Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Building Resilient Businesses with Ponthafren

Sally Green is the Business Development Officer at mental health charity Ponthafren in North Powys. Working closely with Newtown-based Robert Owen Community Banking, Waste Not and Open Newtown, she and partnership colleagues provide a truly innovative service to the business community in Newtown and the surrounding area.

Each of the partners in this Welsh Government funded pilot provides access to specific tailored support for business – so in Ponthafren’s case issues such as low morale and poor mental health amongst staff are addressed.

Building Resilient Businesses sounds like an amazing project, so we got in touch with Sally to find out more.

How was the need for this project identified?

Open Newtown developed the project and we were invited to come on board. This is their project overview:

“Bringing together new nature-based partnerships at a replicable market town scale; engaging many more people and businesses (both urban and rural) in sustainably managing their natural resources alongside piloting new models of delivery.

Placing young people and their role as ‘ecological observers’ at the evidence-based heart of the project, underpinning understanding and awareness. Marrying this with the piloting of viable long-term solutions for green prescribing and business wellbeing / resilience and beginning to pilot ecosystem service payments with landowners."

How did you come together to set up the partnership?

There are three partners within our stream which are ENRAW (Enabling Natural Resources & Wellbeing Scheme), ROCBF (Robert Owen Community Banking Fund) and we are Workstream 2. We all decided that we wanted to use our own expertise to help businesses, so it made sense for discussions around co-operation to take place.

Sally Green, Ponthafren's Business Development Officer

Tell us more about Ponthafren’s role in delivering the Building Resilient Businesses project

Ponthafren is a local charity promoting positive mental health. As part of this project promoting wellbeing and resilience in business, we will offer help to businesses and organisations in their role as employers to:
  1. Support their staff’s health and wellbeing.
  2. Better understand the employer's mental health responsibility towards their staff.
We hope to do this by consulting local businesses to find out what they currently offer. We will then develop a package of options. Supporting businesses and organisations of all sizes to work towards improving levels of staff health and wellbeing, will lead to greater staff contentment and less staff time lost to sickness.

As a mental health charity what do Ponthafren feel is key to the success of this project?

Communication is the key in the workplace and mental health conversations take patience, confidence and trust which can be difficult when talking to your employer about something that could be impacting work. What can help is:
  • Space and time to talk openly.
  • 1-2-1 time.
  • Weekly staff meetings.
  • Weekly management meetings.
What is your background Sally and your main role in the project?

I am the Business Development Officer for the role and along with my colleagues we look after the project and I do all the administrative side. I go out to meetings with prospective businesses and hold events to promote the work we are doing.

Which businesses are eligible for support and how do they source it? Do they need to receive support around all strands?

Over 750 businesses in and around the Newtown area will be contacted firstly by email, then followed up with a phone call. We all keep in touch as regards who we are contacting.

However, any business in the Newtown area is welcome to contact Ponthafren and ask about the service.

What kind of workplace issues can impact on staff mental health?

Many factors in our personal and professional lives can affect staff mental health and sometimes it can be hard to separate the two. Examples such as a new manager or supervisor, risk of redundancies for you or your colleagues, rising cost of living, personal life changes, loss of friends in the workplace, promotions/increased responsibilities, improper work-life balance, and working conditions/workload can all lead to:
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sickness
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Anger
What might happen to workers and businesses if they did not receive the right support?

If the staff’s mental health and wellbeing is not supported this could result in changes in their behaviour and mood and how they interact with their colleagues. Work output, motivation levels and focus could all be affected. People can appear tired, anxious or withdrawn, and lose interest.

This can also lead to people being off sick, sometimes long term, which can result in expense to the company in replacing or covering for them. In the worst case if this is managed badly by the employer, costly employment tribunals and also payment of compensation may be put in place.

What role do your project partners play in supporting businesses?

The Building Resilient Businesses project is being delivered by the following partners:
  • Circular Economy Mid Wales
  • Robert Owen Community Banking Fund
There is evidence to suggest that businesses of all sizes would benefit from directing resources and attention into issues such as low morale and poor mental health amongst staff, and mismanagement of resources such as energy, water, and waste.

A small improvement in some, if not all these areas, could mean the difference between staying afloat or closing.

Ponthafren, Circular Economy Mid Wales (CEMW), and Robert Owen Community Banking Fund (ROCBF) are coming together to support Newtown’s 750 businesses, by offering business support services, to address these issues and offer solutions.

Circular Economy Mid Wales will provide environmental efficiency support, tailor made to individual businesses in Newtown in addition to their public work on reuse and repair.

Robert Owen Community Banking is looking at ways to help with credit and ways of helping with the supply chains.

What are some of the advantages in working together?

There are three parties working together in this stream.We all have our own areas to work in but it is always good to work together as we can bounce ideas off each other. We can all support each other as well.

Are there any disadvantages or ways of partnership working that could be improved?

I think the only disadvantage is if we all contact the same business/organisation at once leading to confusion between the services or increasing demand on the businesses time to speak to us all.  

What feedback have you received so far from local businesses?

We have sent out leaflets and emails along with a questionnaire to a variety of businesses in the Newtown area and are now awaiting a response. Two of the local businesses are going through the service at the moment and we have just finished a report for one of them having looked at the questionnaires they have sent us with our findings and recommendations.

It's been good to hear from businesses that we have been able to verify concerns they suspected may be there and that we have been able to report back on the positives employees feel in the workplace too. Due to the anonymity of the employee feedback, businesses can be more confident in what is being shared about employee mental health and wellbeing.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done so far on this project

Just talking to people about Mental Health in the Workplace is very rewarding for me. I am working closely with my couple of clients and hope to get them onboard very soon.

