Monday, 21 March 2016

Thrive at Mid Powys Mind

This week our guest post is by Mary Williams 
the Development Manager at Mid Powys Mind.

Mid Powys Mind is very excited to have trained in THRIVE, which is a non-medical course looking at recovery not just from mental health problems, but from any difficult period in life. It was developed by Marion Aslan of Elemental Wellbeing.

THRIVE stands for Time, Healing, Resilience, Interdependence, Vivacity and Emancipation. 

The course uses a huge range of tools from various sources (person centred planning, counselling, psychology etc) to help people move forward, recover and thrive again. 

The course also doubles up as a staff training tool, to enable staff to use THRIVE principles and tools within their work.

THRIVE covers

Safe ways to take a balanced look at our lives so far, the important factors that can affect us over time including turning points, telling your story, timelines and tools to help people move forward.

Ways in which people survive and heal from difficult experiences and important factors that help and hinder this process. 

Looking at tools to help you build your resilience and manage difficult emotions.

There is sometimes too much emphasis within services placed on people acquiring independent living skills without exploring and acknowledging the need for social skills and connections. This module looks at the importance of that, what those relationships could look like and where you might find them.

Going beyond ‘getting through the day’ to really enjoying life - thriving.

What it might be like to be free from mental health services and the trauma of difficult life experiences?

All the staff and two of our volunteers attended ten very intensive days of training in October last year. Below are some extracts from the evaluations:

“I really love the material and ethos of THRIVE – it is similar to the way I have tried to work – it certainly has the same values base – which is the key thing, I think, in all of this.”

“…come out the other side with so much more insight and understanding to be able to understand the experiences that I had gone through and the trials that lay ahead of me.”

“I feel so much more stronger and capable to take whatever comes and do it with the strength that I have always had but didn’t recognise.”

“More challenging than other recovery centred courses. More reflective, and ultimately more optimistic.”

“I think this is going to be really useful.”

We are all using some of the training and tools in our work and as you can tell from the evaluations, we all got a lot from it personally too. 

We have been busy developing our own THRIVE course for members and have just started delivery of that. We have plans to deliver another course in June and later in the year.

You can find out more about Mid Powys Mind on the charity's website. Mary Williams can be contacted by tel: 01597 824411 or emailing:

The next Mid Powys Mind THRIVE 4 week course starts on 6 June 2016. 1 - 4pm at The Resource Centre, Mid Powys Mind, Llandrindod Wells.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Running for mental health

More and more people are taking up running as a way not only of improving physical fitness but also enhancing mental well being.

As Spring is finally on the way it seemed like the perfect time to find out more about some keen runners we know through our local mental health charities plus some equally enthusiastic PAVO colleagues. 

I asked them to tell us about their running experiences, their local groups, and if they had any good tips for newbie runners.

Helen Worthington, (centre front in photo right) works in our Finance Department, and runs regularly with Tanat Trotters in North Powys. She says: "running gives me ‘ME’ time. What could be better than running outside in the fresh air in our lovely countryside? It really motivates me to do other things." 
Top tip for newbies: Little and often - try running between weekly class runs.

Claire Sterry, County Development Officer in our Llandrindod Wells office, says: 
"I've recently started in the walk-to-run group which gradually increases the amount of time you run, and lessens the amount of time you walk each week. At first I found it really tough, but going to a group (Just Move Llandrindod) really helps. By Week 7 at the group I had run 5k with a bit of walking too. I never thought I would be able to do that, but the encouragement and camaraderie really helps. I’ve even been out between sessions, and am noticing a real improvement in my fitness and recovery rate. I’ve even signed up for a 5k park run this month!"
Top tip for newbies: 
Going to a group helps to keep you motivated and get into a habit of doing it. Mid week runs also help to keep up momentum, and improve fitness.

