon is now a model to other communities across Wales.

She explained that a dementia friendly community (DFC) is a community that has a high level of understanding and awareness of dementia and the issues that it brings to people living with the disease. “Most people with dementia just want to get on with as normal a life as possible. They don’t want to be boxed. It is about having independence and choice, and just getting on with everyday activities such as going shopping, attending clubs and being part of the community like everyone else”.

Rhiannon is passionate about giving a voice to people with dementia – “in the past things were done for people to fit in with our systems. We need to create services that people actually want and need.” She has held numerous Dementia Friends sessions for groups and organisations in which she informs, inspires and engages those living in the local area. These help break down the stigma and fear still attached to the disease. Becoming a DFC is about commitment to social change – what is good for people with dementia – “being caring, compassionate, patient and understanding – is also good for the community as a whole.”

Jacky Baldini – Alzheimer’s Society

Jacky is the Operations Manager for North Wales – a massive patch stretching all the way from Holyhead to Brecon. Alzheimer’s provides support to people with dementia and their carers – information provision is a large part of their work, and the charity has a very useful website. (North Powys and South Powys pages).

There are Dementia Support Workers in Newtown and Talgarth – helping people and those close to them to understand their diagnosis. A Project Information Officer was recruited with Welsh Government funding late last year to further develop DFCs across the county.

Alzheimer's also has advocates (currently there is a vacancy in Newtown) who will support people with dementia to say what they want, secure their rights and obtain the services they need.

Harold Proctor – Powys teaching Health Board

Harold is the Dementia Lead at PtHB, and gave us an overview of NHS dementia services in the county, including the following areas:
  • Community hospitals operate the Butterfly Scheme which reaches out to people with dementia.
  • Caring well in Care Homes – where the use of antipsychotics is being reduced. Staff are trained to look at alternative techniques if faced with challenging behaviour.
  • Memory Assessment Services across Powys.
  • Specialist services in Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs).
  • In-patient assessment units (we wrote about Newtown’s Fan Gorau here).
  • Commissioning of complementary services, for example: Memory Cafes and Clinics, CrISP (Carer Information & Support Programme) training, information signposting and the Wellness & Learning Recovery Centres. 
Harold said that a rainbow of services was required as people need different things at different times. There is also a requirement from Welsh Government that 50% of front-line staff are trained in dementia awareness in the next year.

Rachael Beech – Powys Befrienders

Rachael is another of my PAVO colleagues. She is the co-ordinator of the Powys Befrienders project to improve the independence of people over 50, to maintain their social networks and remain in their own homes for as long as they are able. Some of the project’s clients have dementia, and can be lonely and/or isolated. More detail about the project is coming up in a separate blog post soon - watch this space!

Jacky updates everyone on the Alzheimer's Society's work in Powys
I want to finish off with a story Rhiannon told me recently – it was passed on to her by someone who had just attended one of her Dementia Friends’ sessions.

“We were driving back to Brecon at about 9.45pm in the pitch dark when we saw in the headlights an elderly woman on the verge. She seemed to be just standing there, looking a bit unsteady. Cars were swerving to avoid her as the verge was narrow and she was stumbling a bit. I went to talk to her – I wasn’t sure if her car had broken down further up the road or if she was a tramp or had maybe been drinking. Anyway, it quickly became obvious that she was very confused – she told me she was staying in a holiday chalet and that someone was coming in and stealing her things so she just had to get out. She’d been walking all day but couldn’t remember where she started or where she was heading. She said all the bright lights (car headlights) on the road were confusing her. She was peeling a satsuma while she was wandering.

She had a bag of photos that she was happy for me to look at – I was hoping to find something that might give a clue as to where she had come from. We persuaded her to get into the car as it was so dangerous, and took her to Brecon police station. They were very good and took her inside and took our details down. When she was in the car she said that the woman who was stealing from her was sending in her little dog to take things and also pulling her belongings out on wires. It was obvious that she had dementia of some sort. The police said that they thought she couldn’t have come far as they’d have had reports of her either missing, or from drivers telling them that she was on the road. They were really grateful we’d brought her in – the young PC kept saying what a terrible call it would have been if she’d been knocked over.

So, I just wanted to tell you how valuable the awareness session was – perhaps if I hadn’t attended it I wouldn’t have thought to stop for her – and if I had, maybe I wouldn’t have realised what she was suffering from. I also think that I might have struggled to persuade her to get into the car if I hadn’t remembered the ‘distraction’ advice you’d given and to keep her talking and pleasantly distracted while we were driving there.

