Tuesday 5 December 2023

Volunteering at Christmas & New Year

Gareth Ratcliffe (sat centre) and the team of Hay on Wye Christmas volunteers

This seasonal blog post is about the benefits volunteering can bring to so many people and organisations over the Christmas season. There are so many volunteering options out there during the deep mid winter. It can make a refreshing change to do something different at this time of year, especially if you like to escape the more traditional Christmas activities, or just need a change of scene, (or people!).

Traditionally homeless centres, churches, care homes, mental health charities and telephone befriending services all seek volunteers over the Christmas period to provide practical support and friendship during a season which can be very difficult for many. However, the opportunities are endless and varied - it pays to do a little research and commit yourself in advance to get the best out of your contribution - not just for the organisation you sign up with but also yourself.

We asked some PAVO colleagues, with past experience of volunteering over the seasonal period, or perhaps dipping their toes in for the first time, to tell us more about the benefits.

Gareth Ratcliffe - Health Promotion Facilitator
Bringing joy to Hay-on-Wye: Volunteers join forces to welcome Father Christmas

Each year, the small town of Hay-on-Wye experiences a magical event that warms the hearts of both young and old—the visit of Father Christmas. This enchanting tradition is made possible by a dedicated group of local volunteers who come together to create a festive atmosphere and spread Christmas cheer throughout the community. This was a tradition that was reintroduced over the Covid period. When I was a child, I always remember the visit on the back of the local steam engine a few days before Christmas. These memories have lasted forever.

Volunteer spirit: Spreading the magic of Christmas

The heartwarming sight of Santa Claus and his supportive elves traversing the streets of Hay-on-Wye is made possible by the dedicated volunteers who give their time and energy to make this event a reality. Their efforts go beyond organising the route and ensuring a smooth procession; they play a crucial role in creating an unforgettable experience for the entire community. With Christmas tunes blasting out, the bells ringing and little treats for the girls and boys on Santa's good list.

The magic of Santa: Uniting generations

The joy that radiates from the faces of children and the smiles exchanged between neighbours as Santa Claus makes his way through town are immeasurable. It's a reminder that the holiday season is not just about gifts but about coming together as a community, sharing in the wonder of the festive season, and creating cherished moments that will be remembered for years to come.

As the volunteers of Hay-on-Wye prepare to welcome Father Christmas, they embody the true spirit of the season—selflessness, community, and the joy of giving. Through their collective efforts, they bring to life the magic of Christmas and make it a season to remember for everyone in Hay-on-Wye.

Bringing communities together: A fundraising twist

Each year we also like to raise funds for those who want to donate to a local event for the community. In the true spirit of giving, they are raising funds for the Hay Summer Show, a local event that celebrates the community's talents and achievements. The generosity of those who choose to donate during Santa's visit will contribute to the success of this beloved summer showcase.

Winter wildflowers in Powys

Lucy Taylor - Community Wellbeing Officer Children and Young People
New Year Plant Hunt

My family and I will be volunteering for the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland on their annual New Year Plant Survey which takes place from Saturday 30 December 2023 to Tuesday 2 January 2024.

The plant survey helps build a picture of biodiversity and decline so that decline in species, and how species are reacting to climate change, can be recorded and then these issues can be addressed / mitigated. As the survey has been done for 30 odd years it is building a great picture of our wildflowers. Citizen research projects are so interesting to take part in, to feel part of that wider community.

I love to walk and always look at the flowers and plants around, so to do so with a purpose and effect will be really nice. It makes you feel useful and that is always good. A walk at Christmas / New Year time with the family is always great so with this in mind everyone can join in. Done year on year you build up your own image of how plants are faring in your local area.

My top tip for anyone wishing to volunteer for the first time at Christmas & New Year is - think about it in advance and plan your time so it does not become a panic in the hustle and bustle of the season. Why not volunteer with friends and family?

Trish Varley - Finance Officer
Knitting for Young Farmers’ Clubs supporting homeless people

I was asked if I'd like to knit some bobble hats for the local Young Farmers’ club as they were going to be distributed to the homeless as part of one of the YFC projects. The YFC regularly have projects that involve their members collecting, or creating items for competitions, that then get distributed for the benefit of various good causes. This time it was a request for members to come up with colourful bobble hats which would then be donated to homeless people.

As I have a passion for knitting and crocheting, I am always glad of any opportunity to make something that might help an individual or group and this was perfect. Throughout the last year I have been crocheting colourful blankets for dementia patients in NHS hospitals which was very satisfying.

I have enjoyed making these hats so much that I have continued to knit more in the hope that they can be donated wherever they might be needed and I am currently on the 6th hat since I started 2 weeks ago.

My tip for volunteering is to look for opportunities that might involve something that you enjoy doing, that way it feels even more beneficial to use your skills doing something you love to benefit another person.

Jen Hawkins - Senior Officer Community Wellbeing
Volunteering with the Montgomery Brownies

I'll be volunteering and supporting the 1st Montgomery Brownies. We have approximately 20 girls ranging from 7-10 years old. We have three older girls leaving us at Christmas to join the Guides and they're working on finishing off their brownie badges in time to move up. We'll also be going climbing and going to the cinema with the girls, whilst finishing off our Castle badges, perfect to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Montgomery Castle. There'll be an end of term party to celebrate our achievements this term with some fun and games and probably chocolate !

The girls benefit from learning new skills and working together as a team, helping them to grow in confidence, developing interests that they might not have considered before and making friends for life. The age range encourages the girls to work together and support each other with the older girls taking more responsibilities as sixers and seconders, helping and supporting the younger girls.

