Wednesday 15 May 2024

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 – Movement for disabled people

Sport Wales Mums & sons, Sue and her son - left

Sue Williams is the Health Disability Activity Practitioner for Powys Teaching Health Board (PTHB). During Mental Health Awareness Week, with its 2024 theme of Movement for Mental Health, it seemed the perfect opportunity to find out more about her role and how the pathway can support disabled people on their way to better physical and mental wellbeing.

What is the Health Disability Activity Pathway?

The Health Disability Activity Pathway supports disabled people across the lifespan to become more physically active. The pathway has been created to enable health professionals to instigate referrals that support the signposting of disabled people to physical activities and sporting opportunities in the local community. This occurs using the expert knowledge of teams within Local Authorities. Moreover, the pathway can be used by anybody, not just healthcare professionals.

The referral and signposting process (which is not a medical referral), was rolled out nationally with Welsh Government funding in 2022 following a successful pilot project in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB). Notably, people can be referred to another scheme the National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS) and also use the Health Disability Activity

Health Disability Activity Pathway Process

Tell us more about your role as a Health Disability Activity Practitioner

I moved to this new role in PTHB in May 2022, having previously worked as a physiotherapist in BCUHB.

A major part of my role is delivering presentations about the pathway to staff groups and individuals who work with people with disabilities. I talk about the benefits of physical activity (including participation in sport). I also get the opportunity to attend conferences and events to promote the pathway and learn more about the opportunities available, particularly within local communities across PTHB, and to work on projects that help promote physical activity and its benefits.

Recently, I have also started co-delivering sessions to university physiotherapy courses with a colleague from Disability Sport Wales. I love that through this work we are also starting to embed engagement with the pathway from the very outset of health professionals' careers.

Volunteering at a Boccia event

What drew you to the role originally?

This role brings together my experience as a healthcare professional, and my passion for sport and physical activity, and their many benefits. Through many years of NHS community and inpatient work, I have gained an excellent understanding of the teams who work with patients whether this is NHS, Social Services or the Third Sector. 

I have taken part in sport and outdoor activities for most of my life, but not on a regular basis for several years while my children were growing up. When my son started playing hockey for our local hockey club, I gradually got drawn in. New starters were always welcomed (and still are) and another hockey mum and I started training. Very soon we were both playing in league matches. I never imagined I would return to competitive hockey at age 45, having last played on grass in school! I have experienced first-hand so many benefits of being active and being involved in a sports club; as a player, parent of a player, coach and committee member.

I’ve always been captivated and inspired by “the power of sport” in changing people’s lives whether through rehabilitation, bringing people together, the social impacts (individual and community) disability or masters sports for those aged 35 to 80+. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, I developed a growing interest in the benefits of blue and green outdoor spaces, in particular the positive impacts on mental health and wellbeing.

NHS Wales works closely with Disability Sport Wales and Local Authorities to provide this service. How does that work?

The pathway relies on collaborative working between Disability Sport Wales, the 22 Local Authorities, and their corresponding health boards. Each health board has a Practitioner in post who, as well as delivering training sessions, facilitates the links and relationships required to ensure the pathway is a success. Monthly partnership team meetings involving the Practitioners and relevant Disability Sport Wales team members is just one example of how this is achieved.

Wheelchair Fencing World Cup Cardiff 2024

Why is this project particularly innovative?

To the best of our knowledge this pathway, or anything remotely similar, does not exist in any of the other Home Countries, or indeed elsewhere in at least Europe. There is an overall pathway, but not as simple or purely focused on disability, in place in Scotland. The all-Wales pathway focuses on signposting disabled people and giving them the chance to explore and access opportunities they historically may not have been aware existed. It also aims to make the most of every contact to improve their knowledge around the benefits of physical activity and the options available. All of this is led by the underpinning aim of increasing physical activity (including sport participation) and decreasing healthcare resource use.

During the pilot project from 2013 to 2016 there were 560 signposts, with Disability Sport Wales reporting a 21% increase in physical activity levels in North Wales.

Who is eligible to receive support through the HDAP initiative? Is it All Age?

The pathway is for people with a wide range of impairments from age 2, but more opportunities are available from age 5. There is no upper age limit. Referrals for signposting can be made for all types of physical impairments including wheelchair users, sensory impairments, and intellectual impairments.

How are people referred into the pathway?

A form can be filled in with any healthcare professional/other or a self-referral can be made by an individual or their parent/guardian. The form is available on the HDAP website. Health Disability Activity Pathway | Disability Sport Wales + NHS Wales. The person referred or their parent/guardian will be contacted by a Sport Powys team member to arrange to discuss the referral. This is usually by phone. The conversation will aim to explore what the person is interested in and inform them of relevant opportunities. This is usually followed up with a further phone call or email.