When you’re not working how do you enjoy spending your time?

I have a very busy family life and love spending time with them. I also do a lot of work with Macmillan Cancer Support. After having breast cancer in 2016 I wanted to give something back. I like to travel and socialise with my family and friends. I sing in a local ladies’ choir as well which is very good for your mental health.

Many thanks to Sally for telling us more about the Building Resilient Businesses project. If you would like to find out more you can contact Sally by emailing: sally.green@ponthafren.org.uk

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

New Suicide & Self Harm Forum for Powys

Individual representatives, Sarah Dale & John Lilley

by Lucy Taylor, PAVO Startwell Officer

On 30th June Powys Teaching Health Board launched the county’s new Suicide and Self Harm Forum at the Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells. Led by Jan Roberts, Suicide and Self Harm Prevention Co-ordinator, practitioners from across the sectors gathered to discuss these important topics.

Hayley Thomas, Director of Planning & Performance at Powys Teaching Health Board, opened the day saying that suicide was everyone’s business. It should be treated like other big killers, and collective action is needed to shape a plan going forward. The new forum would consider prevention, tackle the stigma, identify the signs, early help and 24-hour support, the unique factors in Powys and ensure the equity of services across the county. Hayley also stressed the importance of listening to those with lived experience such as the speakers that followed.

Listening to the voices of lived experience

Attendees heard from two contributors who had personal experience of the effects on family of suicide. They spoke of the support they received, or did not, and what they hoped Powys would offer going forward. Information for the families on what support is available to them, both immediately and in the months following a suicide, was high on their list of requirements. They said that it was crucial for all relevant organisations and services to have this information to enable them to be as supportive as possible of families at this time.

The personal experiences inspired those in the room to work on taking important next steps. Firstly, to make sure that if families should experience the suicide of a loved one then they would have the best possible support as soon as the suicide was discovered, and secondly, to take a reflective look at their own services and how they currently respond to such situations.

Angela Samata on being bereaved by suicide
Strategy and guidance

Also contributing on the day were Clare Cotter - National Co-ordinator for Suicide & Self Harm Prevention with the NHS, and Laura Tranter - the Regional Co-ordinator, Mid & West Wales for Suicide & Self Harm.

It is hoped that an NHS executive for Wales will be set up by October 2022. The National Institute for Health & Care (NICE) guidance has been refreshed and Welsh Government’s strategic direction is that suicide is everybody’s business. The Talk to Me Suicide and Self Harm prevention strategy for Wales was originally published in 2008, and in 2015 Talk to Me 2 refreshed. This has 31 recommendations. The 6 objectives set out in 2015 are detailed below.

The strategy covers: prevention, the compassion needed, promoting anti-stigma and non-discrimination in communities, enabling help-seeking behaviour, and increasing confidence and skills in the workforce.

Listening exercise 2021

There was a listening exercise across Wales in 2021 about which the respondents spoke, highlighting:

The particular nature of bereavement by suicide and the need to have someone come alongside the bereaved as soon as possible to help with the practical challenges and emotional support.
  • Support required for the inquest.
  • Options for support and different needs.
  • Help is at Hand (published in 2016) is a handbook for those who are bereaved by suicide or working with someone who has been.
The 3 main areas of work

In Powys there will be three workstreams to follow up this work – Suicide, Self Harm and Postvention. The aim of the self harm workstream will be to understand self harm in Powys. Currently the Minor Injury Units do not have a set pathway to manage self harm. In the last year 230 people from Powys attended 17 different hospitals, 50% of which were in England. 19 – 24 year olds said they were most likely to go to a GP. In September a survey on “Self Harm in Rural Areas” is planned for those 16 + to give feedback on their experiences of services.

Jan Roberts, Powys Suicide & Self Harm Prevention Co-ordinator

Jan Roberts first wrote about her work of intelligence gathering and research into suicide in the county in a blog post last summer. Since then she has been analysing suicide data gained from 83 deaths by suicide between 2015 - 2019 in Powys. She discovered that an average of 33% of those who died were open to secondary mental health services in the 12 months prior to their death. The all Wales average is 23%.

The Postvention work (activities to support those bereaved by suicide to help with their recovery) will be done by the newly-established Powys Suicide Bereavement Project. Work started in 2021 with Postvention Assisting those Bereaved by Suicide training. The aim is to make the offer of support to people bereaved by suicide when they are notified about the death. That support will be provided, if required, within three working days of the suspected suicide. An open offer of support would remain available for up to three years, and repeated at regular intervals.

The new model will be reviewed regularly by partners and those with lived experience.

In the 2020 From Grief to Hope report from the Support after Suicide Partnership 23% of respondents were friends of the deceased and they and family reported that by the second anniversary everyone else had moved on.

Next steps

The next steps will be to gather data, on suicide, mental health and The Wales Applied Risk Research Network - a formulation-based technique for the assessment and management of serious risk (for example, violence to others and suicide) for users of mental health services. It has been gradually adopted as the risk evaluation and safety-planning technique for all seven health boards in Wales.

Other next steps include:
  • Forming an immediate response group.
  • To offer a police pack on available support.
  • The assessment of resources.
  • To further the Arts Strategy pilot project.
  • To work with the third sector to create effective and sustainable provision across Powys.
  • To establish clear interfaces with third sector provision across Wales, for example, the Jac Lewis Foundation.
Mapping current services

The forum then mapped the current provision in Powys against the Welsh Government report – Talk to me 2 which was the basis of the Suicide and Self Harm Prevention Strategy for Wales 2015 - 20 that is being refreshed.