I have a lot of fun supporting the girls. Sometimes the activities take me out of my comfort zone and can stretch me in new ways too, making origami toadstools was not easy! It's good to learn with the girls and to recognise that in life we are constantly learning and it's OK to make mistakes, learn and move on. Working with young people is also rewarding, watching them grow in confidence and have fun. I think it helps me to feel young at heart and embrace the fun side of life too.

My top tip for anyone wishing to volunteer for the first time at Christmas & New Year is: Jump in and have a go, you never know what new skills you might learn or what you might discover about yourself, you'll have fun too.

Louise Hardwick - Development Officer
Cooking & delivering Christmas meals in Knighton

Over previous years I have volunteered my time in cooking and delivering hot Christmas dinners and puds on Christmas Day for 44 people in and around Knighton. My family all helped out, with everything from washing up, putting together a little gift for each recipient, and I sourced donations to cover all of the costs. I recruited a band of volunteers who helped me with serving and delivering the meals. This year my youngest daughter, age 10, and myself are going to be volunteering for a morning at our local Foodbank and helping with packaging up Christmas parcels ready to be delivered to families. My daughter Zara loves to support the foodbank and has already dropped off a recent order of groceries and supplies which she picked out and paid for herself.

Having gone through difficult times myself it is nice to be able to pay it forward and support others who may find times challenging. Also giving a helping hand to Helen, our wonderful foodbank manager in her busiest season, by helping her prepare parcels.

Some of the benefits to me include: continuing to teach my children to always be grateful for what we have, but to be compassionate and empathetic towards others, and be able and willing to help in any way we can. The 'feel-good' factor of helping others is like no other feeling. It's not about getting something physical or financial, knowing that the tiny amount of help we give will help put a little smile on someone else's face is priceless.

Louise and her son Owen serving up meals for delivery

My top tip for volunteering at this time of year: Just do it! It doesn't matter how much time you can give, even just a one off hour is so very helpful. There are so many volunteer opportunities around - it could even be helping a neighbour with that bit of festive shopping they can't quite manage to get, or assisting them in wrapping presents for their family members. Go in with open arms and an open mind and you won't be disappointed. Volunteering at any age is such a rewarding thing to do.

A BIG thanks to colleagues for telling us about their seasonal volunteering experiences. If you would like to discuss the volunteering opportunities that are available in your area in Powys then do get in touch with the Powys Volunteer Centre.

A peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers near and far

Tuesday 14 November 2023

It’s Welsh Charities Week - let's celebrate our Powys mental health charities

This week, 13 – 17 November 2023, is Welsh Charities Week! It’s a chance to recognise and share the good work of charities, social enterprises, voluntary organisations and community and volunteer groups in Powys.

According to WCVA, which hosts Welsh Charities Week: “The last few years have seen the sector and country as a whole endure a series of challenges and difficult circumstances. Welsh Charities Week is a chance to recognise and celebrate all the work that people and organisations across the voluntary sector in Wales do to shine a bit of light in the dark. It’s an opportunity to come together and show appreciation, to remind people that what they do makes a difference.”

To celebrate the wonderful work of our Powys mental health charities for Welsh Charities Week we decided to showcase one of the current activities or services available from each organisation. There is so much support out there for people who need help to boost their emotional wellbeing, we need to shout loud and make sure everyone, absolutely everyone, knows about it. We never know when any one of us - you, me, our family and friends, may find ourselves struggling with our mental health and need that support.

So support these local charities, because they support us. Show them some love, because they are lifesavers, literally in some cases. You could help spread the word about their services, you could join in their fundraising activities, you could volunteer at their centres. There are so many ways to celebrate and support their essential work.

Let’s hear more about them. From South to North up through our magnificent and large county of Powys:

Ystradgynlais Mind - In-work support service

The In-Work Support Service is a new, Welsh Government funded service being delivered by Minds in Powys. It is a 2 years’ project focussed on reducing the impact of health issues in the workplace. It is aimed at individuals and businesses, providing therapeutic support for employees and training and advice to businesses throughout Powys.

The new 'In Work Support Service' at Ystradgynlais Mind can help those who are struggling with their mental health whilst working.

The free service provides therapeutic support to help people who are absent from work, or at risk of becoming absent, due to their ill-health.

Head over to the Ystradgynlais Mind website to find out more!

Brecon & District Mind - Mums Matter

Mums Matter is a National Mind programme that was created by Mums for Mums with babies up to two years old to help them to adjust to motherhood. Brecon and District Mind have been delivering it for nearly five years now. The six-week face to face course runs for groups of Mums for two hours each week; childcare is also provided.

There is a strong emphasis on peer support and being able to have honest conversations about the inevitable challenges that come with being a mum – tiredness, perhaps a loss of identity, anxiety, guilt and loneliness.

If you miss a course, there are always new courses coming up. The latest course starts in Brecon this week at the Subud Centre, and there is also a Mums' Social group during term time which is open to expectant Mums too. It's a great place to chit chat and get to know the Family Team at Brecon & District Mind. 

Find out more on the Brecon & District Mind website.

Mid & North Powys Mind - Bereavement Cafe

If you are experiencing grief and loss and would like to connect with others who have, or who are undergoing, a similar experience, why not consider going along to Mid & North Powys Mind’s Bereavement Cafe.

It takes place on the first Friday of every month at All Saints’ Church in Newtown at 6.30pm.