Anyway, if you ever have any doubts about the value of the Dementia Friends sessions, I hope this helps you realise the excellent work you’re doing, we felt we did the best thing we could under the circumstances and got her somewhere safe.”

A celebratory concert is being held in Brecon on Saturday May 23 to celebrate Brecon being officially recognised by the Alzheimer's Society as 'working towards becoming dementia-friendly' – the first community in Wales to achieve this accolade. You can find out about more events taking place across Powys during Dementia Awareness Week on our website.

Small changes help make a dementia friendly community – an Alzheimer’s Society video.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Shaping mental health services: a Powys update

At two PAVO events, (in Brecon and Newtown) a couple of weeks ago we invited people in contact with mental health services and those close to them to join us. It was billed as “your opportunity to come and meet your individual representatives, learn what’s new with mental health services across Powys and give your opinions.” I went along to the event in the North and enjoyed a day of debate and information sharing (not to mention some amazing art exhibits and a Laughter Workshop) at the Maesmawr Arts Centre in Caersws.

Freda Lacey, PAVO’s Participation Officer, introduced the day and gave an overview of the mechanisms through which people can feed in their views about mental health services in Powys. Feedback is taken to the Powys Mental Health Planning & Development Partnership run by the health board, also to the National Service Users & Carers Forum, and finally to the National Partnership Board. You can read more about the structure here.

Freda went on to explain that there are currently 5 vacancies on the National Service Users & Carers Forum – opportunities for people in Powys to get involved and help shape future mental health services. If you are interested then please get in touch.

National Partnership Board - behind the scenes

Rhydian Parry from Powys,
who has previously written on this blog about his experience as a volunteer on Patients’ Council, is one of four people with lived experience sitting on the National Partnership Board. He spoke enthusiastically to us next about what it’s really like to be a rep at that level.

At a recent NPB meeting Rhydian gave a presentation about a questionnaire around crisis services. He received a good reaction, and crisis services were subsequently discussed at each of the local partnership meetings. Rhydian described this as: “A step forward. Progress.” He and the other reps are often invited to do other things. They recently attended a talking therapies conference in Cardiff. “We are able to speak to reps from all the health board areas and find out the waiting times across Wales. If someone is now waiting 6 months to see a psychotherapist that is good – it used to be a 2 year wait.” Rhydian also spoke about his work with the police around detaining people under a Section 136.

Meriel Richards and Kate van den Ende, the two other Powys reps on the NSUCF, also contributed to the update. Meriel said that “at the last meeting it really felt as if we were part of the forum. It’s chipping away.” Kate added: “It states in legislature that they have to listen to us.” She described the slow process of winning influence. “There is now a good chance to say that this is the way it should be.”

Issues that are raised by the reps can be taken by mental health commissioners at Powys teaching Local Health Board to service providers and further information requested. The reps are clearly making a difference. Even so, it was identified that the task is huge. Someone from the audience said: “like trying to move a mountain with a wheelbarrow and a hand shovel”.

Not everyone likes to attend meetings to have their voice heard. Other suggestions for encouraging people to contribute their opinions included using social media and email, encouraging feedback in GP surgeries, and putting up posters on school noticeboards.

Freda opened up the discussion to ask people attending to tell us what they believed to be the current gaps in services. The key areas were well familiar to us all, and included the long waiting lists for psychological therapies, and the failure of Children & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to meet all young people’s needs. It seemed as if some agencies struggled to signpost people to support services in the voluntary sector. One carer of a young person said: “I would feel empowered if I had the information I need – not completely on my own having to deal with things.”

There was also a real appetite for finding out more and trying alternative approaches (what we have called Beyond Medical) such as the Soteria House promoted by the Soteria Network and the Finnish Open Dialogue approach.

Louisa Kerr updates us

Louisa Kerr, Partnership & Project Support Officer for the Powys Mental Health Planning & Development Partnership, was next welcomed to the event to speak about upcoming priorities for the health board. These include:

- Enhanced Primary Care services;

- Acute Care in the community;

- Repositioning for older people;

- Integration of services.

Louisa is also working on rolling out two other projects – updating the health board website with more information about mental health services, and developing a crisis house in Powys.

Recommissioning of voluntary sector mental health services in Powys

Louisa spoke at length about this process. The Hearts & Minds Strategic Plan – vision for mental health services, commits the voluntary and statutory sectors to work together to achieve the best outcome for individuals. All services are being looked at in line with the strategy. The health board is now seeking equity of services across Powys, which means that to be fair a commissioning process will take place (see the “commissioning cycle” for a diagram showing the nuts and bolts of the process). Formal events are being arranged in the near future, and the health board will engage with "all ages" around services to make them the best that can be commissioned.

