Tuesday, 25 October 2016

YAPS - Sharing the Voice

The Young Adult Peer Support Project, delivered by the mental health charity Ponthafren Association, recently received a welcome opportunity to help spread the word about its vital work. The YAPS project offers peer support mentoring to young people (16-25 years old) who experience mental health issues, by helping to give them a voice of their own in the development of services. You can watch a YAPS project video, and also find out about the amazing game which the young people devised where players try to access mental health services as if in the real world and experiencing mental distress. The team from YAPS tell us more:

Robin Green, YAPS Project
We were fortunate enough to be given a six month extension on the YAPS project with the aim of spreading the feedback we have received from those we have worked with over the last 3 years. In the time leading to the end of the YAPS project we have been focusing, and will continue to focus, on tackling the more sizable and historically challenging issues we have been told about while working with young people: namely that of respect and communication. To address these concerns we have been feeding back to the service providers in the form of presentations and workshops which will be followed by more in the coming weeks and months. The aim is to educate and inform the service providers on the needs and concerns of the vulnerable people the YAPS project has come into contact with. 

Most issues reported to us that are not those of individual circumstance focus on the amount of respect, empathy, and understanding (or lack thereof) that people feel they get from services or the individuals within them. This often comes down to either poor ability to listen to or understand the individual in question, an inability to encourage and support an individual who may struggle to voice their concerns themselves, and/or a restriction on the amount of time any individual can get to explain themselves effectively. More often than not it is a combination of any or all of the above. Our hope is by sharing with other organisations what we have learned from young people’s experiences, we can disseminate their voice out into the community to help change the way services operate and to help make them more accommodating to those vulnerable people who need additional support. 

To try and tackle these seemingly common instances, we hope to speak with as many service providers as possible about the importance of truly listening and giving time to someone who needs it, even if it’s only five minutes extra. We have so far delivered what we’ve learnt to over 120 individuals representing more than 15 organisations and we remind service providers that “...when a young person comes for help, they are often scared: you might know what’s going to happen next, but they don’t.” In response, young people have suggested slightly longer meetings, more invitation for the young person to control the conversation, or a box on a form to tell the organisation in advance of any anxiety or depression that might get in the way of the discussion. Depending on the service being provided, resolutions to these problems may vary but we invite service providers to explore the possibilities. 

The feedback we have received so far from the events we have attended has all been very positive. Several people have come forward to say what we have spoken about has really resonated with them on a personal level and others have enquired about how we can support their organisations further in the future so they can support their own communities more effectively. While for others we were able to offer a perspective perhaps service providers often forget: as one person wrote on twitter, “The YAPS game provides a fascinating insight into the experience of young people needing mental health support.” 

One young person once told us that: “It’s sad that sometimes it’s the services we use that make us feel bad for accessing them.” None of the young people we have met have ever seemed to display any sense of entitlement for a service; instead they often feel scared, embarrassed, or guilty for accessing certain services and this should never be the case when someone needs help. We aim to see several more important service providers before the end of our project to try to reduce the number of young people who feel devalued and not welcome in their search for the help they deserve.

The Young Adult Peer Support (YAPS) project is one of the One Powys - Connecting Voices projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund. You can find out more about these projects by contacting Barbara Perkins, tel: 01597 822191 or email: barbara.perkins@pavo.org.uk

Friday, 7 October 2016

Thank goodness it's Friday in Knighton!

This week's guest post is by Doreen Matthews - a member of the thriving Knighton Mid Powys Mind Friday group. It was written at the height of summer 2016.

I love Fridays. So say the members of Knighton Friday Group.

We meet as friends, share stories and experiences of our lives and talk of what our week has been like. The group is so important to us. Life for most of us is not easy, events may have happened to us which cause anxiety and depression, but one of the big things in life is loneliness.