The six objectives of the plan are:
  • Further improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of suicide and self-harm amongst the public, individuals who frequently come in to contact with people at risk of suicide and self-harm and professionals.
  • To deliver appropriate responses to personal crises, early intervention and management of suicide and self–harm.
  • Information and support for those bereaved or affected by suicide and self-harm.
  • Support the media in responsible reporting and portrayal of suicide and suicidal behaviour.
  • Reduce access to means of suicide.
  • Continue to promote and support learning, information and monitoring systems and research to improve our understanding of suicide and self-harm in Wales and guide action.

Participants gathered around the tables and shared experience and information to build up as complete a picture as possible of what is available in Powys to help families, mapped to Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Brecknockshire.

The forum went on to comment on different aspects of the plan and contribute their ideas and experience to the conversations.

The meeting was pulled together with promises that participants would take the work forward and share information. PAVO promised to facilitate a meeting of the third sector to discuss the support the sector offered and the strategic plans.

Watch this space for further updates.

Kirsty Williams, Vice Chair - Powys Teaching Health Board,
makes the closing remarks

Meanwhile, you can read “Safety Advice for Parents & Carers in relation to Self Harm & Suicide”, as recently published by the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services’ team at Powys Teaching Health Board, in English and Welsh.

Thank you to Powys Teaching Health Board for use of some photographs of the day.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Wild Skills Wild Spaces – natural ways to wellbeing

Wild Skills Wild Spaces is an innovative partnership project using ecotherapy sessions in the wilds of North Powys to help people struggling with their mental health. Delivered by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, in partnership with Powys Teaching Health Board (PTHB), it is funded by the Welsh Government until 2023.

In 2021 the project attracted national acclaim with a prestigious NHS Forest 2021 Award for Engaging People with Nature.

Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Head of Health and Wellbeing, Carla Kenyon, tells us more about this award-winning project where people are learning new skills, meeting new people and improving both physical and mental wellbeing while making a positive change for wildlife within their communities.

What inspired the Wild Skills Wild Spaces project?

I have an overwhelming passion to connect more people to nature and wildlife so that it is protected and cared for in the future. I also wanted to reach out to people who may not normally connect with nature by offering a health and wellbeing project as I know how nature is so important in helping people. I looked to see what other Wildlife Trusts are doing and visited the amazing My Place project being run by Lancashire Wildlife Trust. It is fantastic and that is what inspired me to bring that concept to Montgomeryshire.

Carla joins a Wild Skills Wild Spaces activity

The benefits of Nature and green spaces on mental health are well documented. What is WSWS’s take?

We often get participants saying we changed their life. Those four words are powerful and that is what drives us. Not only that though, they learn about their environment and wildlife. When they turn around, and point out things in nature to us, then that makes you smile.

The whole connection to and appreciation of life - whether it is human, animal, insect or plant life - is so important. We have had participants go from being hospitalised two or three times a year to no hospitalisation since joining the scheme and actually volunteering in their own time to bird survey or help in other areas. It is so powerful, that non judgemental setting mixed with a great team, and being outdoors really clearly works.

Tell us a bit about the team – characters and strengths

The team is made up of two males and two females who have been trained in delivering to people, who may have complex needs, outdoors. As such they can call themselves Outdoor Psychologically Aware Practitioners. They come from a range of backgrounds including forest school, wildlife trust conservation, National Trust and Mencap the learning disability charity.

I have been very lucky with the team as they just gel and connect with people so well. Mark, who is supported by Jo, runs the youth sessions and just naturally connects with kids. He is very funny and has the ability to be seen as an equal with the children. It is definitely a gift and not something everyone has. He just gives out an energy that is magnetic for the youth we work with.

Jo is warm and gentle and the mothering type figure some kids need. Fran, the project manager, has an amazing skill set from being forest school trained and a passion for nature and wildlife that is her life. Eurig joined us from North Wales Wildlife Trust and has lots of experience of delivering engagement sessions outdoors; his knowledge is second to none. There is nothing Eurig doesn’t know about wildlife and plants.

Who is the project aimed at and how are people referred?

The project is aimed at anyone who needs hope basically. People are referred through primary care - GP / community connectors / secondary care / schools / statutory and we are now open to self-referral.

What does MWT’s version of ecotherapy look like?

Ecotherapy is a word thrown about and applied to any wellbeing activity taking place outdoors but that is not what it is. That is a wellbeing session. Ecotherapy requires trained staff and a programme in place based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing. It requires structure and a thought through plan of activity delivered by trained staff.

Which Wild Skills have proved the most popular and why?

The green wood work proves popular - working with tools that people may have never used before and making things they can take home for wildlife in their gardens or to place on our reserves such as bird boxes or feeders. Also cooking is always popular - foraging within the surroundings for ingredients to make nettle crisps for example. But it is always done with care and people are educated where to cut the nettle so that it grows back for the wildlife.

What is it about these particular Wild Spaces in Montgomeryshire that can impact positively on wellbeing?

As a wildlife trust we are lucky that we have urban reserves that can be accessed on foot. That is a major positive as access is a problem where we live. We can see the fields but can’t access them. However, our urban community reserves can be accessed and are in walking distance of Welshpool and Newtown. This has a huge impact as it means people who may not have known they exist now know and can access them on a weekend or outside the session. They might take family or friends and educate them with what they may have learnt. That gives empowerment and a sense of ownership to people.

What happens once participants have completed the 12 week programme?

They can continue with us by joining a Friends of Group for one of the nature reserves or mentor on another programme.

Wildlife conservation is the MWT’s first priority. How does a project like WSWS fit into the trust’s aims and objectives?