Sarah Leyland-Jones is PAVO's Senior Officer Community Transport & Training, and also based in Llandrindod. She says: "Running clears my head of all the rubbish, gives me focus and entering events keeps me motivated. I never thought I could do it, now I’m a new leader at a local running group called Just Moves Walk to Run."
Top tip for newbies: Don’t give up, you really can do it, get yourself a running buddy, it really helps, especially on those days when you just don’t feel like it.

Sue Davies works for the PAVO Bookkeeping & Payroll Service in Llandrindod. She says: "I run as part of the Just Moves group mentioned by Sarah. It gives me a chance to get out with a group who all help one another stay motivated. It’s great to get away from the desk and clear your mind from work. I might not be the fastest or able to run far but it’s great fun."
Top tip for newbies: Running with a group helps you stay focused.

Summer running with the Tanat Trotters

Nicky Morris is the Manager at the mental health charity Ponthafren Association in North Powys. She is based in Newtown and says: 

If anyone had said to me 6 months ago that I could run 5k without stopping I would have said that they were lying and it was not an achievable goal. Even though I am not an unfit person, I didn’t have stamina or staying power. By attending the "So you think you can’t run?" group at Ponthafren in Newtown, facilitated by André Hutchinson, I can now run/jog 5k without stopping. One of the main things she has taught us is: 

The tips and tricks she has shared with us have been so valuable. Before when I went for a run I would start off far too fast. My posture and breathing were all wrong, and I would just burn myself out. I would also listen to my head saying that I was tired and needed to stop, rather than listening to my body, which could carry on for much longer than my head was telling me I could do. André shared a saying with us, which is very true:

Everything you've ever wanted is one step out of your comfort zone.
- Anonymous - 

She also gave us some practical tips on how we could ‘learn’ to run:
  1. Point your feet forward - use the whole of your leg to adjust if your feet splay out.
  2. Lift the crown of your head. Let your chin drop (imagine a balloon attached to your head).
  3. Bring shoulders directly over hips.
  4. When your posture is correct you should feel a light tension in your lower abdominals. Check for proper alignment by looking at your shoelaces.
  5. Practice the above on one leg at a time. Memorise this.
  6. Remember looseners before a run (or dynamic stretches) and dynamic and static stretches after a run. 

André's passion and enthusiasm for running have rubbed off on us all. She has made us believe we can achieve. Also, being part of a group, the peer support we give each other has been so positive. 

I still wouldn’t call myself a runner, but I have now upped my exercise by joining other activities and the gym, to ensure that I have a holistic approach to my wellbeing and this has come as a result of being part of this group. I feel much more confident in my abilities to achieve and can honestly say because of André's support and guidance mentally I am now stronger too and physically fitter.

We have just started a new beginners group every Thursday 5.45pm – 6.45pm alongside the group that is already running, as we want to continue to support people to achieve and believe in themselves. 

Jenny runs with the Ponthafren group and says:
 I never considered myself to be a runner. I still don't really! Due to work commitments (and life in general) I'd got out of the habit of regular exercise and never seemed to 'have time'. I've recently moved house which gave me the opportunity to join the running group at Ponthafren. There is a real mix of people which is a great social part of the group. The support from the others is so encouraging and everyone has improved so much since the first few weeks. Since starting to run with the group I now take myself (and the dog) out a couple of times a week on short runs. I find that running can be enjoyed on my own or with a group. For me, it is a chance to forget everything else for a while. Being out in the fresh air and the achievement of completing even a short run is fantastic and it makes me feel so much better in myself for doing it.

I've done a couple of 5 and 10k runs over the years, but a friend of mine asked me whether I would like to enter the Lake Vyrnwy half marathon. To start with I thought, this is a crazy idea and how would I ever get round? It's 13 miles! The more I thought about it, because I like a challenge, I convinced myself that I would be able to do it and it wouldn't matter if I didn't run all the way. It was actually finishing it that mattered. I did the training and doubted myself right up until three quarters of the way round! Well I did it. You couldn't really call it running, but a steady shuffle was a better description! I didn't stop. When I finished I was so pleased with myself at what I'd achieved and still can't quite believe I did do it.