Chartered Society of Physiotherapists' conference

Tell us more about the mental health benefits of getting involved in sport and physical activity

The benefits of physical activity for mental health and welling are well-established; both in terms of general wellbeing and their role in the management of specific conditions. Benefits range from improving mood and sleep; increasing motivation and focus, and increasing self-esteem and confidence; to reducing stress, tension and anxiety, and preventing the onset and managing the symptoms of depression. Importantly, getting involved in sport and opportunities to be physically active can also reduce loneliness by connecting people.

There is some great advice and information from Mind about the benefits of physical activity on your mental health.

It is important to remember that there are so many resources available online if someone is not quite ready to try out a new club or activity. In addition, people can be active in so many other ways such as walking and gardening. There are benefits to physical and mental wellbeing from volunteering at a club as well.

What might happen to people if they did not receive the right support?

The pathway is there to bridge a gap. Staff/volunteers working with people with disabilities might only know about 1 or 2 local opportunities. Therefore, without a conversation about physical activity the person may not be made aware of everything available and might miss out on the right club/opportunity for them.

When people find something that suits them, and that they enjoy, they are more likely to continue with it and therefore gain more benefits, more regularly, and long-term.

What are the main challenges of your role?

NHS pressures: this can have a significant impact as there is often a lack of time to fit in training with teams. The geographical size of Powys is another challenge: at an individual level, barriers to engagement in opportunities can be travel or that a certain activity happens in one part of Powys, or indeed regionally within Wales, but not in multiple locations.

Will and Rygbi Gogledd Cymru

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done as a Health Disability Activity Practitioner

Without a doubt this is hearing about success stories: from people just trying a sport because of using the pathway, to being able to follow their journey. I met Will, who lives in mid Powys, last year after speaking with his physiotherapist. Will has a condition that has led to him having a curved spine, needing to use a wheelchair and only being able to walk short distances unaided. He had been playing wheelchair basketball since he was eight after being signposted to the N-able club in Newtown. 

Will then found that two people with the same condition as him were playing wheelchair rugby including Wales and GB’s Josh Williams. Despite not having the correct sport chair and there not being a club in Powys, Will was determined to start playing wheelchair rugby. With the support of his family and Mark Baines of GB Wheelchair Rugby, in the past 12 months, Will has been training with and playing for RGC (Rygbi Gogledd Cymru) Wheelchair Rugby team and continues to progress in the sport. He will admit to being very competitive, but Will loves the social aspects and enjoys being able to play these sports with his friends and family.

My role and work have also challenged my own knowledge and perceptions; for example, observing Boccia training sessions and competitions has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding to be able to promote the activity in a more informed way. Seeing physiotherapy students' perceptions change when they learn about and take part in Boccia in the sessions we run, has been very gratifying.

The hockey playing Williams family

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

I live with my husband on a small holding where we keep sheep, so some of my spare time is spent helping with farmwork especially at lambing time. A big portion of my time is for hockey related activity; I play for Dysynni Hockey Club Ladies 2s, I am the vice-captain, and also the club secretary. I have been getting more involved in coaching, particularly with the junior goalkeepers, and I am leading on the work for our club to become Insport accredited (Insport is a Disability Sport Wales scheme, delivered with the support of Sport Wales, which recognises good work in creating inclusive opportunities).

My husband and 2 children also play hockey, so we enjoy going to the social hockey session together, watching and talking about hockey! I love watching sports-related documentaries - one of my favourites and a huge inspiration for me taking this job was “Take His Legs”; about comedian and TV presenter Adam Hills and the inclusive rugby team (Physical Disability Rugby League) he joined. “The documentary deals with issues of mental health, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and the true impact of sport and teamwork in overcoming both physical and mental challenges.

You can find out more about the Health Disability Activity Pathway on the website or contact Sue directly by email

Monday 13 May 2024

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 - Movement

Sue Newham jive dancing

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week 
13 - 19 May 2024 is Movement - moving more for our mental health.

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

“Being active is important for our mental health. But so many of us struggle to get enough exercise. We know there are many different reasons for this, so this Mental Health Awareness Week we want to help people to find moments for movement in their daily routines. Going for a walk in your neighbourhood, putting on your favourite music and dancing around the living room, chair exercises when you’re watching television – it all counts!”

Sometimes it is easy to come up with excuses as to why we can’t exercise - perhaps we’re too busy, too tired, think it’s too expensive, have bad experiences from previous attempts, feel embarrassed to join in with others and not sufficiently motivated to get active at home. We asked some of our PAVO colleagues (shown here in reverse alphabetical order) about their excuses not to exercise and how they overcame them.

Trish Varley - Finance Officer

My excuse is that I watch sooooo many exercise instruction videos on Pinterest, that I'm too tired to actually do the exercise!!

But my dog Rosie gets so fed up watching me watching exercise clips that the look on her face prompts me to do lots of walks along the Newtown river paths and the beach at Borth.

