Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Welsh Ambulance Service on mental health - Keep Talking

This New Year we start by promoting the theme that talking is vital when our mental health is low and particularly when we feel things are heading out of control and into crisis. Sometimes we forget that staff working in the emergency services, and intervening to help people in the middle of a crisis, may well be struggling with their own mental health issues. 

Here at PAVO Mental Health we honestly believe that any of us, not just 1 in 4 of us, could potentially struggle with mental health issues at any point in our lives. But that aside, we agree with everything else Steve tells us, and are particularly keen to share an extremely powerful film. It features WAST colleagues speaking out about their own mental health struggles, and explaining what really helped them, when life's challenges began to feel too overwhelming. Over to Steve at WAST:

I’m Steve Clarke and I’m Head of Mental Health for the Welsh Ambulance Service. I joined the Welsh Ambulance Service in April 2018, having previously held positions in London mental health trusts, and in mental health charities, and I was previously Deputy Director of Mental Health for England. 

Steve Clarke, Head of Mental Health, WAST
As Head of Mental Health for the Welsh Ambulance Service, my role entails the delivery of the Mental Health Improvement Plan for the Welsh Ambulance Service, which has three broad areas: 
  1. The mental wellbeing of our staff. 
  2. Our mental health practice. 
  3. Our mental health pathways. 
This involves ensuring that our staff have access to the right treatment and the right care at the right time, ensuring that they are equipped to deal with people that have mental health problems in whatever environment they are working in, and to make sure that we work in concert with our partners in the health boards to make sure that we’ve got referral routes-on for people so we don’t just convey them to an Emergency Department. 

Since joining WAST I have been working to raise awareness of mental health problems within our workforce, and in particular to highlight the importance of talking about our mental health as an important step in de-stigmatising the subject. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives, and many of the people we work with every day will be experiencing mental illness, crisis and distress. However, some of us find it difficult to talk about our own experiences, for fear of being judged or that our employment will somehow be affected. 

Our staff made this film to try and break through some of these challenges. Talking frankly about their own experiences, people from across the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) wanted to let others know that talking to someone really helps, that support is available and your colleagues, managers and families will support you. You can view our film below – please share it, encourage others to watch it, and above all listen....

Steve's piece was originally published in the Winter 2018/19 edition of Network News, the Welsh Ambulance Service's Patient Engagement & Community Involvement team newsletter.

Read more about mental health and the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust in a post by Isobel Jones, who works for the WAST Patient Engagement & Community Involvement team.

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