But you don't have to run far to feel good. Running provides so many benefits for me, and it doesn't cost much - just a good pair of trainers is really all you need. Groups like Ponthafren and other places like the internet are able to provide so much good advice and guidance. Anything is possible.

Ponthafren Association's So you think you can't run? group
Thanks to everyone who contributed to our running blog post. Do you run? Tell us about your experiences in the comments box below.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

CAMAD's Pathways Project in Machynlleth

This week's guest post is from Jeremy Richards who works as the Pathways Co-ordinator at CAMAD - Community Action Machynlleth & District - in North West Powys. His role is to create a safe environment and facilitate and enable people to speak freely about their issues if they wish. 

Now that CAMAD’s Pathways Project has reached its 6 month mark of Big Lottery funding it seems a good time to write.

To be fair it is longer than that we’ve been going as we had Awards for All funding to pilot the project from November 2014. It started off as a Thursday afternoon service, but now it’s Monday afternoons too, and on Tuesday afternoons we have Art Sessions with a wellbeing slant.

It’s much more enjoyable, much less heavy than I anticipated. Although people are free to share their hardships, and do, more often than not we talk a lot of amiable nonsense.

Perhaps it’s very obvious but it seems to me that once the elephant in the room has been uncovered (depression, anxiety) it loses a lot of its power and it becomes something that’s understood, something that doesn’t need to be the principle focus. This is important – when you’re living alone with your demons they can become your whole life, even to such an extent that you don’t know where you’d be without them.

Our set-up is very simple. We have a little lounge area, with music playing and comfy chairs and a communal kitchen with a big round table where people do informal art on Thursdays too.

Sometimes it gets very busy and chaotic but I kind of like that. People shift around from room to room, chatting in different combinations. No-one has her own chair or particular sub-group!

Something I must flag is how brilliantly we have been supported since the outset by the Community Mental Health Team. Most notably, in the frequent visits to the drop-in they really help to demystify the world of mental health care to those who may be embarking upon it for the first time, and they are an informal yet informed ear for anyone who has a particular issue I may not be qualified to address.

I have found it deeply moving how mutually supportive the group is drawing on their own difficult experiences for the benefit of their peers. And it's heartening to see people increasing in confidence – moving into volunteering, college, or just being in any way sociable – by contrast to when they first come along. I’d like to feel that an atmosphere of everyone wearing the same T-shirt goes some way to making these changes possible.

We look forward to the next 6 months and beyond. And will post again soon.

What people say about the Pathways Project:

I’m enjoying coming to the drop-in. It’s a friendly, informal, supportive atmosphere. There’s a very non-judgmental vibe, people seem able to be themselves.

The drop-in is very helpful to me, definitely better than any official help I have ever received in years on benefits. Twice a week makes a big difference to the impact it can have on my life. Occasional ‘deep’ conversations either 1:1 with J or when that fits in with other visitors are very important to me, and these crop up on an as-and-when basis, which works fine for me…the most appropriate and useful help I have ever received.

I have met several people whose warm and welcoming smiles do not come with a judgment – as to why I have come? And what is my problem? One is just made welcome. At CAMAD Pathways there is always light-hearted laughter, nonsense conversation and discussion about current events and sometimes someone wants to talk about a burden which weighs that person down…CAMAD Pathways is there to listen.

If you want to find out more, check out the CAMAD website, or ring: 01654 700071 and ask to speak to Jeremy.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Engaging with Powys teaching Health Board to help shape future services

Last Thursday I attended an event in Llandrindod Wells where representatives from the Third Sector discussed the future planning of services and activities as part of Powys teaching Health Board’s three year Integrated Medium Term Plan. This plan will be used as the basis for future commissioning of the Third Sector by PtHB. The meeting was attended by several mental health charities, including Brecon & District Mind, Mid Powys Mind, Ponthafren Association and Hafal.