Trish Varley and Rosie

Sue Newham - County Development Officer, Making a Difference in Powys - Numeracy Grant Scheme (photo above)

My excuse would be that I am too busy to fit exercise in.

I have been going to jive classes in Caersws with Luv2jive for about a year now. I went initially because I was aware how little exercise I was getting, but it has taught me so much.

It has helped me to accept that being rubbish at something is an unavoidable part of getting better at it. It has helped me to get over feeling self conscious about what others might be thinking about me. The people are all really friendly, and we always have a laugh. People are there to dance, but they also support each other in many little ways. The final thing I have learnt is that I have to force myself off the sofa, no matter what the weather, or how busy the day, because jive is good for me, and I don't want to get out of the habit.

Sharon Healey

Sharon Healey - Head of Health, Wellbeing & Partnerships

My normal excuse is because I don't have the right coat or footwear. I love to walk but the weather over the winter months makes it very difficult to find the energy and motivation to get out for a walk.

I recently invested in a very good waterproof coat as the weather has been awful. To make me get out and walk I sign up to a month's walking challenges or set a challenge for myself on a walking app. This month I'm trying to do 12,000 steps a day whatever the weather. A normal day is 10,000 steps so I'm having to walk further each day to reach 12,000. Walking each day helps me unwind and switch off following a day in work. I'm fortunate I live in a beautiful part of Mid Wales with the Wye Valley walk on my doorstep. I have so many walking routes available.

Penny Tanner - Macmillan Community Connector

The best excuse is 'No Time!', 'So much to do!', 'Family!'

Schedule it in, write it in a diary or daily list or make a weekly timetable.

I joined a weight lifting group in January 2023. I felt the benefits for my mental and physical health immediately. Previously being a runner, lifting weights strengthened my joints and having over a year off running, I am now starting to run again. I wanted to train in the gym more often, to gain the benefits, but this meant more travelling to the local gym for me. 

Time then became an issue and the thought of travelling to the local gym wasn't so appealing, but thinking of the benefits to my bone health and the social aspect, I began making a plan, so on a Sunday I would look at the week ahead and schedule the gym in around other commitments, such as family and work and liaise with my gym buddy. Having a gym buddy is accountability and shares the travelling cost. 

 A major benefit for me was that you don't have to spend lots of sessions or time lifting weights, because the benefits on your mind and physical health continue after your session has finished and in your resting.

Louise Hardwick

Louise Hardwick - County Development Officer (Social Value)

My excuse: it's raining, I can't be bothered! I'll do it tomorrow!

I have always been an early bird, now as I’m approaching that certain age I am up before the larks! Rather than just sitting at home I started going out for little walks, this has then developed to trying to go out every single day before the sun has even appeared, catching that gorgeous sunrise if the weather permits! 

I've also joined our local yoga studio in town and have been going religiously since September last year, the difference it has made is crazy - feeling better about my flexibility, mobility and just general wellbeing. 

Walking, by myself!!, it's MY time, no family allowed on the morning walks (not that they would want to come as they're all still sound asleep!!) allows me time to decompress, clear my head, breathe and just appreciate those early morning sunrises, the peace and tranquility - aside from the birds chirping furiously away - and revelling in the gorgeous surrounds that we are privileged to live in. I do try and do a lunch time walk several times a week, packing my trainers in the car when in the office so there's no excuse - planning ahead - get that clothing set out the night before so there's not another reason not to do it, your body and mind will definitely thank you!!

Janet Walker

Janet Walker - Senior Officer Internal Services

I have chronic pain and I feel low and hopeless at times. When my condition was severe I had physiotherapy treatment from Rachel Kili Physiotherapy and I now go weekly to Simply Fit (movement and exercise in the countryside). If I am honest I don't always feel like going, especially if it's wet and cold which makes my condition worse. I have a million excuses - last week it was because the dog had an operation - but I know I feel better if I attend so I try not to miss the sessions. 

Everytime I roll up, fatigued and unmotivated - but after an hour of being in the company of supportive people (we all have our good and bad days) with a leader who is a qualified physiotherapist with a different philosophy from fitness instructors I feel amazing! 

This is not boot camp - it's movement for life at a pace that suits each person in the group - it has helped us all to understand why we need to move better as we are naturally designed and evolved to do and develop core strength and balance - so we can keep doing the things we love and that make us whoever we are, all packaged up with being out in nature. It's my lifeline and I am really grateful that my line manager enables me to work flexibly so I can attend.

Helen Johnson

Helen Johnson - Digital & Telephone Befriending Officer

Excuse - my leg doesn't work anymore…

After an episode of ill health I found myself reliant on others to leave the house. I experienced limited use of one of my legs. After 6 months or so of watching daytime TV I ventured into Ponthafren to their art classes. I quickly realised how socially isolated and lonely I had become. I felt broken and useless. Ponthafren offered me acceptance and gave me a purpose again. I volunteered there for 18 months, every shift growing in confidence and self worth.

