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Thinking together for mental health

Professionals and volunteers discuss ways to improve services

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas


01635 886639

HEALTHWATCH West Berkshire (HWWB) held a collective thinking forum last week to explore how mental health services can be better delivered in the region.

Called Thinking Together, the event at Newbury Baptist Church involved health professionals, voluntary groups and service users who united to discuss how mental health patients in crisis can receive the best care.

Among the organisations present were Berkshire Health Care Trust, West Berkshire Council, Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group and SEAP Advocacy.

They were joined by several volunteer-led groups including Loose Ends, Eight Bells for Mental Health, Open for Hope and Recovery in Mind.

The forum began with a personal exploration of what being in ‘crisis’ meant to those present.

Responses ranged from “having work deadlines before the computer breaks down” to “feeling suicidal” and being unable to calm down.

Some service users shared their own moving experiences of mental health and recounted real-life testimonies of going through crisis points in their lives.

Recommendations from the forum included better supervision and training for staff, a greater show of empathy and understanding towards patients and better cross-collaboration between services.

Independent chair of the Mental Health Action Group Matthew Braovac said listening to users’ experiences of mental health would be used not to expand the number of mental health services in the district, but to make existing ones more efficient.

Another key recommendation the forum made was the need for greater continuity for staff who support mental health sufferers on a one-to-one basis, a move supported by HWWB chief officer Andrew Sharp.

“Some of the stories we heard were absolutely heart-wrenching – like people harming themselves – it’s really troubling, “Mr Sharp said.

“One of the recommendations was that staff are better supported, looked after and understand when it comes to dealing with front line services.

“Some said that each time they see someone, they see a different person.

“We have to build an empathy with those people with a condition – it’s not okay for those patients who do not have a well-balanced condition to see someone different.”

Mental health will be one of two priorities of West Berkshire’s Health and Wellbeing Board from April.

The chairman of the board, James Fredrickson, said it was already using the feedback from the event to assess how mental health outcomes could be further improved in the coming year.

He said: “Thinking Together is a fantastic way to hear first-hand how our residents are using the services we provide.

“Their views are invaluable and help all local care providers reflect on how they can continually improve the services they offer.”

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