Carl Cooper, Chief Executive Officer, Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations
Carl Cooper, Chief Executive Officer at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations, introduced the day, explaining that the Third Sector is a significant partner in the process working with people in communities and organisations to help the health board plan and deliver “better health and care services” in Powys.

Carl said that “we are here today to be part of the process to shape and influence and be involved in the planning and delivery process.” He observed that there were several challenges to bring to the discussion, particularly in terms of resource allocation and budget planning in a climate where prevention and community resilience are key priorities.

Carol Shillabeer, Chief Executive Officer, PtHB
Carol Shillabeer, Chief Executive Officer of PtHB followed, to describe how the IMTP emerged following a decision by the Welsh Health Minister in 2009 to set out a collaborative approach. This was during a period of major legislative reforms at the time. The IMTP aims to bring together a number of other strategies already being worked on, including the Hearts & Minds Mental Health strategy, and those focussing on Older People and Carers. Carol assured those present that the IMTP does not just sit on a shelf, but act as a guide for the population as a whole, and for Welsh Government, to test PtHB against the commitments it made to deliver services.

The overall vision of the IMTP is: “truly integrated care, centred on the needs of the individual.” This year during a staff engagement exercise (“Chat to Change”) PtHB emphasised the need to work together with other organisations alongside other specific values and behaviours.

Carol also introduced us to the 4 Aims (out of a total of 6) which were to form the basis for further discussion at our tables:

  • Improving health & wellbeing
  • Ensuring the right access
  • Involving the people of Powys
  • Making every £ count
In speaking about mental health Carol said that it is “a huge area where we can make a difference to people’s lives. We have kept the priorities of mental health services but there is a long way to go and much more do to.” She explained that the management of mental health services had been brought back into Powys in the North of the county and also in Ystradgynlais. Services in the Mid and South are currently still managed by Aneurin Bevan Health Board, but will return to Powys later in the year. On another positive note Powys has received 500,000 Euros to introduce computerised Cognitive Behaviour Therapy a service which people can access in their own homes.

PtHB want to make sure that there is effective partnership working and to engage with people to achieve a good plan. Staff are already looking at working more closely with Powys County Council, and want to use continued integration as a way of achieving objectives in the future around all areas of health service provision. Carol explained that this is already happening in terms of mental health services.

Freda Lacey, Senior Officer Health & Social Care, PAVO
Freda Lacey and her team had planned the day down to the finest detail. Once the table discussions were complete (report to be circulated later) Carl opened up the floor and asked for key issues to be highlighted. These included (just a brief sample):
  • The need for more services to be delivered locally.
  • Sharing of resources – including people, skills, premises, training.
  • Emphasis on the Third Sector not just being “polyfilla” to fill the gaps.
  • The Third Sector are asked to do more and more for less and less.
  • The vital importance of introducing and using more innovative technologies.
  • The need to remember those that are digitally excluded for whatever reason.

Hayley Thomas, Interim Director of Planning & Performance, PtHB
Hayley Thomas, Interim Director of Planning & Performance at PtHB, commented that this was to be an ongoing process and that PtHB is absolutely committed to working with the Third Sector. An “everyday” version of the IMTP will be developed taking into account the feedback given at the event and shared via PAVO.

Trish Buchan, Third Sector Organisation rep, Powys teaching Health Board
Trish Buchan, previously of PAVO and now Third Sector Organisation rep on PtHB, added that one of her objectives is to raise the profile of the Third Sector at Board level, and reiterated the commitment of the health board to work closed with the Third Sector going forward.

All in all it was an extremely interesting morning. I was facilitating some of the discussions focussing on how to involve the people of Powys. Around the various tables it really felt that there was a passion and enthusiasm for more collaborative and innovative working – if time can be set aside by all to really consider the most effective way of achieving this. And whilst there was much healthy debate on one thing we all agreed – the Third Sector is absolutely not just “polyfilla.”