After raising my mental health came the challenge of making my body useful again. Firstly I joined up to Race at Your Pace and set a goal of running 25 miles a month. I devised that I could do a sort of run on a mini trampoline at home by the bannister so I could hold it when I wobbled. I couldn't run and definitely not outside on uneven ground but I found a way to move myself safely and achieve this great goal. As you can see from the photo I completed 2 months before going onto my next challenge which was to swim the channel in a pool for Diabetes UK.

The first time I went into a pool after my illness my leg floated away from me. I had no control of it at all. I knew I wanted to get stronger again but had no idea that with persistence and hope I would be able to swim all those lengths. It took me months to complete but I did it.

By moving myself from the sofa into the outside world I was able to improve my mental health. I supported others which encouraged me and then I was able to face the journey back to physical health.

My advice would be - if you can't make a start for yourself, make it about supporting someone else.

Gareth Marston - Development Officer Shared Prosperity Fund Grant Scheme

Invariably the reason I don't exercise more revolves around Sunday mornings and a Ladies only session at Maldwyn Sports Centre.

When for various reasons I've got up early on the Saturday I tend to sleep in a bit on Sunday to compensate. Ideally unless we're doing anything on the Sunday I should have my second trip of the week to the gym however on Sunday there is a Ladies Only session from 1100 to 1200 which means I have to be there by 1015 at the latest which I often don't get up and dressed in time for!

If the weather gets better! I will have the garden to work on this summer as an alternative and get out in the fresh air and get my steps up instead of the gym. I also walk to and from work at the PAVO Plas Dolerw office twice a week.

Claire Sterry

Claire Sterry - Senior Officer Third Sector Development

Every excuse under the sun for not exercising previously! it's raining, I'll do it tomorrow etc, etc, etc….

Now I've joined the local leisure centre as a member, so I want my money's worth so I'm doing swimming, aquafit, konga every week, as well as walking the dog.

Also joined a Garmin step challenge with my new friends I've made from going to exercise classes (an unexpected bonus) - so I go for a walk around my estate in the morning before work to get my steps in. I'll also park at the far end of the supermarket car park, and walk up and down all the aisles, whether I need anything from them or not.

The Garmin is a really good motivator as you can join challenges etc. to get you moving.

Exercise has made a massive difference to my mental health - if I'm feeling low or anxious, or just need to clear my head, it lifts me up and rebalances me. It's also helped me lose 3 stone along with using the Noom app - so physically feeling much better too. It's been a real life changer for me.

Clair Swales walking (and dancing with her daughter)

Clair Swales - Chief Executive Officer

This happened to me just yesterday! I was pushing myself to go for a walk (I set myself a target of walking everyday in April after a particularly unwell period and being rather sedentary).

My excuse: I couldn't get my earphones to connect to my phone and as such couldn't listen to a podcast. So I promptly took my coat and trainers off and sat back on the sofa, with the tv playing some awful programme and mindlessly scrolling through social media on my phone at the same time.

I had to kick myself up the bum and later that day force myself to go for a walk after I had fixed my earphones - no more excuses once they were fixed! Trouble was had I gone when I was originally going, it would have been sunny but instead I got soaked! Walking is great for my mental and physical health. Getting some fresh air in the lungs, taking in the sights and sounds of a country walk, being with my dog all help me to clear my mind of work and tasks.

Update: I managed to walk over 62 miles in April and go dancing! Having a daily walk as a focus has really helped to improve my mental health and wellbeing. In February and March I had been quite poorly but getting outside has helped significantly. Never one to say no to a challenge I am now taking on a fundraising walk this Sunday with Hay football club and walking 23 miles from Hereford to Hay.

Thank you to PAVO colleagues for their wonderful contributions! 

You can find out more about the connection between physical activity and mental health 

Monday 29 April 2024

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

 by Jenna West

online CBT co-ordinator, NHS Wales

You’re exhausted, you’re a whirlwind of emotions and your pregnancy or new parenthood aren’t working out exactly how you’d imagined. You’re trying to be happy – because that’s how everyone expects you to feel – but really you’re just worried about how on earth you’re going to cope.

The reality is, it can be totally normal to feel stressed, anxious or low in the perinatal period.  But rest assured, there’s help at hand: Help that fits in with you and your schedule; help you can access 24/7 in the comfort of your own home; help that will teach you lasting skills for taking care of your mental health now and into the future.

SilverCloud Wales is a free, online mental health support service provided by NHS Wales. Anyone aged 16+ living in Wales can sign up without GP referral. The Space for Perinatal Wellbeing programme caters specifically to expectant mums and dads, new parents, surrogates, caregivers and people adopting a child. There’s no waiting list, and you can access it on any computer or mobile device, including your phone, anytime during pregnancy and up to a year after your baby is born.