The cafe is part of a Bereavement Support service offered by the organisation. You can be matched with a Bereavement Supporter who will work alongside you, listening and helping you work through your grief in your own way, on a one to one basis. Your Bereavement Supporter is a volunteer who has undergone extensive training.

Each session will last about an hour and will continue for an average of 6 sessions. Support can be face to face and/or telephone/Zoom, depending on what works for you. Anything you say is kept in the strictest confidence, unless someone’s safety is at risk. 

Check out the Mid & North Powys Mind website to find out more.

Ponthafren - the Gym

Ponthafren recently announced the opening of the new Ponthafren Gym at the Armoury in Welshpool.

It has been shown that doing physical activity can help improve your mental health. Physical activity can help with:
  • Sleeping better.
  • Feeling happier.
  • Managing stress.
  • Managing anxiety or intrusive thoughts.
  • Improving self image.
Ponthafren Gym is a great place to get healthier in a relaxed non-judgmental atmosphere.

Come along and join for a Healthy Mind & Body with Ponthafren. Membership is just £15 per month. You must complete a compulsory induction before using the equipment. 

All you need to know is on the Ponthafren website.

We wish our local mental health charities all the best for Welsh Charities Week 2023! 

Long may they continue to support our communities.

Thursday 19 October 2023

The DPJ Foundation launches vital children’s books

Lawnsiad Sefydliad DPJ o lyfrau plant hanfodol

DPJ founder Emma's children - Trystan, Mali & Erin 
Plant Emma, sylfaenydd DPJ - Trystan, Mali ac Erin

On Tuesday 10 October 2023, World Mental Health Awareness Day, The DPJ Foundation shared their first series of therapeutic children’s picture books the “Dan Y Bont” series with schools across Wales.

The DPJ Foundation, founded in 2016, supports the mental health of agricultural communities across Wales, providing a 24/7 helpline ‘Share The Load’. This includes supporting those who are bereaved and are experiencing grief.

Ar ddydd Mawrth 10fed o Hydref, 2023, Diwrnod Ymwybyddiaeth Iechyd Meddwl y Byd, rhannodd Sefydliad DPJ, gydag ysgolion ledled Cymru, llyfrau “Dan Y Bont”, eu cyfres gyntaf o lyfrau lluniau therapiwtig i blant.

Mae Sefydliad DPJ, a sefydlwyd yn 2016, yn cefnogi iechyd meddwl cymunedau amaethyddol ar draws Cymru, gan ddarparu llinell gymorth 24/7 ‘Rhannwch y Baich’. Mae hyn yn cynnwys cymorth i’r rhai hynny sydd wedi cael profedigaeth ac sy’n galaru.

The idea for this project came from the DPJ Foundation’s charity manager, Kate Miles. Kate recognized the increasing need for bereavement support for children in rural communities, especially those in agriculture and often found parents turning to the DPJ Foundation for assistance when their children were grappling with the complexities of grief. Thanks to a grant from the Welsh Government’s Bereavement Support Fund, the charity was able to create a collection of three books specifically tailored to primary-age children, aiming to provide them with much-needed support during difficult times. Fundraising from within the agricultural community has enabled the DPJ Foundation to place books within schools and libraries across the country. Kate said:

“We know that everyone will experience bereavement at some point, and dealing with this as a child can be difficult. We wanted to support parents, grandparents and teachers to have conversations that can enable their children to deal with often overwhelming feelings. We know that it is hard to support your child whilst trying to face your own loss so we wanted to offer something that may help.”

Lluniwyd y prosiect yn dilyn awgrymiadau Kate Miles, rheolwr elusen Sefydliad DPJ, a oedd wedi adnabod yr angen cynyddol am gefnogaeth profedigaeth i blant mewn cymunedau gwledig, yn enwedig cymunedau amaethyddol. Roedd hi’n aml yn gweld rhieni’n troi at Sefydliad DPJ am help pan roedd eu plant yn brwydro gyda chymhlethdodau galar. Diolch i grant oddiwrth Gronfa Cynnal Profedigaeth Llywodraeth Cymru, fe’m galluogwyd ni i greu casgliad o dri llyfr a deilwrwyd yn arbennig ar gyfer plant oed cynradd, gan anelu at ddarparu’r gefnogaeth sydd mawr ei hangen arnynt yn ystod dyddiau tywyll. Mae gwaith codi arian yn y gymuned amaethyddol wedi galluogi Sefydliad DPJ i osod llyfrau mewn ysgolion a llyfrgelloedd ar draws y wlad. Dywedodd Kate:

“Mae pawb yn dioddef profedigaeth ar ryw adeg. Gall delio â hyn pan yn blentyn fod yn anodd. Roeddwn am gefnogi rhieni, neiniau a theidiau ac athrawon i gynnal sgyrsiau a allai alluogi eu plant i ddelio â theimladau sydd, yn aml, yn gwbl llethol. Deallwn ei fod yn anodd cefnogi’ch plentyn tra’n ceisio wynebu’ch colled eich hun, felly roeddwn am gynnig rhywbeth a allai fod o gymorth”.

Collaborating with the dedicated team at Green Wellies Publishing in Builth Wells, the Charity’s founder, Emma O’Sullivan alongside Kate, worked to lay the foundations for these stories. Anwen Nicholls and Kenneth Rees then skilfully crafted the words and illustrations to bring these ideas to life.

