This is the thrid blog in our series of blog posts following World Mental Health Day, which was held on Saturday 10 October. This blog post has been written by Angela Newton, Deputy Director, Service User Involvement Directorate at Together for Mental Wellbeing. In this post Angela explores how national mental health charity, Together for Mental Wellbeing, supports people to tackle the challenges they face and take steps towards living the lives they want to lead.
It’s a commonly quoted statistic that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any one year. For each of these people, the reality of experiencing mental distress is that it can all too often lead to long-term disadvantage. The people we work with tell us that it still carries a stigma and can lead to them losing their job, affecting their relationships with friends and family and preventing them from enjoying the things they usually take pleasure in. Take Chris, who told us when he first came to us for support: “I was summoned by my company for a scrutiny meeting and I couldn’t face it. I was in a state of crisis and lost control of my ability to cope with my life. I couldn’t see any way out.”
This year, on World Mental Health Day, people from across the globe came together to raise awareness of mental health and shine a spotlight on what can be done to ensure that people with mental health issues are treated with dignity. This means being treated with respect and being seen as an individual by both the people and services that support them.
According to the Social Care Institution for Excellence, one of the three areas which pose a threat to dignity in mental health care is stigma and discrimination. This year, major reports have shown that in some areas of the mental health system, such as crisis care, far too many people are not being treated with basic respect, warmth or compassion. Experiencing mental distress is frightening and taking the brave step to access support can be difficult. It is therefore essential that services see each individual for who they are and treat them with compassion and understanding. When people aren’t treated in this way, the discrimination they already experience is compounded and this can prevent people from accessing the support they need.
With the right support, on the other hand, people can achieve improved mental wellbeing and make progress towards living the life they want to lead. We believe this is true regardless of how ill people are or how long they have been experiencing mental distress. The key is that they are in control of the support they receive and are supported towards goals that really matter to them.
At Together, we offer a wide range of services that support thousands of people to have a suitable and safe place to live, to connect with friends, family and their communities, to have their voices heard and to tackle the most difficult things in their lives. Each individual we work with influences and shapes the support they and others receive from us. We see the whole person with a range of factors and circumstances impacting on their wellbeing, not just their mental health needs. By taking time to understand the particular circumstances, challenges and concerns of each and every individual we support, and working alongside them to find ways to harness their own strengths to tackle these, we can support people to live fulfilling, independent lives without prejudice, one person at a time. This is our founding principle and continuing ambition.
This might translate into supporting someone to learn how to make everyday decisions, manage their finances and pay their rent, or challenge the outcome of their Work Capability Assessment. It might be supporting someone as they leave the house for the first time in six months.
In short, we support people to bring about real positive change in their lives. We focus on the goals they tell us are important to them, and take every opportunity to ask them how we’re doing so we can continually improve. Remember Chris? Since accessing support from us he told us that:
“I still have my challenges but thanks to Together I now have a lot more confidence than I did before and I feel more able to get involved with my community. I love working in the community and I’m happier now than I was before. It’s important to get out in the community as it stops you feeling isolated—it makes you feel like there’s hope.”
This year on World Mental Health Day we celebrated at many of our local services by running art exhibitions, drop-ins open to all and joining up with other local services to promote the types of support available to people, should they need it.
We will continue to work every day alongside the people we support to break down the barriers that exist through ignorance and lack of understanding.