Bid to improve mental health in communities gets go-ahead

The drive to tackle the growing problem of mental ill-health in the region and to reduce the number of suicides is moving forward with funding for projects that aim to reduce loneliness and social and emotional isolation.

Stokesley School students and staff share their Zen Garden plans with County Cllr Caroline Dickinson

The grant programme is the result of a funding bid by North Yorkshire County Council and local NHS organisations to NHS England.  The purpose is to support projects which strengthen the mental health of groups and communities.

North Yorkshire County Councillor Caroline Dickinson, Executive Member for Public Health, said: “At some point in their lives, one in four people will experience mental health issues. In North Yorkshire, that’s around 150,000 people – more than the populations of Harrogate and Scarborough combined.

“The aim is to support a national initiative to reduce suicide rates in England by 10 per cent in the coming year. The projects which are being funded will build on the important work already under way in North Yorkshire to help prevent suicides and to improve the access to, and quality of, mental health services in general.

“This programme plays an important part to further the work of North Yorkshire mental health strategy, Hope, Control and Choice, and the mental health Crisis Care Concordat that we are carrying out with our partners.”

Projects celebrating successful funding bids

Whitby Area Sheds

Whitby Area Sheds will be supporting rural communities to come together and to care for themselves. The project focuses on young people and empowers them to define everyday life as it is for them now; agree a vision for what they would like to have available to them; and explore the possibilities for doing things to meet that vision.

Hambleton & Richmond Carers Centre 

Hambleton & Richmond Carers Centre will extend their existing ‘Chill Club’ to young carers who need support. They will recruit a specialist member of staff with a mental health background and 40 young carers are due to benefit directly from this project.

LGBT Children and Young People’s Strategy Group

North Yorkshire County Council’s LGBT Children and Young People’s Strategy Group will be delivering ‘train the trainer’ sessions for professionals who work with children and young people. The training aims to identify what is meant by mental health; to discuss thoughts, attitudes and assumptions around mental health and LGBT children and young people; and identify roles for keeping LGBT children and young people safe and free from stigma and discrimination.

The Clock

The Clock already receives funding to run their successful ‘Men in Sheds’ project. They will now expand their offer to women, and consider requests for mixed gender sessions. Members of the Shed project will work on crafts, bikes and upcycling furniture to be sold in the local shop. Skills will also be put to use by doing small DIY and gardening tasks for local people who need some help.

Clervaux Trust Ltd

Clervaux Trust will offer a ‘Wood Works’ programme for military men in Richmond, designed to help them take time out for themselves, whilst meeting with peers. It will also give them the confidence to take up new hobbies and keep in touch with others.

Eskdale School

This project will promote whole-school awareness of suicide and self-harm prevention, as well as delivering targeted sessions for students with documented mental health issues.  Their parents or carers will also be able to talk about their worries and difficulties separately, with advice and guidance offered by existing mental health ambassadors and selected peer mentors in the school. Students and parents will be able to come to a final session to bring together information and advice and take part in open discussion. The school will be working in partnership with Whitby Lighthouse.

Herriot Hospice Homecare

Herriot Hospice will provide one to one bereavement support for young people aged 10-18 who have experienced the death of someone close to them. A bereavement worker will meet with the young person until they reach a stage where they can manage their grief well.

Darlington Mind

Darlington Mind will work with 11-18-year olds across Hambleton and Richmondshire, delivering awareness sessions, targeting young people who are suffering with low level mental health problems such as low mood, stress and anxiety as well as those at risk of suicide. Topics such as determination, solution focusing, connectedness, optimism and mindfulness will be highlighted and worked on through group workshops and one to one sessions.

In 2019, three of the funded projects delivered mental health training. One client said “As a result of this training, in my private life, I was able to spend time helping someone in distress, developing their reasons for living.”

Another project focused on the wellbeing of the community: “We have been working with those hard to reach in Whitby and they have really appreciated that this project has been delivered locally. It feels like more people are now better able to shout about mental health and more communities are feeling empowered to care for themselves.”

Case studies

Projects that received grants in previous funding rounds include Scarborough Whitby and Ryedale Mind and Stokesley School.

Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale Mind

Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale Mind has been working with local GP surgeries to provide a mental health support service.  Sophie, the Project Lead, has been surprised at the significant levels of severe mental ill health experienced by patients coming to the service: “We have found that environmental and social issues like poor housing and abusive relationships often lead to people experiencing significant mental health issues and, or, chronic ill health and disability.

“Our client Jayne approached the service when she moved to the area after being made redundant. Her rented house had damp and mould and this was beginning to affect her physical health, and she was having problems with her neighbours’ anti-social behaviour. She had lost contact with her children, was struggling to make friends in the area, and had become involved in a relationship that was increasingly violent and controlling. Her isolation was impacting on her mental health and causing a re-occurrence of a previously managed eating disorder.

“She wanted to meet new people, but after initial discussions it was clear that there weren’t any social groups that appealed to her, and she wasn’t keen on group based activities. We were able to help her to join up with a campaigning network which allowed her to connect with people of similar interests locally, and she has now begun developing friendships.

“Jayne didn’t qualify for help through the eating disorder service, so we researched together and found an alternative health clinic nearby that could provide support on meal planning, and through ongoing conversations she identified that it was her anxiety causing most impact, so we gave her a session on coping strategies and distraction techniques.

“We liaised with Jayne’s landlord and set up a meeting which we went to with her as an advocate to address the issues relating to the poor state of her housing, alongside helping her develop coping skills to deal with her neighbour’s anti-social behaviour. We supported her to apply for part time work whilst working towards setting up her own business, and she has now secured regular employment as well as taking up voluntary work for people with disabilities.

“We use the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing scale (WEMWBS) to monitor our clients’ progress. Jayne’s initial WEMWBS score was 28 at the first appointment and 48 at the end, moving her away from the group considered at high risk of depression and psychological distress”.

Stokesley School

Stokesley School students intend to use their grant funding to create a Zen Garden in the school grounds. During the 2018/19 academic year students met weekly to design the look of the garden and gather 150 inspirational mental health quotes to be distributed around the school. The quotes are now ready for distribution, and work on the construction of the Zen Garden is about to start.

The Zen Garden is an integral element of a project to raise awareness of mental health at Stokesley School, with its Ethos Team working on initiatives to improve the students’ environment.  The garden will be a welcoming space for students where they can enjoy mindfulness sessions whilst appreciating the health benefits of the great outdoors.  Dedicated zones will feature seating pods, including friendship benches, where students and staff can relax, take time out and socialise together.  It aims to be a setting where students and staff can build and foster relationships in a more tranquil environment. 

Year 11 student, Rory Dack, was the student coordinator for the project in 2018/19 and will share responsibilities for design and construction proposals. Rory said: “The students are really excited by the project and are motivated to share their ideas to create a space that they have some ownership, and feeling of accomplishment.  We’re all really proud to have an input in each step of the process and to contribute to how the design and construction develops.”

Mrs Brosnan, Head of Year 8, said: “I am so excited about the Zen Garden Project. The students are enthusiastic and the design process is rapidly gathering momentum. We greatly appreciate NYCC’s fantastic support of the project and I am really looking forward to realising our aim of raising awareness of mental health to break down negative stigmas associated with it. The Zen Garden will be a positive, open and honest environment where students have the opportunity to discuss their wellbeing and practice strategies that will help them build their sense of resilience and self-worth.”

This story was published 3 February 2020