The Dan Y Bont series revolves around the lives of three children in a small village, each of whom has experienced a different type of loss—whether it's the passing of a grandparent, the sudden loss of a sibling, or the tragedy of a parent's suicide. These books approach these sensitive topics with great care and in a child-friendly manner, offering children explanations and suggestions for moving forward while reinforcing the message that it's okay not to feel okay during such difficult times.

Wrth gydweithio’n agos gyda thîm cyhoeddi ymroddgar Green Wellies yn Llanfair ym Muallt, aeth Emma O’Sullivan, sylfaenydd yr elusen, a Kate ati i ddatblygu seiliau cysyniadol y llyfrau hyn. Yna, defnyddiwyd talent creadigol Anwen Nicholls a Kenneth Rees i ysgrifennu a darlunio’r storïau er mwyn rhoi bywyd i’r syniadau hyn.

Troella gyfres Dan Y Bont o gwmpas bywydau tri o blant mewn pentref bach, ac mae pob un ohonynt wedi dioddef colled wahanol - p’un ai bod hynny’n farwolaeth tadcu neu famgu, colli brawd neu chwaer yn sydyn neu hunan-laddiad trasig rhiant. Mae’r llyfrau hyn yn trafod y themáu sensitif hyn gyda gofal mawr ac mewn dull cyfeillgar i blant wrth gynnig esboniadau ac awgrymiadau ynghylch symud ymlaen, tra’n atgyfnerthu’r neges ei fod yn iawn i beidio â theimlo’n iawn mewn cyfnodau mor anodd.

Emma, who is also a primary school teacher, established The DPJ Foundation after losing her husband Daniel Picton-Jones to suicide. Emma's personal experiences with her own children following the loss of Daniel served as inspiration for these books. Emma says:

“I am so proud of what we have achieved with these books, alongside the team at Green Wellies. When Mali and Trystan lost their dad, there was little support for them so to now see these books available for children who are experiencing grief is wonderful. As a teacher, I see the impact of books every day and I’m glad we can now contribute to that with our own books.”

Sefydlodd Emma, sydd hefyd yn athrawes ysgol gynradd, Sefydliad DPJ wedi iddi golli ei gŵr, Daniel Picton-Jones, drwy hunanladdiad. Hysbrydolodd profiadau personol Emma gyda’i phlant ei hun yn dilyn colli Daniel i fynd ati i lunio’r llyfrau hyn. Dyma oedd gan Emma i’w ddweud:

“Dw i mor falch o’r hyn ‘rydym ni, ochr yn ochr â’r tîm yn Green Wellies, wedi’i gyflawni. Pan gollodd Mali a Thrystan eu tad doedd fawr o gefnogaeth ar gael iddynt, felly mae’n hyfryd gweld bod y llyfrau hyn ar gael i blant sy’n galaru. Fel athrawes, gwelaf yn ddyddiol effaith llyfrau a dw i mor falch ein bod yn gallu cyfrannu at hynny gyda’n llyfrau ni’n hunain”.

Books have been distributed to over 160 schools right across the country along with an accompanying assembly that is available in both English and Welsh and which can be delivered to introduce the books and open the conversation around bereavement and mental health. Assemblies will be delivered in some schools by the DPJ Foundation’s Regional Champion volunteers, including one by Mali, Emma’s daughter, who had also fundraised along with her brother Trystan and friends Reuben, Freddie and Isla who are also helping to distribute the books. Mali said:

“When mum told us about the books, we all decided to wanted to fundraise to make sure we could get these books out to schools. We didn’t have anything like this when we lost dad so it’s nice that other children and families can use the books to help.”

Trystan said “I really liked being able to look in a book and see another child who had lost their dad too and was able to get help and understand what happened. I think they will be really good for other children who have been through the same thing as me.”

Mae llyfrau wedi’u dosbarthu i dros 160 o ysgolion ar draws y wlad, ynghyd â gwasanaethau boreuol cyfrwng Cymraeg a Saesneg. Mae modd eu defnyddio i gyflwyno’r llyfrau a dechrau’r sgwrs am brofedigaeth ac iechyd meddwl. Cafodd rhai o’r gwasanaethau eu cyflwyno yn yr ysgolion gan wirfoddolwyr Pencampwyr Rhanbarthol Sefydliad DPJ, gan gynnwys un gan Mali, merch Emma, a oedd hefyd wedi bod yn codi arian yng nghwmi ei brawd Trystan a’i ffrindiau Reuben, Freddie ac Isla, sydd hefyd yn helpu dosbarthu’r llyfrau. Dyma a oedd gan Mali i’w ddweud:

“Pan soniodd mam am y llyfrau, roedd pob un ohonom wedi penderfynu ein bod am godi arian i wneud yn siwr bod y llyfrau hyn yn cyrraedd ysgolion. Doedd dim byd tebyg ar gael i ni pan gollon ni Dad. Felly, mae’n braf bod plant a theuluoedd eraill yn gallu defnyddio’r llyfrau i’w helpu”.

Dywedodd Trystan “Roeddwn wir yn hoffi darllen am blentyn arall a oedd hefyd wedi colli ei dad a chael help yn ogystal â deall yr hyn a oedd wedi digwydd. Dw i’n credu y byddant yn dda iawn ar gyfer plant eraill sydd wedi profi’r un sefyllfa”.

The charity was committed to making the books available in both English and Welsh to ensure widespread accessibility and Welsh books are currently in the print stage.

Anwen Nicholls and Ken Rees of Green Wellies Publishing are proud to have worked on these books. They said:

“We hope that the books offer some support to families when they are facing sadness, and looking to find images and words to help make sense of the challenging times in their lives. It has been an honour and great responsibility working with the DPJ on this project, and we would like to extend our thanks for being tasked with this very important piece of work.”