It allows us to diversify and spread the conservation message to a new target market of people. People and youth, who may have nothing to do with wildlife or access nature, are through this scheme educated about the local surroundings and nature.  And they then go home and educate others, so that passion builds.  As David Attenborough says “No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced!"  This is so true! We could do an event with neon flashing signs and the same ole people would attend it and most of those people are already converted to care about their environment. How do we educate others, or find a new target market of people? Through a project like WSWS!

Hopefully then we are spreading the message wider and getting people to care thus leaving the legacy in safe hands.

Also with the participant support we are able to carry out activities under the programme that will increase biodiversity and enhance the reserves.

Why is the project being evaluated by a research team at Cardiff Metropolitan University?

They are evaluating it to produce standards and a framework to help influence social policy in Welsh Government. So it can hopefully be used and adopted by other outdoor third sector organisations across Wales.

What else do you do at MWT to encourage the therapeutic use of green spaces?

We use social media and other forms of communication to help encourage people out in nature. Currently the 30 Days Wild campaign run by the Wildlife Trusts is being promoted. It encourages people to do something connected with nature every day for the month of June.

Other than national campaigns like this we will have other people engagement activities on offer throughout the year depending on project funding and the projects that are currently being implemented, for example wildlife walks.

What have been the main challenges of the project?

The NHS actually referring in if I am honest. Getting referrers to take the time to refer people to the project. Also the time it takes to offer a pick up facility, in hindsight we need an 8 seater driver as part of this project. So in the future we would definitely factor this in to any future funding although that will be challenging as the funding is very scarce. SO, as always, funding is a challenge. We have a proven fantastic offering and to continue this after June 2023 is challenging as we need funding to do so.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work WSWS has done so far

Working with children from local secondary schools. The demand is huge and the number of children needing help with anxiety and other issues is increasing. Helping and delivering to these children, and seeing the difference it is making to them, pulls on your heart strings. For it to end would be devasting for all. Seeing the children have a safe environment and thrive in a group they feel comfortable enough to make friends in, talk and take part and get enthusiastic about nature is so rewarding.

We have also made improvements to the reserves themselves and put up over a hundred bird boxes which were made by some of the participants. There are too many things to list. But just seeing people connect to nature and care like David A said is what ticks the box as they say! That legacy for us is so important.

Everyone needs a boost to their mental wellbeing from time to time. With your wildlife trust hat on what can you recommend?

Keep it simple, it doesn’t have to be strenuous or complicated. It could be just going outside your front door and being mindful, for example, noticing the clouds, the insects, watching ants, birds…. anything.

It doesn’t need money or financial investment it can just be very simple. Put an apple outside and watch it being eaten, hang it on a tree and watch the birds peck at it. Or just simply visit one of our reserves, if only for 5 minutes, just go for a quick walk around it. That may be enough for some people and will instantly boost mood.

You can even just look out of the window for 5 minutes a day and notice if you see any wildlife in that space of time. Do it again the next day at the same time and see if you spot anything different or the same.

Key words – keep it simple!

Many thanks to Carla for telling us more about this award-winning project. If you want to find out more about Wild Skills Wild Spaces, you can contact her by emailing: Carla@montwt.co.uk

Monday, 13 June 2022

Infant mental health awareness week – the Powys picture

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

This week’s guest post is from Jolene Duggan, a mental health nurse who works for Powys Teaching Health Board as a Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team Lead.

The post is published to coincide with Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 13 – 19 June 2022, and is hosted by the British charity the Parent-Infant Foundation. The week provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of babies’ mental health as well as some of the issues that affect it. The theme this year is Understanding Early Trauma.

“The experiences we have in the earliest years of our lives impact the development of our brains. Experiencing trauma, such as exposure to domestic abuse, in the earliest years can have a significant impact on brain development, potentially leaving serious and lasting consequences that can create difficulties for the child into their adult years. This is not inevitable. Secure relationships with parents and carers can reduce stress caused by trauma and limit the long term impact it has on the baby’s development. Specialist support can help to strengthen these relationships and reduce the harms to babies.”
Parent-Infant Foundation

Tell us about your role as a Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team Lead 

The Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service is a multi-disciplinary service that provides joint assessment, support and advice to professionals working with women who are experiencing, or are at an increased chance of experiencing, a moderate to severe mental health condition during pregnancy and up to 12 months after having a baby.

The service works with women across Powys who are planning a pregnancy, currently pregnant or have recently given birth and have moderate to severe mental health conditions including bipolar disorder, psychosis, depression, anxiety and maternal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

The team currently comprises of two perinatal mental health practitioners, a specialist midwife two days a week and a consultant psychiatrist for half a day. We also have our team administrator three days a week who does an excellent job supporting us all.

What led you to this role?

I have had a special interest in maternal mental health since 2012 when I found myself supporting a mother through an episode of postpartum psychosis on an acute mental health ward and realised how little knowledge of the illness I had and was shocked at the lack of support and provision available to her, her new-born child and her partner. It was a steep learning curve, and from then I took every opportunity to further my knowledge and champion the needs of women in the perinatal period with mental health illness.

After gaining employment in Powys I was fortunate enough to be invited to, and was one of the founding members, of the Perinatal Mental Health steering group and my passion for improving perinatal mental health services continued, resulting in my successful appointment to Specialist Perinatal Team Lead post last April.

What does the ‘best start in life’ look like for an infant (0 – 3 years)?

The first 1001 days include pregnancy and the first two years of a child's life. There is clear evidence that this is a significant and influential phase in development. What happens during this period lays the foundation for every child’s future health, wellbeing, learning and earnings potential. It sets the groundwork for children developing emotional wellbeing, resilience and adaptability and the competencies they need to thrive. This period is a time of opportunity for services and interventions to support parents and primary care givers to help lay a foundation of health and wellbeing whose benefits can last a lifetime and carry into the next generation.

