Men­tal health agen­cies gather to dis­cuss ser­vices in Lochaber

The Oban Times - - News - KATIE CARABINE kcara­bine@oban­

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.

F18 men­tal health 01no

Gra­ham Mor­gan, HUG rep­re­sen­ta­tive Izzy Valenti, event or­gan­iser Chris Evans, and Dr James Dou­glas. Pho­to­graph: Abright­side Pho­tog­ra­phy

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