Roedd yr elusen wedi’i hymrwymo i sicrau bod y llyfrau ar gael yn Gymraeg a Saesneg, fel eu bod yn hygyrch i bawb, ac mae’r fersiynau Cymraeg yn nwylo’r argraffwyr ar hyn o bryd.

Mae Anwen Nicholls a Ken Rees o gwmni cyhoeddi Green Wellies yn falch eu bod wedi gweithio ar y llyfrau hyn. Dyma oedd ganddynt i’w ddweud:

“Rydym yn gobeithio y bydd y llyfrau’n cynnig rhywfaint o gymorth i deuluoedd pan y maen nhw’n wynebu tristwch, ac yn chwilio am luniau a geiriau sy’n helpu gwneud synnwyr mewn cyfnodau heriol yn eu bywydau. Mae wedi bod yn anrhydedd a chyfrifoldeb mawr i weithio gyda DPJ ar y prosiect hwn, ac hoffwn estyn ein diolch iddynt am gael y fraint o weithio ar y darn pwysig yma o waith”.

As the week commencing 10th-16th October was also ‘Ag Mental Health Week’, it’s an important opportunity for the charity to highlight the support available for mental health in agriculture, including around bereavement. Kate was keen to highlight that the books are just one aspect of the support available from the DPJ Foundation:

“We all cope differently with loss and for those that need a bit of extra help, we are here at the DPJ Foundation to listen and to support, including with counselling and other therapy. We have developed some information about the practical aspects of a death in agriculture and hope that this along with these books will help make things if not easier, then a little less hard. We also have developed free training for those in the community who want to support others with their bereavement.”

Gan fod wythnos y 10fed – 16eg o Hydref hefyd yn ‘Wythnos Iechyd Meddwl Amaeth’, mae’n gyfle pwysig i’r elusen i amlygu’r gefnogaeth sydd ar gael ar gyfer iechyd meddwl mewn amaeth, gan gynnwys profedigaeth. Roedd Kate yn awyddus i ddweud bod y llyfrau ond yn un agwedd o’r gefnogaeth sydd ar gael gan Sefydliad DPJ:

“Mae pawb yn ymdopi â cholled mewn gwahanol ffordd ac, i’r rhai hynny sydd angen ychydig mwy o help, rydym yma yn Sefydliad DPJ i wrando a chefnogi, gan gynnwys cynnig cwnsela a therapi arall. Rydym wedi datblygu peth gwybodaeth ynghylch yr agweddau ymarferol yn dilyn marwolaeth ym myd amaeth, ac yn mawr obeithio y bydd hyn, ynghyd â’r llyfrau, yn gwneud pethau’n ychydig llai anodd, os nad yn haws. Rydym hefyd wedi datblygu hyfforddiant am ddim i’r rhai hynny yn y gymuned sydd am gefnogi eraill sydd wedi dioddef profedigaeth”.

To find out more about The DPJ Foundation, their picture book launch and their services, make sure to follow them on social media. You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, X, Snapchat and TikTok.

If you believe that individual children or families in your school would benefit from their own copy of a book, please contact the DPJ Foundation.

If you need mental health support, you can call them free on 0800 587 4262 or text them on 07860 048 799 (this number doesn’t accept calls).

I wybod mwy am waith Sefydliad DPJ, y lansiad o’i llyfrau lluniau a’n gwasanaethau, gwnewch yn siwr eich bod yn ein dilyn ar gyfryngau cymdeithasol yr wythnos hon. Gallwch ddod o hyd i ni ar Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, X, Snapchat a TikTok.

Os ydych o’r farn y byddai plant neu deuluoedd unigol yn eich hysgol yn elwa ar dderbyn copi personol o lyfr, cysylltwch â Sefydliad DPJ os gwelwch yn dda.

Os oes angen arnoch gefnogaeth iechyd meddwl gallwch ein ffonio’n ddi-dâl ar 0800 587 4262 neu anfon neges testun ar 07860 048 799 (nid yw’r rhif hwn yn derbyn galwadau).

Tuesday 10 October 2023

World Mental Health Day 2023 - mental health is a universal human right

What is World Mental Health Day?

The World Federation for Mental Health was founded in 1948 in the same era as the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO). This year, along with the NHS, it celebrates its 75th birthday.

1992 saw the first World Mental Health Day, so this year’s awareness day on 10 October is the 32nd, with a theme of “mental health is a universal human right.”

The WFMH asks us to: “Join us in this journey as we unite to raise awareness about the importance of mental health as an indispensable universal human right, with the vision of fostering a world that values and nurtures the well-being of all.”

Mental health is a universal human right

“Mental health must be squarely placed in a human rights framework to re-cast the aspiration for sound mental health as a fundamental human right. Ensuring access to mental health services must be an obligation and responsibility of state and global organisations which can no longer be ignored. Access to better living conditions, security, food, shelter and housing are all necessary for people's mental health. Mental health is a universal right to all citizens of the world and consistent with the 1948 founding principles of the World Federation for Mental Health.” Nassa Lozer, President, WFMH

Investment and transformation in mental health is needed to help stop the widespread human rights violations that people with mental health conditions continue to experience worldwide.

How rights to mental health can be respected

The World Federation for Mental Health believes that everyone, wherever they live, should receive appropriate and quality care if they are experiencing mental health distress (issues, problems, difficulties or struggles, call them what you will).

