It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May), so Healthwatch Gloucestershire is highlighting some of the challenges local people face when accessing mental health services and also raising awareness of the crucial role played by community support in helping people manage their mental health.
Understanding people’s experiences of mental health services in order to influence positive change in local provision has been the focus for much of Healthwatch Gloucestershire’s work during 2019-2020. They carried out three studies during the year to identify the care and support needs of mental health patients, those who take care of people with a mental health condition, and most recently, the needs of those who have both mental health and substance misuse issues. (See more below.)
Healthwatch Gloucestershire Manager, Helen Webb, explained how they use real people’s stories and feedback to make care better for the local community: “It’s important that mental health services are designed and delivered to meet the needs of the people who use them. Over the course of the year, we have gathered a wealth of community insight and identified some common issues and areas for improvement. We have shared our findings and recommendations for change with those who are responsible for mental health services in Gloucestershire to ensure they understand and respond to the needs of local people. We are also working to raise awareness of the fantastic voluntary and community groups who play such a vital role in helping people manage their mental health.”
Understanding the needs of mental health patients
Over 200 people took part in this Healthwatch Gloucestershire study which identified common concerns around accessing the county’s specialist mental health services, including long waiting times, not enough sessions, difficulty accessing crisis care, and a lack of flexibility in services. Read the full report here: Exploring the views of Gloucestershire people on mental health services in the county.
“I was initially sent on a low mood course and then referred for CBT, but it has taken eight months to get an appointment. I was really upset by regular letters telling me that I was still on the waiting list but inviting me to take myself off the list if I no longer needed an appointment.”
“I rang (the crisis team) because I was feeling suicidal and they told me to make an appointment to see my GP… I ended up ringing the Samaritans and they spoke to me for a long time and it is only because of them that I am here today.”
A carers perspective on mental health
Healthwatch Gloucestershire’s study into the experiences of people who care for those with a mental health condition highlighted a need for greater understanding among professionals of the carer’s role and of their personal support needs, as well as a need for better communication and more support. Read the full report here: Experience of Mental Health Services in Gloucestershire: A carers perspective.
“The biggest thing when you are in a crisis with your loved one is that you are completely alone.”
“I have no idea of the path to take and where to go for help. I do believe it is there, but I just don’t know where to find it.”
“It is not until you have an assessment that you realise how much you are doing for your cared one.”
Co-existing conditions – mental health and substance misuse
Most recently, Healthwatch Gloucestershire has been supporting Gloucestershire Public Health, by looking at how local people who have both mental health and substance misuse issues access the care and support they need. The report is being finalised and will be published later this year.
Sharing stories to shape mental health support
Healthwatch Gloucestershire is asking local people to share their experiences and views of managing mental health, to help raise awareness of the challenges people face and to influence positive changes in local services. To get in touch with Healthwatch Gloucestershire, call 01452 504989 or 0800 6525193 (freephone), email email@example.com, or visit healthwatchgloucestershire.co.uk.