You’ll have access to the programme and all its content for a year when you sign up, and you’ll be allocated a trained SilverCloud supporter for 12 weeks. They’ll check in on your progress as you work through the six modules at your own pace, giving you fortnightly written feedback. They can also point you to additional support if they feel you need it.

You’ll see that from the get-go the programme normalises what a tough time this can be. It might feel quite taboo to open up about your emotions, or to admit that you’re struggling or not enjoying time with your baby, but Space for Perinatal Wellbeing gives you a safe place to express those feelings, and breaks down some of the different challenges of this period into manageable points for you to work on.

For example, it talks about being flexible around sleeping times, empowering you to step back and create your own habits and routines based on what works for you, rather than what you think everyone expects of you.

There’s some signposting which shows how you can build some community around you, so you don’t feel quite so alone. There are personal stories from other caregivers in there, so you can hear their experiences without necessarily opening up about your own, and there’s a module on learning how to challenge low mood through simple activities for you and for baby.

All the tools and techniques for managing feelings like anxiety or depression are designed with the perinatal period in mind, recognising its very specific demands - it’s not always a simple case of getting up and going out for a walk to make yourself feel better when you’re sleep-deprived and have a newborn baby to care for.

One size certainly doesn’t fit all, so this is about finding what works best in your situation, always remembering that caring for your baby starts with caring for you.

Download the Space for Perinatal Wellbeing guide here.

If you need support and live in Wales, or if you’re registered with a Welsh GP practice, sign up to the service here.

Find out more about Maternal Mental Health Awareness week.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Machynlleth Makerspace – learn, socialise and collaborate

Keys to the new premises in Machynlleth!

Pat Cook has been a volunteer at Makerspace in Machynlleth since the start of 2024. She says: “I can’t even begin to describe how important it has been to find such a welcoming space here and I want to do everything I can to ensure its success and continued growth.”

I asked Pat to tell us more about the work of Machynlleth Makerspace, also called Machspace. Cassian, one of the directors at Machspace, contributes too.

What is a Makerspace?

Pat: It is what it says - a space where there is the room and equipment and advice, if necessary, for members to make, mend or repair. Often people don’t have the room or the equipment they need to make or mend and this lack of facilities contributes further to the amount of waste that our throwaway society produces.

Cassian: There are lots of makerspaces (sometimes called hackspaces) all over the UK and the rest of the world. The Hackspace Foundation is a UK organisation helping people to set up and run makerspaces.

How did Machynlleth Makerspace come about?

Cassian: It was 2021 when Katy Fowler, a former director, suggested the idea in a local WhatsApp group. Me and Avery were immediately interested, because Avery had been a member of Swindon Makerspace and had been wishing for one in Mach since he moved here just before the first Covid lockdown. I went with him a few times as a guest and enjoyed it very much.

Many people were interested at first, but there were four of us who were very dedicated. We met weekly to chat about how to move it forward. None of us had done anything like this before, but in early 2022 we formally founded the Community Interest Company (CIC) - me, (they/them), Avery Rowe (he/him), Katy Fowler (they/them) and Chris Richards (she/her). We met regularly and held semi-regular "open days" at the local Bowling Club's function room, but really struggled to find a venue in Mach to settle full-time.

Then in Summer 2023 there was a sudden flurry of action: we learned about the Social Value Forum Development Fund a month before its deadline at the same time as we found an empty shop that wasn't properly on the market for new tenants yet - it was a very intense month of writing the grant application. Then the grant was awarded, we signed the shop lease, and worked very hard to make the kitchen and bathroom suitable for member use as quickly as possible. The grand opening was on 20 October 2023. The group went from no venue and no money to opening our makerspace in about 3 months!

That was just under 6 months ago. The SVFDF target was 50 members in 18 months, and now at only 6 months we have over 70 members already! It's been a whirlwind. I still haven't caught my balance, but when I stop and catch my breath I feel in awe of what we've achieved.

Pat: I know from personal experience both the emotional and time consuming costs and benefits of such altruism and how exceptional it is to find there are still people who care about the community they live in and want to improve it for everyone’s benefit.

Demolition work to improve the space!

Where is it based?

Pat: It’s in the centre of Machynlleth in the Old Town Hall almost opposite the Clock Tower. The ‘Happy Bench’ is directly outside, a useful space to sit and think and talk to other people.

Tell us how you got involved and about your role

Pat: I moved to Machynlleth two years ago from Brecon. Lockdown was horrendous for me personally, it destroyed what was left of my limited mobility and everyone on the estate was impacted by the open selling of drugs and the resulting fights and antisocial behaviour. Two years earlier I had to have my horse put down and the year before that the Community Art Workshop I had helped to set up and run had to be shut down. I had already applied for a transfer and when my best friend and neighbour died I moved to Machynlleth.