This includes the right to be protected from “known harms to mental health”, which would surely cover poverty, unemployment, lack of housing, adverse childhood experiences and any of the other social determinants of good mental health.

It also includes the right to freedom, “including the right of choice.”

More about human rights

1948 also saw the United Nations launch of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights aimed at all peoples and nations, setting out as it does fundamental human rights to be universally protected.

The United Nations is an international organisation made up of 193 member states:

“One place where the world's nations can gather together, discuss common problems and find shared solutions”.

What is rights-based support?

Three years ago there was an important report to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations on a topic high on everyone’s agenda:

“The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

The focus of the report was to set a “rights-based” global agenda for advancing the right to mental health.

In this 2020 United Nations report to the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur addresses the need for a global agenda for mental health that is human rights-based. (Special rapporteurs are independent human rights experts whose expertise is called upon by the United Nations to report or advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective). 

In this case the Special Rapporteur was Mr. Dainius Pūras from Lithuania,"a medical doctor and human rights advocate who has been actively involved during the last 30 years in the process of transforming public health policies and services, with special focus on the rights of children, persons with mental disabilities, and other groups in vulnerable situations.”

The report identifies that while many people understand their mental health challenges through a medical lens, many do not. It makes sense, then, that it is crucial to build space for “a diversity of creative approaches and experiences within and outside existing mental health systems.”

Some of the creative approaches which are referred to in the report include: “highly localised innovations in different resource settings around the world, such as Soteria House, Open Dialogue, peer-respite centres, medication-free wards, recovery communities and community development models”. Topics we have been covering on the Powys Mental Health blog for over 10 years now.

Examples from the blog:

Challenging the medical model of mental health distress

World Mental Health Day 2022 - make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority

As the report suggests: “A quiet revolution has been occurring in neighbourhoods and communities worldwide. At the root of these alternatives is a deep commitment to human rights, dignity and non-coercive practices, all of which remain an elusive challenge in traditional mental health systems too heavily reliant on a biomedical paradigm”.

The report suggests that rather than describing such approaches as “alternatives”, which means they are more likely to be ignored because they are outside the mainstream, that they are called “rights-based supports.”

Key principles of rights-based support

  • Dignity and autonomy.
  • Social inclusion.
  • Participation.
  • Equality and non-discrimination.
  • Diversity of care.
  • Underlying social and psychosocial determinants of mental health.
Reading the report it becomes clear that the responsibility for good mental health does not just lie with individuals and their health providers, but with policy-makers - governments and statutory authorities. And not just policy-making in relation to health but policies affecting all areas of our lives that have a massive impact on our health.

We need to promote healthy, resilient communities where everyone feels supported and able to live a good life, not just the few with the most wealth. And promotion can take place not just in health settings but in all areas of our day-to-day lives - workplaces, schools, homes and communities.

Action we can take

The report goes on to say:

“Movements of service users, of persons with psychosocial disabilities, of mad people, of people who hear voices, who are rights holders in all their diversity, must be at the forefront of efforts for rights-based change. Scaling up rights-based support within and outside existing mental health systems holds much promise for the changes that are needed.”

In one of 7 recommendations to member States the report recommends that they:

“Promote mental health by increasing financial support to sustainable, cross-cutting programmes that reduce poverty, inequalities, discrimination on all grounds and violence in all settings, so that the main determinants of mental health are effectively addressed.”

It all sounds very similar to the recommendations at the recent Bevan Commission conference which we attended: The Tipping Point - where next for health and care in Wales?

Steps in the right direction

I recently found out about the Welsh Health Equity Solutions platform. The platform has been designed as a resource to find data and solutions relating to health equity - “a gateway to data, evidence, health economics and modelling, policies, good practice, innovative tools and practical solutions to help improve population wellbeing and reduce the health equity gap in Wales and beyond.”

It is a partnership project of Public Health Wales, Welsh Government and the World Health Organisation. The platform is based around five essential conditions for healthy and prosperous lives for all. There are also opportunities for people to get involved in co-producing solutions, developing case studies and contributing to learning on solutions-focused action to reduce health inequities. It sounds like a really interesting initiative.

And finally

Alongside changes in policy and support, we need to look at how we provide care to people around their mental health. It’s not about asking what is “wrong” with someone, but what has “happened” to them. Until we reframe the questions, how can we start to work with someone to help find relevant solutions…?

What do you think about mental health as a universal human right? Let us know in the comments below.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

New In-Work Support Service launched at Mid & North Powys Mind

 by Anna Poulton 
In-Work Support Service Coordinator, Mid & North Powys Mind

The In-Work Support Service is a new, Welsh Government funded service being delivered by Minds in Powys. It is a 2 years’ project focussed on reducing the impact of health issues in the workplace. It is aimed at individuals and businesses, providing therapeutic support for employees and training and advice to businesses throughout Powys.

Namrata Bhardwa (Nami) and I (Anna Poulton) are the manager and coordinator for the service respectively and we have recently been employed by Mid and North Powys Mind who are facilitating the service. The In-Work support service will be using therapies offered by regional Minds in Powys to deliver the Mental Health individual therapies and the wellbeing and training aspects of business support.

Anna and Nami

Why are we needed?

The service has been available in other areas of Wales for a while now, and our service now means that all local authorities in Wales have an In-Work Support Service. The Welsh Government is developing a new strategy for Mental Health 2023 and this service, which is also part of Healthy Working Wales, will help to deliver this.

Who can use the service?

