World Mental Health Day is on 10th October 2020, and I thought I would share some insight and personal views on the support and services I have accessed or have second hand knowledge of in the Bradford District.
My name is Kirsty and I have a huge passion to help people with their mental health issues, whether it is a long term condition or due to recent events in their lives. I found this passion when I was suffering with my own mental health, I suffered with depression for years after having my child and struggled to get help from the NHS for some time.
I had depression because my personal life changed dramatically, I felt like I had no control. I went to the doctor who gave me tablets and referred me to a counsellor for postnatal depression, I argued that this was not the help I needed but they refused to listen. This was when I realised the system was broken, that it didn’t understand, that it needed to change.
I saw the counsellor who agreed I had been misdiagnosed, it was in fact depression – it sounds the same but it is two very different things. I got sent back to the doctor and put back on the waiting list. After 6 months I hadn’t had my first appointment, only confirmation that I was on the waiting list. I eventually went to a Mental Health charity for help and this is when I realised that things can change, we have the power to make change, there is help out there that we can access when we NEED it.
Just because we can’t put a plaster or bandage over our ailment it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, just because we’ve had one change in our life, it doesn’t mean that it is the sole responsibility for what’s wrong and just because we are not trained, it does not mean we don’t know our own bodies. So now you understand my story, here is my personal opinion on mental health services in Bradford.
I will start with children, some of the services available to them and what my personal findings are.
CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services): this service has amazing potential, it has recently branched out to be more inclusive which should be great, right? Unfortunately, children are having to wait YEARS to be assessed by a doctor, and even longer to start their counselling. Years of struggling with their emotions, losses, development etc. therefore ensuring they cannot reach their full potential as an individual by the time hormones come into play (if they are referred in primary school). For some it is even worse, they are referred later which means they may not be at the front of the queue until they are about to leave school, leaving them unable to access these services at all. They have been failed – they haven’t had the help they needed because there simply isn’t the resource there to help them. Do they not deserve more funding, more staff? It is time to fight for the next generation, fight for them to be OK.
Youth in Mind is an amazing partnership of services supporting 11-19 year old's in Bradford District and Craven who are struggling with their social, emotional or mental wellbeing, (for young people with special educational needs and disabilities they accept referrals up to the age of 25.) However, they can only offer a limited number of appointments due to funding, they listen, understand and support these children. They are quick to see you and tailor their service as much as possible to each individual. They are trying their best but the funding just isn’t there to let them help everyone; they can’t afford to hire more staff, nor can they squeeze in any more appointments. They need the funding to become more substantial.
Which brings me to online platforms, I don’t have much experience with these but I have heard nothing but great things about Kooth – this is an anonymous, confidential platform with trained professionals who give advice to young people who are struggling with mental health. This is a quick and easy way for young people to speak to professionals without having to see them, make an appointment or even tell loved ones they are struggling, this is a huge step in the right direction for young people and I think this will become more popular the more it is heard about.
MyWellbeing College is a free NHS service to help people manage everyday problems such as feeling low, having problems sleeping, feeling anxious and experiencing stress. The service is available either through self-referral, GP referral or in some schools and has been growing rapidly since they started. They have amazing people on their team and are quick with their responses and appointments. They also offer group sessions to reassure you that you are not alone, everybody experiences some kind of struggle during their lifetime.
I believe if schools did more work with children on mental health to help them understand what it is and how it affects us, this may give them the opportunity to identify any problems earlier on in life before it becomes a bigger issue. I also believe they should have a professional in every school who is there to listen, guide and help children with mental health e.g. a Mental Health First Aider. If children were taught about mental health, it would seem less ‘taboo’ to them, they might not feel the need to hide it, they might realise they’re not alone with and it would let them know there are services out there who can help. Most importantly if children were helped whilst still being children it could prevent the strain on adult mental health services in the future. Does this not make more sense than letting issues fester and grow along with their brains, increasing depression and anxiety in teenagers and young adults?
For adults there are a broad range of services available such as:
Mind in Bradford help people who are struggling with emotional and mental health problems across Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven. They offer phone & online support, a safe space to visit in times of crisis and wellbeing groups. They have a nurturing approach with trained professionals ready and waiting to help. They also have a crisis service called Sanctuary, , which provides a calm, non-clinical, safe space for anyone aged 16+ experiencing mental health distress 365 days a year from 6pm – 1am.
The Cellar Trust are a mental health charity that supports people with mental health problems, across the Bradford district to move forward in their recovery and live independent, fulfilling lives. Their purpose is to support people when they face these challenges, and to empower them to move forward. They have a wide range of services available such as, ‘Haven’, their crisis service for people over the age of 16; employment support courses; ‘Telehelp’ which is in collaboration with MyWellbeing College; stress busters; and the Multi-Agency Support Team (MAST) which is a collaborative project, delivering additional peer support based in A&E departments, to help ensure that people can get the right support at the right time, even if this is an alternative to A&E. The Cellar Trust is an amazing service, continuously strengthening and growing due to collaborative work, fundraisers and most importantly – listening to people’s needs and learning from that. They also have an amazing café with the best cakes if you’re in the area!
Community Mental Health Teams are for people with complex and enduring mental health problems who require specialist support. They give advice and support to other professionals about how to best manage your care, introduce you to other services and organisations in line with your needs, provide assessment, treatment and care whether it is a short term disorder or a longer-lasting struggle. They also provide assessment and support if you are a vulnerable person with a mental health problem. In short they try to help everyone and have a team for most mental health issues. This again is a great service that is underfunded. I think if they utilised more of the existing mental health teams in the District and worked with more of them they would have a better reach and it would enable them to help more people in their times of need.
First Response is a service available 24/7 for people of all ages to call when they are in crisis, for specialist support to help them. By crisis I mean people being at their very worst, feeling suicidal, suffering from a mental breakdown, or being unable to see a way out of their current situation. This service is available for people living in Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale or Craven. This service has amazing potential to reduce casualties or even worse, deaths, provided they utilised all of the services available and started to collaborate with more voluntary organisations.
I know there are a lot of services above and most of them do similar things but that’s the brilliant part about it! If they don’t have capacity to meet the demand, they know there is another service available. They should be working together to ensure people are getting help when they are contacted and not put on a waiting list, collaborative working could save more lives! If all these services (and the ones I haven’t written about) were utilised by crisis services and agencies (especially the voluntary organisations), I think Bradford could have a lot less serious mental health issues and more positive outcomes.
If more funding was made available, these services could branch out and hire more staff, extend their services and therefore help more people. If funding was poured into these services (especially children’s services where the system is failing hugely due to demand and lack of supply) then we would have less people harming themselves, less people in A&E and less people suffering with a preventable condition for a long period of time.
As I have said throughout this is a personal opinion and you may not agree, that’s OK. If you have a better understanding than I do, that’s OK too. I’m not a professional, just a human with a passion and a hope for change.