Thursday, 24 August 2017

On the Experts by Experience panel

Sarah Dale was recently in contact with the Participation Officers in our team. She expressed an interest in getting more involved with our engagement work, which includes working with individuals who have been in contact with mental health services and supporting them to attend partnership meetings as reps. They are encouraged to give feedback, to represent the views of others, and to help shape future mental health services.

Sarah subsequently agreed to accompany Participation Officer Philip Moisson to a conference earlier this summer, and joined the Experts by Experience panel on the day. We were all really pleased that someone from Powys had been willing to speak up about their experiences, and asked Sarah to give us her take on the day.

The Together for Mental Health conference on 12 July at the Marriott Hotel in Cardiff was organised by Cymorth Cymru, the umbrella body for providers of homelessness, housing-related support and social care services in Wales. The event looked at “the contribution that the Supporting People programme can make to mental health, in the context of the Welsh Government strategy - Together for Mental Health. It brought together service users, providers and academics to consider the difference we can all make to mental health.”

First of all we had a welcome address from Katie Dalton, the Interim Director of Cymorth Cymru. This was followed by an informative session about the Welsh mental health legislation, including a good look at the aim of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010, the difficulties, aims and challenges and the relationship to housing and homelessness. We also looked more closely at the government strategy Together for Mental Health.

Next up we got to listen and pose questions to a panel formed of people who provide the services. The individuals on the panel were the chair: Phill Chick - Assistant Director, NHS delivery Unit (below right); Louise Evans - Director of Services, Gofal; Julian John - Director, Merthyr and the Valleys Mind; Dr Julia Lewis - Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist, Gwent Specialist Substance Misuse Service (below left); and Dr Matthew Sargeant - Executive Committee Member, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales. Some very interesting points were raised especially about alcoholism and the services mental health teams provide.
We then had a presentation about the Housing First programme and the links to mental health and homelessness. I learned that only a few people who become homeless actually have mental health issues, however the longer someone is homeless the greater the risk of them developing mental health issues. Those that are made homeless on more than one occasion are even more likely to develop mental health issues.

After a quick tea break we then had the choice of attending two workshops. One was delivered by Time to Change Wales, and I decided to attend the other which was about supporting people with personality disorders. I found it extremely informative and brilliant even. We had a quick overview of the classification of the 10 personality disorders followed by a closer look at two of the more common personality disorders, borderline and antisocial personality disorders. We looked at the different factors at play that 'cause' these two disorders, such as neurocognitive, life experiences and genetics. We also looked at the different therapies that help cope with these disorders such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Multi Systematic Therapy and the trauma informed approach. I found it very insightful and well presented.

In the next workshop, after lunch, we looked at psychoeducation which is group-based and aims to educate individuals on how to cope with everyday life. Topics included anger management, emotional resilience, and emotional well-being. For example, we did some group work, figuring out how psychoeducation could be fitted into our organisations. It was very interesting.

After a tea break four of us were invited to speak about our experience and the services we have used, highlighting the positives as well as areas for improvement. It was immense and very emotional. All the speakers’ stories were moving and some very important issues and positives were raised. The audience was clearly moved.

After that we wrapped up and closed the day. Overall it was a brilliant opportunity, and a great day.

Many thanks for Sarah for telling us about her day at the Cymorth Cymru conference. If you would like to find out more about volunteering as a mental health “rep” then get in touch with us by emailing or call 01597 822191 and ask to speak to us.

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