Anyone 16 or over who is in employment or off sick from their job, an apprentice or self-employed who lives in Powys can access our support. Referrals can come from anyone, yourself, your GP, your employer, etc. You can contact via the website, email or a phone call to Nami or Anna is all that’s needed. The same applies to businesses, and small/medium enterprises based in Powys are eligible for support.

What support can we offer?

We can offer rapid access to high quality mental health and physical therapies, training and specialist support delivered by Mid & North Powys Mind, Brecon & District Mind, Mind Ystradgynlais and a range of external partners.

We can currently offer:
  • Counselling.
  • One to One support.
  • Supported Self Help.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) and Hypnotherapy.
  • Physiotherapy.
  • Osteopathy.
  • Employee training.
  • Wellbeing advice & support.
  • Employment law specialist support.

The therapeutic support is set out across up to 6 free sessions, and the business support is delivered in a tailored package by either Nami, Mind’s training staff, or Rradar-our specialist law firm – depending on their needs. 

As an example, we could provide advice around employee policies such as creating, updating or overhauling a family friendly policy. We could provide legal advice around HR issues. We could help with implementing wellbeing tools into the workplace such as a Wellbeing Hour. Staff training could be provided to some or all staff; examples of this training are: 5 Ways to Wellbeing, Mental Health Awareness, Tai Chi and other relaxation techniques, Assertiveness Skills and Stress & Anxiety Management and many more which can be adapted to suit a business’s needs.

At the moment Nami and I are meeting and getting to know other services available to the people we will be supporting. This will help us to signpost to further support, provide a continuation of support for people who are receiving support elsewhere and to make sure that we can signpost people to the appropriate support if they don’t match our criteria.

It has been great to meet so many like-minded people and learn about all of the other great support providers in Powys. We have already made some really valuable connections and are continuing to make more and more as time goes on.

We held a launch day at PAVO in Llandrindod Wells on the 4th of September. Nami and I presented an overview of the service to the audience including: local businesses, Mind employees, Welsh Government representatives, colleagues from other support providers such as Department for Work & Pensions and members of the public. 

The launch went really well; I had never presented to a room full of people before so I was very nervous! We started off with a short quiz as an icebreaker which also helped to settle my nerves. The room at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations was really well set out. It was bright, the technology all worked and we had plenty of space. We had a warm welcome and everybody enjoyed the lunch at the end which was supplied by The Herb Garden. I’d like to thank PAVO in Llandrindod Wells for all of their help.

Who am I?

I’m Anna, I have recently begun working for Mid and North Powys Mind in Llandrindod Wells and have 20 years’ experience of previously working in the adult health care and support sector. My job as Service Coordinator is doing the admin for the service, I run the social media and I meet clients to see if they are eligible. I have also spent some of my time out in the community promoting the service at events such as the Cost of Living Fair in the Pavilion in Llandrindod Wells and in some supermarket foyers across Powys. 

In my spare time I am an animal lover, I have 3 dogs and 2 cats who take up a lot of my time! I am a volunteer for Many Tears Animal Rescue, I check that people’s homes are suitable for the pet that they would like to adopt. I also enjoy craft, especially knitting and making Christmas decorations.

For more information about the service and how to refer yourself, please visit our dedicated In-Work Support Service Powys website. 

Wednesday 6 September 2023

World Suicide Prevention Day 2023

Sunday 10 September 2023 is World Suicide Prevention Day across the globe

It is 20 years since the first World Suicide Prevention Day was launched in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in association with the World Health Organisation. The idea was to raise awareness of the problem world-wide, to reiterate the message that “suicides are preventable.”

Taking time to reach out to someone in your community – a family member, friend, colleague or even a stranger – could change the course of another person's life.

"You can help give someone hope by showing that you care. All of us can play a role, no matter how small. We may never know what we do that makes a difference. We all can reach in and ask somebody. You do not need to tell them what to do or have solutions, but simply making the time and space to listen to someone about their experiences of distress or suicidal thoughts can help. Small talk can save lives and create a sense of connection and hope in somebody who may be struggling." International Association for Suicide Prevention.

Powys and suicide

The issue of suicide is as relevant in Powys as it is anywhere else in the world. According to the Samaritans Powys has the highest suicide rate in Wales. “Someone takes their life every 3.5 weeks. We are a remote rural farming community, which tends to get overlooked in terms of funding. Low income, unmanageable debt, unemployment, poor housing & other socio-economic factors contribute to high suicide rates in most disadvantaged communities.”

We wrote last summer about the New Suicide and Self Harm Forum for Powys and the three main areas of work to be followed up by the forum - suicide, self-harm and postvention (activities to support those bereaved by suicide to help with their recovery). 

Welsh Government - Suicide Prevention Cross Party Group

This Suicide Prevention Cross Party Group raises awareness and campaigns on a cross party basis to drive change on suicide prevention in Wales.

National and Mid & West Wales Regional Suicide and Self Harm Prevention Programme

The national suicide and self-harm prevention strategy 2015-2020, ‘Talk to me 2’ was extended to 2022 as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. The strategy has 6 key objectives, including to: “Further improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of suicide and self harm amongst the public, individuals who frequently come into contact with people at risk of suicide and self harm, and professionals.”

Following a recent public consultation on the strategy work is underway on the development of the new suicide and self harm strategy for Wales which is expected to be published in 2024.

Strategy implementation is guided by a National Advisory Group which is made up of statutory, voluntary and charity agencies who are involved in suicide and self-harm prevention in Wales. Implementation of the Talk to me 2 strategy has been split into 3 regions across Wales with 3 Regional leads:

Laura Tranter is the Mid & West Wales Regional Suicide and Self Harm Prevention Lead.