How is infant mental health supported across Powys?

Infant mental health is supported by many agencies and support services across Powys and is at the forefront of consideration with all professionals who work with families but, as a newly established team, the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health service have recently been undertaking further training to improve our knowledge and skills in relationship parent infant assessment. In the future we will be looking to provide parent-infant therapies for parents who experience moderate-severe mental health illness in the perinatal period.

Who is eligible to receive support and how do they access it?

The Specialist Community Perinatal Mental Health Service is a multi-disciplinary service that provides joint assessment, support and advice to professionals working with women from across Powys who are experiencing, or are at an increased chance of experiencing, a moderate to severe mental health condition including bipolar disorder, psychosis, depression, anxiety and maternal OCD during pregnancy and up to 12 months after having a baby

The Perinatal Service runs alongside the Community Mental Health teams' core hours Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Referrals can be made by any professional working with an individual including social workers, midwives, health visitors, GPs, hospital-based teams, local authority services and mental health services.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Tell us more about Early Trauma and its impact on babies’ mental health

It is widely now recognised by professionals throughout the world that what happens in the first 1001 days of life are incredibly important. Children’s brains develop fastest, and are at their most ‘plastic’ or adaptable, in the womb and early years of life. A baby’s development is strongly influenced by their experiences of the world and these are shaped by their primary caregivers which are usually their parents. A parent’s response to a baby’s needs shapes how they experience their emotions and how they learn to regulate and express these emotions.

It is also important to remember that nurturing relationships begin before birth. The baby’s brain is developing rapidly during pregnancy and is influenced by the physical environment of the mother’s womb, and the environment beyond it. Babies can experience adversity in the womb. For example, where domestic abuse is occurring, research shows that babies’ stress regulation systems adapt accordingly, leaving them more responsive to threat but consequently more irritable and difficult to settle once they are born.

Therefore, it is vital to consider the parent infant relationship when supporting parents who may be experiencing, or are at an increased risk of developing, moderate to severe mental health problems during the perinatal period.

How are you working alongside other agencies, in particular voluntary groups, to promote good mental health for infants?

Two years ago ten professionals from Powys Teaching Health Board's Mental Health and Women's & Children’s services became the Institute of Health Visiting Champions. The role of the champions is to be ambassadors for perinatal and infant mental health within our local area and take an active role in leading the perinatal and infant mental health agenda.

Despite the obstacles that all of us have faced with COVID-19 the team of champions has successfully delivered perinatal and infant mental health training to over 60 healthcare professionals in Powys who work with families in the perinatal period. Our aim over the next 6 months is to open this up to Third Sector services as well as establishing a Powys perinatal and infant mental health Community of Practice where all agencies and professionals can come and share good practice and knowledge in relation to service development.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Parental / carers’ wellbeing is important too. How do you support parents / carers who might be struggling?

Supporting other primary care givers’ mental health is also a key priority of the specialist mental health team and in our role as perinatal practitioners we take into consideration ‘the whole family’ when assessing needs in relation to perinatal and infant mental health.

Just like mothers, fathers go through a multitude of complex emotional changes during the perinatal period, and it is important when thinking about perinatal mental health that equal consideration is given to the mental wellbeing of fathers’ mental health. Once needs are identified appropriate signposting and or referral to relevant services to support the family’s needs are completed.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job as a Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team Lead?

On a daily basis the complexities of the perinatal and infant mental health needs that present to our services can be challenging but, as a needs-led service we are equipped to be adaptable to meet those needs and work closely with other agencies and services across the health board to ensure co-ordinated and consistent care are delivered.

The most challenging aspect that I have personally encountered since embarking on this professional journey is that of trying to set up a new service in such a large geographical area which can present a number of barriers and challenges to equitable service provision. That said, I do like a challenge, and it has been very rewarding trying to think creatively about how we can deliver this across Powys.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done as a Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team Lead

We have recently undertaken our Perinatal Service peer review by the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Perinatal Quality Network. It was a great opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved over the last 12 months and felt very rewarding to hear positive feedback in respect of the service being delivered by the team.

What is the most valuable thing you have learnt since starting your role?

Communication and patience are key components needed when setting up a new service. The ability to ‘learn to walk before you can run’ is also fundamental.

If there was one thing you could change in the Infant mental health world, what would it be?

A specialist infant mental health service in every health board across the UK!

When you are not working in the Perinatal mental health team, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I have two boys aged 5 and 2 who keep me busy on a daily basis as well as helping my husband on the family beef and sheep farm where we also have an egg production unit. I am a club leader for my local young farmers’ club and enjoy giving back to an invaluable youth movement that gave me so many opportunities in life! I enjoy walking and spending time with friends and when I get the opportunity, I love to travel to new places both in the UK and abroad.

Many thanks to Jolene for telling us about what is in place to support infant mental health in Powys. If you would like to find out more you can contact Jolene by emailing jolene.duggan@wales.nhs.uk or follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Addressing loneliness in Powys: Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Earlier this week, to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, we posted about a number of new community initiatives which have recently been set up in Powys to address loneliness and isolation following the launch of the Connected Communities: Loneliness & Isolation Fund 2022 - 24.

Today we look at two more amazing projects which have both been running for several years now in Powys to support people to access services that are "right for them, which improve their independence and help maintain social networks". So often this means people have the chance to be out and about meeting others, making new friendships and revitalising old ones.