In response to questions from the audience, Louisa clarified that “price is not the driver. It is having the best service in place.” The Welsh Government guidelines on tendering will be followed.

Those present went on to express concern about the process which can cause stress for both volunteers and people in receipt of their service. This was acknowledged, and Louisa said she would be going back to speak to the procurement team for clarification on any questions raised. It was also made clear that PAVO (Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations) can be called upon to provide support to voluntary sector agencies around commissioning.

How to be a Two-headed monster
 in Owen's Laughter Workshop!
The discussion could have gone on all day, but a delicious Maesmawr Arts Centre lunch beckoned, followed by a tour of the grounds and the sculpture trail, and an amazing Laughter Workshop with Owen Griffkin. All in all a brilliant day.

Jill Ball (Powys Befrienders) & Glynis Luke
 (PAVO mental health team) on the tour
at Maesmawr Arts Centre, Caersws
What do you think? Would you be interested in finding out more about becoming a “service user & carer rep” for the National Forum? Let us know! Your voice needs to be heard!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Light up the community

Shakira holding an owl at the Llandysil Dragon Festival
Volunteering at Ponthafren Association age 8!

Shakira volunteers at Ponthafren Association in Newtown. As many readers of this blog will know, Ponthafren Association is a registered charity in North Powys for people with mental health issues or those that feel lonely or isolated. The charity has an open door policy (meaning anyone is welcome). It is based in Newtown with an outreach centre in Welshpool and also a weekly drop-in session in Llanidloes.

Ponthafren provides a range of courses from arts and crafts to basic skills to anger management. A lot of these courses are Open College Network (OCN) qualifications. The organisation has approximately six hundred members. 

Shakira was only 8 when she started volunteering (she is 11 now), and we decided to find out more about what she does and why she enjoys it so much.

I first started going along to Ponthafren when I was eight years old as both my Nan and Granddad volunteer there. My Nan runs a craft group on a Friday evening called “Arty crafters”. We make cards, bug homes, wind chimes, paper machie snowmen and a lot of other items. My sister and me are in the PR (public relations) group in Ponthafren also. 

We go along to shows, carnivals, fairs and other community events. We take leaflets and flyers along, also the craft items we have made. We sell these and the money goes back into Ponthafren. We tell people about Ponthafren and what everyone does. This helps to let people know that Ponthafren might be the place for them if they ever need support. Also by telling people about Ponthafren and talking about mental health helps to get rid of the stigma that seems to be attached to it.

Shakira helping at a stall at a local show
Another busy day waking up at five o’clock in the morning, getting ready to go off to do a stall for Ponthafren. I help make lots of money for Ponthafren by making all sorts of craft items, for example wooden wheelbarrows, bug boxes, occasional cards and much more.

We have been to lots of villages and towns with our stalls. Usually at these events and at the open days I paint people's nails and charge £1 that goes into a fundraising pot for Ponthafren.

Me and my sister, Billie-jo, went to help out at Welshpool open day. We served tea and coffee from 10.30 am to 4 pm. Another open day but this time in Newtown we stayed at my Nan’s and we were wrapping up extra lucky dip prizes, sorting items, and labelling things ready for the next day.

Shakira and her sister receive a certificate for 200
volunteering hours from Russell George AM.
Recently my sisters and I went with the Arty crafters group and public relations group to Llandudno. We were thankful for good weather. We sat on the beach and shared a picnic with the seagulls. We went in the sea but it was pretty cold.

At the last open day Assembly Minister Russell George came along and presented us with a certificate to say we have completed two hundred volunteering hours. We had a letter from the House of Commons saying congratulations on what we have achieved and keep up the good work. 

I go with Nan sometimes to different group and organisations, where she gives a presentation all about Ponthafren. We provide a hand on craft session but some people struggle with threading beads or gripping scissors. So I help them and I have a really good time and learn a lot from doing this.

The garden volunteers from Ponthafren go out and help members of the community with their garden by weeding and generally tidying up. On a weekend or in school holidays I go and help.

I like volunteering and it shows that even at my age there is always something you can do to help the community and have fun while you are doing it.

Many thanks to Shakira for telling us all about her volunteering experiences - 200 hours - wow! Have you any stories about your experience volunteering for mental health that you could share with us? Let us know.

Find out more about Ponthafren Association's volunteers on the organisation's website here.