I now live in a beautiful town, with views of the mountains from my living room window, but I didn’t feel ready to be old and wanted more from my life. I found Machspace by accident when, on one of the days I could walk, I was on my way to a Credu Coffee Morning. I couldn’t believe my luck. Here was the opportunity to be involved again with a community of Makers, only this time without the responsibilities.

My physical limitations prevent me from being more active but I have run an Open Day and helped people explore the potential that lino printing offers. It was great to once again see people experimenting with new ideas and techniques and to meet people in such a friendly and sociable space.

What kind of equipment is available for members to use in the space?

Pat: Considering the limitations of space the variety of equipment available is amazing. Woodworking tools, including a mitre saw. It was this that really excited me as now, once I have bought the materials, I can frame the pictures that I’ve painted. Sewing machines, including an industrial one for heavy duty fabrics, a peg loom, a soldering station, lino cutting tools, and a newly acquired laser cutter and 3D printer are available. It really is a Makerspace in being able to provide access to equipment that you wouldn’t have at home, as well as the space to use it.

It’s a members-only space – why, and what are the benefits of membership?

Pat: Machspace is available for members to use 24/7. Because it is a totally free and unsupervised space it is important that both the space, the equipment and any other people present are treated with respect and consideration. It is easy to join as a member. There is a 30 minute induction during which the conditions of membership are made clear, then you sign an agreement to abide by these conditions. After this the new member is given a key fob which means you can access the space at any time that suits you. Especially useful if you’re an insomniac or work antisocial shifts or you’re a night-functioning person.

How is being a volunteer at Machspace different?

Pat: I seem to have spent a lot of my life volunteering for different community groups and organisations. Perhaps the biggest difference is that being a volunteer for Machspace is the inclusivity. There are regular volunteer meetings and a WhatsApp volunteer forum which provides the opportunity for volunteers to be actively involved in the development and plans for Machspace’s activities and growth as an important asset to the community.

What happens at the fortnightly Open Events?

Pat: The Open Events provide an opportunity for anyone who is interested in finding out more about Machspace, the equipment available, how to become a member and to answer any questions. Usually there is a making activity taking place during the 2 hours of the Open Event and anyone is welcome to join in and meet other makers in a friendly and welcoming environment with the added benefit of drinks and snacks.

Roz, Pat and Stu lino cutting

Tell us how being part of Mach Makerspace has impacted on your mental health

Pat: When I found Machspace my head was not in a good place. My GP had referred me for counselling and I had just been for my third session. I was trying hard to overcome my anger, despair and grief at having to accept that I was no longer able to know where my youngest son had been placed by the mental health services.

My youngest son was diagnosed with schizoid-affective disorder in 2000. I haven’t seen him since 2014 when he decided I was not his mother. He took this decision as a result of being able to access amphetamines despite being on a section 3 and under the ‘safe’ care of an inpatient mental health unit.

Previously I was able to accommodate the distress this decision caused me by riding my horse, making pots and printing at the workshop and talking to my neighbour. Now that none of those options were available I didn’t know how to deal with it.

Finding Machspace has provided me with the help I needed to accept the loss of my son. It has provided me with friendship and most importantly made me want to start printing again. It has helped me to begin the process of healing myself and to regain a positive, rather than a negative and anger-filled state of mind. I know that my mental health has improved because I am now able to look forward to making my lino prints. Rather than dwelling on the negativity of grieving for something that cannot be changed I can remember my son’s achievements with admiration for what he managed to do despite his devastating mental illness.

Why is accessibility important at Mach Makerspace

Pat: Everyone is different and has different needs. By being accessible 24/7 and with the wealth of equipment available Machspace caters for the needs of people who might not feel comfortable in a more formal environment and enables the development of individual skills and confidence.

What are the interaction badges and why did you introduce them?

Pat: Not everyone wants to talk to other people, some people want to talk but lack the skills to initiate a conversation with someone they don’t know. The badges provide a clear visual signal to anyone of each individual’s needs and requirements when in a social space so that everyone respects each other without having to endure sometimes painful and difficult discussions.

Cassian: I first encountered interaction badges at Autscape, which is an annual conference run by and for autistic people. It's a neurodivergent-default space, which is to say, it's assumed by default that most of the people there are neurodivergent and the space is primarily designed for neurodivergent people - the opposite of the rest of the world, really! The interaction badges are intended to allow autistic people to clearly and non-verbally self-regulate comfortable social interaction with each other.

We introduced them because they're so helpful and important in neurodivergent spaces like Autscape, and we want to be inclusive of neurodivergent people. I'm autistic and I have ADHD, so it's close to my heart.

Are there currently, or plans for, other Makerspaces in Powys?