Before we dive into the detail, just a reminder about The Mental Health Foundation, the charity which has hosted the annual Mental Health Awareness Week since 2000. The Foundation explains why Loneliness is this year's chosen theme:

"The Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic research has found that loneliness has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. The Foundation has been tracking loneliness levels in the UK during the pandemic and found the experience has been much higher with devastating impact. Loneliness has been an important factor contributing to higher levels of distress, resulting from people’s sense of isolation and reduced ability to connect with others. Further polling also found that loneliness was one of the leading issues that the public felt needed to be addressed."

So in this, the second of our MHAW 2022 week blog posts, we focus on two key services provided by Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations, both of which contribute hugely to addressing the issues of isolation and / or loneliness in the county. These services have played a vital role in supporting people throughout Powys who have struggled through the past two years of Covid lockdowns and beyond.

They are the Community Connectors and Powys Befriending Services.

Community Connector Claire Powell (bottom row, 2nd L)
& partners on the Newtown locality network

Sharon Healey, Senior Officer Community Connectors and Powys Befriending Services at PAVO, tells us more about the work of these two invaluable services, and the impact their work is having on individuals in the county who may be living with challenging mental and / or physical health conditions whilst at the same time also struggling to overcome loneliness and / or isolation.

Community Connectors Service

The Community Connector Service operates across Powys, with 13 Community Connectors based in Localities taking referrals for a wide range of issues – community activities, transport, benefits, housing, health conditions, wellbeing, loneliness and much more.

The Community Connectors can support clients to access the right local support and information. The service helps people in Powys, aged 18 years+ and their families or Carers, to access community level services and activities that will help them maintain independent lives and which will help prevent their circumstances deteriorating to a point where they might need higher level health or social care services.

Community Connectors can also support people when they return home from hospital by helping other voluntary sector services, such as the Red Cross, identify local services that may be needed. This could include occupational therapy, home adaptations, community transport, specific health related issues including dementia, medication/shopping collection or sourcing cleaning and overcoming loneliness and isolation.

During 2021/22 the top presenting issues into the CC service have been Social Isolation and Loneliness. We have supported over 510 individuals presenting with this issue, finding support and signposting them to befriending services, local groups of interest, looking at individuals' circle of support, online social groups, local social groups, etc.

Community Connector Lynda Rogers (far right) supporting Powys Pride


I don't know how I would have got through the last few months without the CCs and everything they had helped find out, put in place and have advised me on.

G is an 80 year old man who by his own admission used to be a workaholic, spending as much time as he could on his farm in the work he loved. However as he got older this became physically more difficult and after he and his son employed a farm worker to help them out with the business he found he spent most days at home, alone. He hadn’t developed any interests due to his work commitments and felt anxious to leave the house.

G was being supported by farming charities Tir Dewi and the DPJ Foundation. The volunteer with the DPJ Foundation had been supporting G for 6 weeks and their support was coming to an end but G felt that he had enjoyed the volunteer’s visits so much he would like something similar to continue. He was referred into the Community Connectors' Service.

Community Connectors spreading the word out in the local community

His local Connector talked to him about befriending. He liked the sound of this and would like face to face visits. He said that with the support of a volunteer, who he had learned to trust, he would consider going out to meet other people at local group activities.

The Connector contacted the main Befriending providers and found that Age Cymru Powys had a volunteer who might be suitable for G. With G’s consent, he was referred into the Community Helpers’ scheme at Age Cymru Powys and was matched with a local male volunteer later that afternoon. Age Cymru Powys will also be offering him their Mamwlad support.

Powys Befriending Service

PBS - Powys Befriending Service is a project run by PAVO - Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations. The service supports people over the age of 50 living in Powys, to help maintain their independence, build confidence, develop their social network and reconnect with activities in the community or with a friendly cuppa and chat in their own home. The service supports people who have become lonely or socially isolated because of ill health, bereavement, disability, life changes or social disadvantage by arranging a supportive, reliable relationship with a Powys Befriender.

The service offers telephone befriending, 1:1 befriending in the client's own home or in the community, digital online groups and befriending groups in communities and letter or email befriending. Befriending is a process of bringing two or more people together with the aim of establishing an informal social arrangement. Befriending support can lower rates of depression, improve social skills, reduce isolation, improve self-management, improve self-esteem and confidence, reduce vulnerability and risk of abuse, build a sense of purpose and see a reduce in use of emergency services.

Sharon Healey (top right), Senior Officer Community Connectors & Powys Befriending Services
at PAVO joins a Powys Befriending board games session

Powys Befrienders supports clients to access social, leisure, educational or other needs and promotes personal choice, increased self-respect, supporting existing social skills and development of new opportunities. They can visit the client in their own homes or in the community to provide companionship and support. Telephone befrienders have light, meaningful conversations with their client, providing distraction from negative situations or circumstances.

As of the end of March 2022 the service supports over 420 clients through the activities offered. Due to the Covid pandemic the service had to amend its offers due to clients isolating and 
therefore with the huge increase in demand for support telephone and online support was developed.

Powys Befriending Service is part of a much wider team within PAVO and the wider Third Sector and any additional support required by clients can be sourced via the PAVO Community Connector Service.

Natalie Philbin-Carr (2nd from left), PBS Outreach Officer North Powys
 at a Powys Befriending session lunch


Joyce Bettley is enjoying her calls immensely. "I look forward to the calls so much and my Volunteer ** is smashing. We talk about food, recipes, cooking, jam and everything else. It's absolutely lovely. I was reluctant at first but Natalie persuaded me to give it a try and it's the best thing I've done!”

There is no question that the Befriending Service has been a lifeline for me at a difficult time. I can recommend it to anybody.

Coffee & Chat Group, Newtown

Jenny Jones - “It was lovely, just to get out and meet people and so spacious, good coffee too!”

