Mental health agencies gather to discuss services in Lochaber
MENTAL health and well being agencies from across Lochaber gathered together last week to network and share ideas on how to best support vulnerable members of the community.
HUG (Action for Mental Health), a network of people with experience of living with mental health problems, organised the mental health ‘market place’ as the culmination of an 18-month project, seed-funded by and developed with the NHS, to map out mental health services in Lochaber.
Around 35 agency representatives and individuals gathered in Caol Community Centre Youth Cafe on Wednesday April 26 for the event.
NHS Community Health co- ordinator Hugh Wright, who has also given his time to the project along with the funding, explained that within the Lochaber area, the primary focus was on the services and support available in Fort William.
Ewen’s Room, Advocacy Highland, Spirit Advocacy, Lochaber Hope, Support in Mind Scotland, Lochaber Care and Repair and Let’s Get On With It Together were among the agencies represented at the events.
Chris Evans, a development worker for HUG who organised the event, told the Lochaber
Times: ‘ We have established that we know a lot of groups and now we are trying to establish how to network and get the information out to the public and keep ourselves up to date.’
There were talks by HUG’s special advisor Graham Morgan, who spoke about his personal experience with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and about keeping well and Tweedale GP Dr James Douglas, who spoke about physical and mental health. Dr Douglas told the Lochaber
Times: ‘It’s absolutely crucial that all NHS professionals hear the voice of patients and understand what it is like to be ill with a mental health problem and listen and learn from them.
‘It was a privilege to hear Graham talking this morning about his own experience of the NHS services for mental health and all NHS staff could learn from hearing him talk from a patients’ perspective.’
Although the mapping project had been Fort William-based, third-sector and other agencies were invited along to share their knowledge and experience.
Malcolm Gillespie of Ardnamurchan-based support group Ewen’s Room said: ‘We’ve come today to show what we are doing out there and to raise awareness of what we are offering.’
Val Bremner from Advocacy Highland, an organisation which offers a voice for those with mental health problems, said: ‘ We all do our best working in our own organisations and its good to have the opportunity to get to know the other services available so we can increase our own awareness and be more confident to promote other services to people we are working with.’
Ellen Nicolson from Cothrom, Support in Mind Scotland’s Lochaber base, said the day had been very informative and beneficial to share information with other agencies.
Community mental health nurse Alison Gow also found the event useful. She said: ‘It’s really interesting to hear all the different voices and how organisations can pull together to improve people’s experiences on their mental health journeys.
‘It’s been good to network and find out what’s available from the different organisations for signposting people.’
Lochaber Hope manager Alyson Smith also found the day to be a positive experience, saying: ‘I feel like real conversations have taken place today and we’re networking with the people we need to be networking with rather than statutory bodies and it’s good to get the third sector involved. It’s been a very powerful day.’
The day proved so succesful that many of the agencies requested that it be an annual event for them to keep updated, bring along new projects and put their heads together to come up with the best ways of helping people living with mental health problems.
Graham Morgan, HUG representative Izzy Valenti, event organiser Chris Evans, and Dr James Douglas. Photograph: Abrightside Photography