PEOPLE involved in mental health services across West Berkshire had the opportunity to make their voices heard at an event last week.
Healthwatch West Berkshire held its second Thinking Together event and invited a wide range of people from across the district, including carers, professionals and commissioners, to ensure everyone was able to have express their view on mental health services.
The event formed part of an ongoing commitment to focussing on the district’s mental health needs and supporting the Brighter Berkshire 2017 Year of Mental Health campaign.
Healthwatch West Berkshire has been working to ensure that everyone effected by mental health issues can engage and co-operate.
Co-ordinator for the Eight Bells For Mental Health charity, Kathryn Dundas, said: “This was a unique event where many different people and organisations were able to share positive ideas and suggestions about mental health services.
“Thinking Together gave our members the opportunity to have their voices heard, to express both the good and the bad experiences they have had in accessing both professional and voluntary help and support.
“While West Berkshire is poorly funded for mental health services, we believe that events like this help those in our area to feel they are listened to and taken seriously, which can only assist in boosting their confidence and self-esteem.”
Healthwatch West Berkshire said it was hopeful that more effective community mental health systems would be put in place to address the issues raised during Think Together.
West Berkshire Council’s chief executive, Nick Carter, said: “I was delighted to be invited to such a well-attended event.
“It was invaluable to get an insight into what users of local mental health services actually feel.
“There is clearly more to do and I hope I will have the opportunity to return later in the year to outline what we hope to be doing.”
The event was also attended by Healthwatch England chairwoman Jane Mordue, who said: “Well done to Healthwatch West Berkshire for bringing together so many people who really wanted to share ideas on how to improve mental health for everyone in the community.
“The knowledge and experience in the room made for a great buzz, total truth and some great ideas on how to make people more aware of how to cope with the challenges”.
The findings of the event will be discussed at the Health and Wellbeing Board ‘Integration Board’, and a plan drawn up to bring the benefits to the community.
Chief officer of Healthwatch West Berkshire, Andrew Sharp, said: “We truly hope that the success of Thinking Together can be carried into the new Health and Wellbeing Board Mental Health Strategy, which will enable us to create a mental health action group, with delegated powers and accountability, that West Berkshire so badly needs.
“We want to create an environment in our locale where the premature death rate for people with severe mental health issues, from physical illness, can be reduced – and we would like this co-produced, inclusive approach to be used across all health and social care.”