Pat: There should be. I believe that physically making, mending and repairing provides an invaluable resource for developing self-confidence and respect for your own and other people’s achievements. Making and developing skills with different equipment and materials is an essential part of what it means to be a social human being. It provides a means to overcome the feelings of negativity that living in such an unequal society can often induce.

Cassian: I definitely agree, every town needs a makerspace as much as it needs a library or a community centre. Humans have been making things together for as long as there have been humans! Creativity and art and problem-solving are all hardwired in us, and humans are an incredibly social species. In makerspaces you can really see that we all inherently understand that sharing skills and materials is good for everyone involved. It comes so naturally to us; we've been doing it for thousands of years.

Many thanks to Pat and Cassian for telling us about the work of Makerspace in Mach. If you want to find out more you can contact the organisation by emailing or check out their website –

Tuesday 2 April 2024

NHS 111 Press 2 - mental health support in Powys

We recently welcomed Marielle Restall, NHS 111 Press 2 Team Lead for Powys Teaching Health Board, to our Health & Wellbeing team meeting to give us an update about this relatively new service in Powys.

What is 111 Press 2?

111 Press 2 is a mental health service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for all ages. People can use the number if they have an urgent mental health concern for themselves or someone they know. It provides access to a mental health professional without the need for a GP referral. It can help people to support mental health crisis and in many cases be an alternative to attending emergency departments or calling the police.

The service can be accessed by calling NHS 111 and selecting option 2. Callers are then transferred to a dedicated member of the mental health team in their locality. The call includes an assessment of needs and a telephone based intervention to reduce stress. Where appropriate individuals can be referred to mental health services, given self-care advice or signposted to other support.

Why do we have 111 Press 2?

It came about following the publication of a report called Beyond the Call. This took a snapshot in Wales of where people presented in mental health crisis. People presented to 17 different places in total, including the police, Welsh Ambulance service, C.A.L.L. Helpline, Psychiatric Liaison Teams and others, which shows that it was not clear how to access mental health services appropriately.

The idea was to provide one number across Wales that’s easily accessible and people know they can rely on to access mental health support. This would then also reduce pressure on police, ambulance and other emergency services.

Beyond the call report, 2020

Who can call 111 Press 2?

Anyone, any age, registered with a Powys GP or visitors to Powys, can call 111 Press 2. If you are calling about someone else the staff can only give advice, they need to speak to the person directly concerned to make referrals to other services.

We take calls from any person registered with a GP in Powys, or visitors to Powys, whether they are known or not to mental health services. 111 Press 2 can refer on to any of the services within mental health. They are encouraging people to call 111 Press 2 as an alternative to attending their GP. People are triaged by a mental health practitioner and onward referral is made if required. Some GPs are actually redirecting people who call in to surgeries to access support. It’s important that the general public know that if they call 111 Press 2 they can be referred anywhere and receive any support. An exception would be if it is a medication query, for example, the person may have commenced medication and want to discuss this further with the GP.

We are working with the Powys Child & Adolescent Mental Health Support (CAMHS) Schools In-Reach team to help spread the word in schools about the service, and CAMHS teams are also promoting it.

There is a separate dedicated Professionals’ Line which is prioritised in the call queue. So far in Powys it is available to GPs, the police and the ambulance service. Currently an average of 2 calls a day are received by this line, so further promotional work is required to spread the word.

The call handlers are using an interpreting service called LanguageLine to provide support to people who speak a language other than English or Welsh. The issue is whether there is a translator available at the time of the call.

There are two Welsh speakers in the team. People can request a Welsh language speaker when they call which would take them directly to a Welsh-speaking call handler.

What can 111 Press 2 do?
  • Conduct a mental health triage to assess a person’s needs.
  • Provide a therapeutic conversation.
  • De-escalate crisis situations (and reduce pressures of A&E and emergency services).
  • Give advice on how to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing.
  • Signpost to Third Sector services.
  • Refer directly into mental health services for a mental health assessment, eg: Local Primary Mental Health team, Community Mental Health team, Crisis Resolution Home Treatment team, Perinatal team, Early Intervention Psychosis, Eating Disorder Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services single point of access.

What 111 Press 2 cannot do

There is no face-to-face or video calling service available. Staff cannot prescribe medication - a referral would be made to mental health services or advice to attend the GP surgery or call ShropDoc out of hours.

111 Press 2 does not call people back at others’ request - the person must call themselves.

Is 111 Press 2 a listening service?

The service is different to CALL Helpline or other listening services. It is a mental health triage service so you would expect a person to ring with a mental health need.

The practitioners will always listen to the person calling and seek to support them with their mental health need whether that be through de-escalation or onward referral to an appropriate service. Callers who are not presenting with a mental health need will be advised to call another helpline or listening service if they wish to.