I met a friend who I have known for many years, and I was asked to have coffee. I was in a hurry, but I did stop and we talked about many things. The comment was: “My world has got smaller; I seem to have lost confidence, so find it hard to live my life, and feel rather worthless.” This person has tried to find help but does not like groups and when seeking help it has not really worked. I could not find answers, but I did listen and give gentle understanding. As we parted the remark from this friend was: “I feel so much better now that I have met you today. I always feel better when I meet you.”

The comment: “My world has gotten smaller” has stayed with me. I thought my world had gotten smaller too since my husband died. I have lost so much confidence, and if I did not make the effort to go out and meet people I would end up a very lonely person.

Friday Group has been so important and good for me, and I have been a member of Mid Powys Mind for 15 years and I have learnt so much from the activities. Doing a craft and being creative is so good for the brain. I feel more relaxed and my spirits uplifted. It takes me out of my casual domestic world.

Over the years I have seen members come and go. We have had our highs and our lows, sometimes despairing as to whether we can go on. Something always happens. A new member comes along - a new friend and we feel encouraged. I do wish people would realise how special and important they are to the group - I always like to see who is coming in through the door.

When someone comes along for the first time we know how hard it is for them to walk into the room. First impressions count and we can make or break at that first meeting, so we have to be careful how we deal with this. When people ask us “how are you?” the usual answer is to say “I am fine, very well”. The truth is in many cases they are not fine and sometimes want to talk. We must remember to give them the chance to talk, but with our own busy lives we tend to just hurry along. A nice smile can do wonders; a cheerful considerate person can make a difference. A nasty remark will put people down for hours.

Earlier this year we were told there would have to be a cutback due to lack of funding. We took on the running of the group ourselves straight away, with involvement from Mid Powys Mind. We all put a little extra money in to give us a working fund, and the Rotary Club gave us a generous donation to keep us going. We used some of the money to buy season tickets to The Whimble Nursery Garden. The tickets allow a member to visit the garden whenever they want. It is a place of beauty which is a natural therapy to make us feel better. We are using the gardens for some of our meetings and our next visit will be reading poetry and taking in the scents and colours of this lovely garden. We will have tea and cake and perhaps buy a plant. Walking through the wild flower meadow on our last visit with friends made us feel we were in another world. We had a visit to Monkland Cheese, of course we all now know how to make cheese, but we haven’t got a cow so we will leave it to the experts!

Some of our activities this year have included: chalk painted wooden spoons, making pretty boxes, woofing down homemade rhubarb and strawberry crumble, and cream gateau, and last week we made raffia mats which resembled Hobnob biscuits. Oh yes, we love our crafts. We really enjoyed “Havin’ A Laugh” with the comedians, they found us very comical; we ladies taught them a lot about life.

We felt, as a group, that we would like to reach out to others and it was decided we would make little posies for the Queen's 90th birthday. The result was breathtaking when we looked. Our work, arranged in baskets, was then taken to Cottage View Residential Home. The shades and perfumes of roses and sweet williams just gave off a feeling of joy and happiness. We had collected so many flowers and the happy “buzz” of busy bees being creative made me just stop and listen to our ladies. I thought of how happy everyone sounded, we were friends together, so contented in one another’s company. We all went up to Cottage View Residential Home and presented each resident with a dainty bouquet as we all sang Happy Birthday to the Queen. The feedback from the home let us know how glad they were to have us there, and we hope to return again.

The group has become very strong and we are getting new members. Everyone is so enthusiastic, putting in an effort to make things work. “We make our motto, we can achieve anything”. I think we can be proud of ourselves, and we are becoming noticed in Knighton.

We are now looking forward to an afternoon picnic at Aston-on-Clun on a member's lawn. Then we will be dancing with Powys Dance, we just love that! Our imagination makes us swans, sugar plum fairies, salsa dancers, fashion models or whatever we want to be.

The great thing about our group is that we are friends who care about one another, friends who laugh and have fun.

The Knighton Friday Group meets every Friday 1 - 3 pm at St Edwards Community Room, St Edwards Close, Knighton. 

If you would like to find out more about the group, which is supported by Mid Powys Mind, please ring 01597 824411, or contact Nic Williams by emailing: vo@midpowysmind.org.uk