One of the objectives of the Regional Coordinator role is to support the Mid & West Wales Regional Suicide and Self harm Prevention Forum is to support the development of regional action plans that connect national strategy with more localised strategies and plans, across sectoral boundaries. Over the past year the regional forum has been identifying its priorities for the region and has developed a number of sub groups to coordinate action. These sub groups will focus on:
  • Children and young people.
  • Prevention.
  • Lived experience.
There are also local suicide and self harm prevention forums across the Mid & West Wales region.

The Powys Talk to Me 2 Delivery Group works across organisations to bring together and coordinate actions within Powys to ensure effective local delivery of the T2M2 strategy.

Digital hub

The National Suicide and Self Harm Team have been developing a digital hub where users can explore training options, get the latest updates and find out about future events.

The digital hub currently hosts videos and presentations from the Suicide and Self-harm National Conference held on 2 March 2023 at Cardiff City Hall.

The digital hub also hosts the digitised version of Help is at Hand - a guide for those who are unexpectedly bereaved by suicide or working with someone who has been.

Rapid Response

Across the Mid & West Wales region a Rapid Response Pilot has been being implemented since September 2022. This is a process that engages safeguarding and other partners to determine the impact of a suspected suicide and to ensure there is a support system and resources to support those affected or impacted by the death.

National guidance on how we respond to those affected or bereaved by suicide

A national multi-agency working group has been working in collaboration with the National Suicide and Self Harm prevention Team to develop guidance on responding to people affected by suicide. The draft guidance was published by Welsh Government for consultation. Feedback has been analysed and published by the Welsh Government Policy Team.

Powys Suicide Bereavement Service

This service aims to provide early assistance, practical support and signposting to people bereaved by suicide or suspected suicide within the last two years, e.g. support with arranging a funeral, advice on finance difficulties, advise on the coroner inquest procedure, and referral to specialist counselling.

The service can also provide support to those bereaved by suicide historically, e.g. signposting to specialist counselling. You can find out more on the Powys Teaching Health Board website: Bereaved by Suicide or Suspected Suicide Support.

For further information about suicide and self harm prevention across Mid & West Wales please contact Laura Tranter at sshp.cymru@wales.nhs.uk

Other sources of support

Suicide prevention pledge - Mid & North Powys Mind

The Suicide Prevention Pledge is the initiative of Mid and North Powys Mind - in response to the high rate of suicides in Powys. Suicide is the biggest cause of death in men under 40.

“Talking about suicide can seem scary and some people can feel if they mention suicide it can put the thought in someone’s head. There is NO evidence of this and in fact talking about it actually helps and is one of the easiest ways to prevent suicide.

We need to make a change. We need to say it’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not be okay.

We understand it can be daunting to talk to professionals, so the pledge is designed to make it easier to talk to friends and family, as well as to know where to encourage people to get help from."

Sometimes all that’s needed is for someone to listen

The pledge cards can be downloaded from the Mid & North Powys Mind website.

People sign up to support others, and also to contact sources of support if they are struggling.

As well as services such as 1:1 support and counselling, Mid & North Powys Mind also provide courses on Mental Health Awareness and Mental Health First Aid to help people find out more about how they can support people to prevent suicide happening.

Nicki (not her real name) was helped by the 1:1 support service and Mums Matter course at Mid & North Powys Mind after struggling with anxiety and depression. She “also found it very difficult to remember to take medication, and sometimes felt suicidal.” She describes how her life turned round after working with Mind to put coping strategies in place. You can read Nicki’s full account of what happened on the Mind website.

Support after Suicide - North Powys

This is a new support group on Facebook which has been set up by the local mental health charities Ponthafren and Mid & North Powys Mind:

“Many of us have lost a loved one through suicide and we recognise how difficult this can be.

Ponthafren and Mind are helping to deliver a regular support group for people bereaved by suicide."

Face to face meetings are held regularly on the first Tuesday of the month at Hafan yr Afan in Newtown, 7 - 9pm. You can find out more on the Facebook page.

Bereaved by Suicide Walk - South Powys

This bereaved by suicide peer support group walk is on the 3rd Tuesday of every month. If the weather is bad, the group moves to a nearby rugby club for tea and coffee.

This support group is suitable for anyone living in, or around, the Ystradgynlais area, who is over 18, and has been bereaved by suicide. If you are interested in attending you can find out more on the Ystradgynlais Mind Facebook page here.

Papyrus - Prevention of Young Suicide

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people aged 25 - 35 in the UK. Male and female. Every year many thousands more attempt or contemplate suicide, harm themselves or suffer alone, afraid to speak openly about how they are feeling.

The UK-wide charity Papyrus is there to help.

Kate Heneghan, Head in Wales of the charity Papyrus, wrote last year about her work with Papyrus in Wales to support, equip and influence to help prevent suicide in young people.

Other resources

Samaritans provide a helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And you can find more about the local Brecon & Radnor branch here.

C.A.L.L. Helpline offers a confidential listening and support service. Anyone concerned about their own mental health, or that of a relative or friend, can access the service.

The NHS has a very useful webpage on Help for suicidal thoughts. 

The charity Mind has a range of information on its website relating to suicide, including sections about Suicidal feelings and Creating a support plan to use if someone is feeling suicidal.

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide is a self-help organisation which exists to meet the needs and break the isolation experienced by those bereaved by suicide.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2023 information.