A client reported how pleased she is with her Telephone Befriender and that ‘he has made the world of difference to me’. She explained that she really looks forward to his calls and feels pleased that she has been able to help her Volunteer overcome his initial shyness and lack of confidence when talking over the telephone. She said that she is a natural conversationalist and their relationship has become mutually beneficial.

A PBS social event

And finally

If you know anyone struggling with loneliness in Powys, then let them know about services and projects that are available in the county to provide support. 

Community Connectors - contact details

Call our Duty Officer, Community Connector Service on 01597 828649 10am - 4pm Monday to Friday or email community.connectors@pavo.org.uk 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday.

Powys Befrienders' Service - contact details

Call 01597 822191 for an informal chat or email pbs@pavo.org.uk 9am - 5pm Monday - Friday.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 - Loneliness

Menter Maldwyn - Cerdded wrth yr Afon Tanat / Walking by the River Tanat

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week
 9 - 15 May 2022 is Loneliness

The Mental Health Foundation, the charity which has hosted the annual Mental Health Awareness Week since 2000, explains why Loneliness is the chosen theme:

“Loneliness affects millions of people in the UK every year and is a key driver of poor mental health. The Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic research has found that loneliness has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. The Foundation has been tracking loneliness levels in the UK during the pandemic and found the experience has been much higher with devastating impact. Loneliness has been an important factor contributing to higher levels of distress, resulting from people’s sense of isolation and reduced ability to connect with others. Further polling also found that loneliness was one of the leading issues that the public felt needed to be addressed.”

“Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health so we must find better ways of tackling the epidemic of loneliness.”

Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation

Powys Connected Communities: Loneliness & Isolation Fund 2021 - 24

Here in Powys colleagues at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations identified similar issues earlier this year and in response launched the Connected Communities: Loneliness & Isolation Fund 2021 - 24. This grant scheme focuses on funding organisations “providing locally tailored responses and small scale community-based support.” The emphasis is on “building the capability and sustainability of grassroots voluntary and community organisations that bring people of all ages together”.

Menter Maldwyn yoga

In this blog post we look at some of the projects that have been funded in Powys by this scheme. It’s still early days but it gives a feel for how grassroots organisations are stepping in to address “the epidemic of loneliness” which has been identified by the Mental Health Foundation.

CARAD (Community Arts Rhayader & District)

CARAD is an organisation run by enthusiastic volunteers who love working with others and love Mid Wales. If you would like to share or learn practical skills, or have an interest in local stories, we have a new project which you would be welcome to join us in creating. Rhayader Museum is changing into TimeScape Rhayader and will have two new floors of activities and exhibits to experience. 

We would welcome help in all sorts of ways, from carpentry to painting, gardening to crafting and more. We are also looking for people who would like to be ‘expert guides and gallery supervisors’ who can talk to our visitors about the area. We are developing a programme of training to complement what you already know, or support you to learn new things about the area, to help visitors get the most from their visit.

Would you like to feel more confident in meeting people again? If you’d like to enjoy a cuppa and find out about the many ways we welcome people to take part in creating Mid Wales's exciting new visitor attraction, then do get in touch - all@carad.org.uk or leave a message at 07788 663 172 or call in to meet us, Tuesday – Friday, 11 – 4.00, East St, Rhayader, opposite the fire station.

Ennyn Cymru - Circles of Connection / Cylchoedd Cyswllt

We are looking forward to delivering in-person wellbeing sessions for young females across the age span of 9 - 16, with the aim of supporting them in their transition into and through adolescence.

Sessions will involve learning about the bodily changes that occur during puberty, and provide a space for discussion, as well as activities such as yoga, arts & crafts, games and relaxation. The purpose of these session is to create a safe space for young females to gather together to socialise, connect and build relationships with each other, as well as to address the isolation that can be felt when journeying through puberty and trying to navigate topics such as menstruation, that are still taboo. We hope these sessions will empower and support our future generation.

The project will be provided by Ennyn CIC and delivered by Sian Davies.

Ennyn CIC is a community Interest company run by the artists Nicky Arscott and Elin Crowley, that offers creative and educational workshops, activities and opportunities for children, young people and adults in the Machynlleth area.

The wellbeing sessions will be run by Sian Davies, who offers creative menstrual awareness and educational workshops for menstruators and menstruators-to-be to learn about the menstrual cycle and menstrual wellbeing. Sian is passionate about tackling the shame and taboo that exists around the topics of puberty and menstruation, and the feelings of loneliness and isolation that can often arise from it. She hopes for a future where young people are supported in building a positive relationship with their bodies, and feel empowered in their transition in to and through adolescence.

Rydym yn edrych ymlaen i gynnig sesiynau wyneb yn wyneb i ferchaid ifanc oedran 9-16, gyda’r bwriad o’u cefnogi nhw yn eu trawsnewidiad i mewn i a thrwy’r glasoed.

Bydd y sesiynau yn cynnwys dysgu am newidiadau yn y corff yn ystod y glasoed, ac yn cynnig gofod i drafodaeth a gweithgareddau megis ioga, celf a chrefft, gemau ac ymlacio. Pwrpas y seisynau yw i greu gofod diogel i ferchaid ifanc i ymgynyll i gymdeithasu, cysylltu ac adeiladu perthnasau gyda’u gilydd, yn ogystal a chyfeirio at yr ynysu sy’n gallu digwydd tra’n symud trwy’r glasoed. Bydd y sesiynau yn cyfeirio at bynciau megis y mislif sydd dal yn bwnc tabŵ.

Mae’r sesiynau yn cael ei darparu gan Ennyn CIC a’u harwain gan Sian Davies.