111 Press 2 seeks to reduce the distress felt by the caller - practitioners use a measure called the Subjective Unit of Distress Scale. It is used as a reflective tool at the end of a call to find out if there has been a change in how people feel from the beginning to the end of the call. If nothing has changed it could be that this highlights areas that have been missed. It gives control over to the person. Nobody’s distress has gone up since the Powys service began. It is about a 50/50 split on - stay the same or decreased. However, not all callers want to engage with this scale, and it is not appropriate for third party callers.

Who’s in the 111 Press 2 team?

7 x Band 5 Wellbeing Practitioners (Support Workers, Psychology graduates, therapists & social care staff).

1 x Band 5 Service Coordinator (administrative).

6 x Band 6 Senior Mental Health Practitioners (with a professional registration in Mental Health Nursing, Social Work or Occupational Therapy).

1 x Band 7 Team Lead (Mental Health nurse).

1 x Band 8 Service Manager (Mental Health nurse).

In a normal shift one of the senior practitioners will be supporting two of the wellbeing practitioners.

Triage scale

Practitioners use a triage scale as a guide to decide how quickly a person needs support.

The majority of the calls (over 60% May 2023 - January 2024) are for advice and information, or advice to contact alternative providers. Emergency responses made up 11% of the calls.

Live Data (May 2023 - January 2024)

We have gathered information about the number and type of calls the team have been receiving since the service started in Powys:
  • 3421 calls received in total.
  • Calls equally distributed across Powys
  • Averaging 19 calls a day.
  • On average calls are answered in less than 2 minutes.
  • Calls are evenly spread throughout the week, with peak times - 6 - 8pm.
  • Age range of callers - 11 years to 95 years.
  • Average caller is male, 44 - 65.
  • 53% callers active to mental health services, 24% closed to mental health services, and 23% no mental health history.

Highlighting gaps in service provision

The new service has already highlighted the need to the health board of certain gaps in current mental health services, for example out-of-hours crisis care. The Crisis Care team is not available after 9.30pm so by default 111 Press 2 are taking many crisis calls during the night time, as the only out of hours contact for Powys Teaching Health Board.

The team is working closely with other services to identify where the service gaps are so that they can really focus on developing those areas. It’s finding what is working for individuals and what isn’t. 111 Press 2 is in the early stages at the moment but has amazing potential to do great things. In fact, 111 Press 2 is at the forefront of transforming how services are operating!

In summary

111 Press 2 is a single point of access into mental health services for the general public.

111 Press 2 is for everybody.

111 Press 2 provides quick access to a mental health professional 
for advice, support and / or a referral.

Many thanks to Marielle for telling us more about the NHS 111 Press 2 service.
You can find out more about 111 Press 2 on this Welsh Government website.

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Rekindle Ail-ddeffro 2024

Reg Cawthorne – High Sheriff of Powys with Michele Humberstone (Administrator), Jodie Hughes (Service Delivery Manager & Counsellor), Lindsay Cameron-Brown (Administrator) and Cristina Roberts (Recovery Practitioner and Activities Officer).

Rekindle - supporting young people aged 16 - 25 
to improve their mental health and wellbeing

by Jodie Hughes
Service Delivery Manager

We were thrilled to kick off 2024 in our new location in Newtown, just a stone's throw from our previous building. The new facility provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere for young people including outside space, a communal area for activities and three therapy rooms allowing us to expand our capacity offering more appointments to young people. 

We have recruited a larger team to help us to meet demand for our counselling services, one-to-one support and to develop our activities programme.

Our counselling service remains person-centred, meaning the sessions are guided by our clients, giving them the power to talk about the things they want to. After receiving counselling sessions with our team, a young person shared:

"I'm super-duper grateful for all the help and support. It's really improved my life."

Dafydd Llewellyn – Police and Crime Commissioner, speaking at Rekindle's opening event

Our one-to-one recovery team continue to support clients with housing, finances, employment, education, health, self-confidence, friendships, relationships, self-care, life skills, resilience, and more! One of the young people who uses the service shared:

“A friend is in need of help, and I told them to come straight here, as you actually help”.

Rachel Wright (Lead Recovery Practitioner), Jodie Hughes (Service Delivery Manager / Counsellor) and Robin Brierly (Chair of Rekindle) with local Police Community Support Officers.

In further development of our services, we have recently teamed up with Beam, a social enterprise charity, to assist our 18 - 25 year old clients with dedicated career and employment support. The project will offer bespoke career coaching and wellbeing support to help people climb the career ladder with support to access skills and qualifications alongside financial assistance to make finding a job that little bit easier.

Anyone can make a referral to our services by completing our referral form available on our website or by speaking to a member of the team.

Want to know more about Rekindle?

Follow us on social media:

Visit our website

Speak to our team – 01686 722 222

Check out our new space: 2-3 Ladywell Centre, Newtown, Powys SY16 1AF