Mae Ennyn CIC yn gwmni er budd y gymuned sy’n cael ei reoli gan Nicky Arscott ac Elin Crowley, dwy artist o ardal Machynlleth. Mae’r cwmni yn cynnig gweithgareddau dwyieithog creadigol ac addysgiadol i blant, pobl ifanc ac oedolion yn ardal Machynlleth.

Mae’r sesiynau lles hyn yn cael eu harwain gan Sian Davies, sy’n cynnig gweithdai addysgiadol i godi ymwybyddiaeth am y mislif mewn dull creadigol. Mae Sian yn angerddol am leihau y teimlad o gywilydd a thabŵ sy’n bodoli oamgylch y pwnc, a’r teimlad o unigrwydd ac ynysiad sy’n gallu codi oherwydd hyny. Mae Sian yn gobeithio am ddyfodol lle bydd pobl ifanc yn cael eu cefnogi i adeiladu perthynas bositif gyda’u cyrff, a theimlo’n hyderus ar ei siwrne i mewn i ac yn ystod y glasoed.

Menter Maldwyn - The Climate Project / Y Prosiect Hinsawdd

The Climate Project pilot has been developed with high school aged young people in mind, who live in a bilingual, rural area of North Powys. Like other young people, they have missed out on opportunities to socialise and have fun during the Covid pandemic, and for many there are ongoing consequences from the isolation and anxiety caused by the whole situation. Many young people also suffer from anxiety about the climate emergency and the war in Ukraine adds to what seems like a catalogue of reasons to feel anxious and depressed.

Menter Maldwyn Grwp y Prosiect Hinsawdd / The Climate Project group

The Climate Project pilot has been designed with wellbeing at its core. Monthly sessions for 6 months provide an opportunity for young people to come together with friends, to have fun, to take part in creative and wellbeing-focused activities, both indoors and outdoors with the climate running as a theme throughout. The aim is to support the youngsters so that they can take small actions which help them to see that they can make a difference in the climate emergency - that it isn't a hopeless situation. And to be 'climate activists' or 'climate champions', they will need to look after their own health and wellbeing. 

The first session involved a walk, photography, arts activities, yoga, good food and developing ideas for future sessions. As the project develops, we hope that the young people will begin to lead activities and demonstrate to themselves and others what empowered and capable young people can do. The project is a partnership between Menter Iaith Maldwyn, Fun Palaces and the National Trust and is a Welsh/bilingual project.

Menter Maldwyn Pecynnau blodau gwyllt / Wildflower sets

Mae'r Prosiect Hinsawdd wedi cael ei ddatblygu ar gyfer bobl ifanc oedran uwchradd, sy'n byw mewn ardal ddwyieithog a gwledig o Ogledd Powys. Fel pobl ifanc eraill, maen nhw wedi methu allan ar gyfleoedd i gymdeithasu a chael hwyl yn ystod y pandemig Covid, ac i lawer mae'r canlyniadau o'r ynysu a'r pryder a gafodd ei achosi yn parhau. Mae llawer o bobl ifanc hefyd yn dioddef o bryder ynglŷn ag argyfwng yr Hinsawdd ac mae'r rhyfel yn Wcráin yn ychwanegu at be sy'n teimlo fel catalog o resymau i deimlo'n bryderus ac isel.

Mae'r Prosiect Hinsawdd wedi cael ei gynllunio hefo lles yn ei graidd. Bydd y sesiynau misol am 6 mis yn rhoi cyfle i bobl ifanc ddod at ei gilydd hefo'i ffrindiau i gael hwyl, i gymryd rhan mewn gweithgareddau creadigol a rhai sydd â ffocws ar les, tu mewn a thu allan gyda'r hinsawdd yn rhedeg fel thema drwyddynt. Y bwriad yw i gefnogi'r bobl ifanc fel eu bod yn gallu cymryd camau bychain fel eu bod yn gallu gweld eu bod nhw'n gallu cymryd camau fydd yn gwneud gwahaniaeth yn argyfwng yr hinsawdd - fod y sefyllfa ddim yn anobeithiol. Ac i fod yn 'weithredwyr hinsawdd' neu 'hyrwyddwyr hinsawdd' bydd angen iddyn nhw fod yn iach ac edrych ar ôl eu lles. 

 Yn y sesiwn cyntaf, buon ni'n cerdded, gwneud ffotograffiaeth, gweithgareddau celf, yoga, bwyta bwyd da a datblygu syniadau ar gyfer y sesiynau nesaf. Wrth i'r prosiect fynd yn ei flaen, ryden ni'n gobeithio y bydd y bobl ifanc yn dechrau arwain y gweithgareddau gan ddangos i'w hunain ac i eraill yr hyn y mae pobl ifanc grymus a galluog yn gallu ei wneud. Mae'r prosiect yn bartneriaeth rhwng Menter Iaith Maldwyn, Palasau Hwyl/Fun Palaces a'r Ymddiriedolaeth Genedlaethol ac yn brosiect Cymraeg/dwyieithog.

The Wilderness Trust

Here at the Hanging Gardens in Llanidloes we have set up new creative sessions for new parents living locally.

This is a creative peer group for new parents where we try out different arts based activities (painting, crafts, and writing for example) and share coffee, conversation and concerns. It's a moment for parents to take some time for themselves and to meet others in the area. We have a safe place for you to bring your pre-toddler children who can relax and explore right next to us while the parents get stuck in!

Other funded organisations

Other organisations receiving funding from the Connected Communities: Loneliness & Isolation Fund 2021 - 24 grant scheme include: Gerddi Bro Ddyfi Gardens, the Macular Society, Brecknock Play Network, Mid & North Powys Mind, Llanfyllin Mens' Shed and Credu. Look out for more information about their new projects soon!