This week is mental health awareness week, so it’s a good time to take stock of progress in achieving our vision of putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health and making sure no child who needs mental health support will be turned away.
We know that mental health services were not as good as we wanted them to be when we “took charge” of health and social care in 2016.
It’s an area that we put immediate focus on and in July 2017 we committed £134m additional investment, with £80m of that aimed at children, young people and new mums.
We knew we had to raise standards, to ensure services worked together better and that we needed to help remove the stigma that people with mental health problems often feel.
Our work has focused on six areas – saving lives, work, crisis care, support in communities, schools and homelessness.
At its worst mental health problems can lead to suicide, so we have focused hard on areas where the risks can be identified.
Community and in-patient teams have been strengthened so they are able rapidly to support individuals who are suicidal and to prevent repeat suicides in affected communities, such as schools, LGBT groups, students and mental health treatment centres.
Sharing information known to one professional with others is also vital, so we have set standards for the way concerns over individuals are communicated between teams such as police, ambulance and mental health workers.
We know that being out of work can cause depression and that mental ill health is a major cause of long-term unemployment.
Our Working Well programme has been successful in supporting people back into work through addressing their individual issues. We have expanded this to provide support to people who have recently lost their jobs, or are at risk of doing so, because of poor health. We will continue to invest in this area because being employed in a job you like is an important factor in maintaining good mental health.
Everyone affected by a mental health crisis deserves to receive the same standard of care, but the experience can be different currently around Greater Manchester.
So, we are developing standards that all our 10 acute hospitals will have to meet 24 / 7 for assessment and referral, whether for adults or children. We know there is great support also offered by voluntary and community organisations and we want to make sure they are more widely available across the region.
Of course, the first point of contact for a mental health crisis if often the police, so our teams are working together with staff at the police control room to identify and manage mental health related calls better.
Support in communities
The Partnership’s approach to providing better local care has been to create “local care organisations” which provide a range of health services at neighbourhood level.
Mental health is very much part of these teams of GPs, social workers who provide personalised support to individuals who often have a range of physical and mental health needs. Local charities and community groups work alongside the healthcare professionals in these teams.
Schools and universities
Our mentally health schools pilot has been delivered in partnership by four charitable organisations who have provided a range of support to school and colleges.
This has included training to build confidence, coaching in key life skills such as growing self-esteem, lessons to improve creative thinking skills and coping strategies for challenges.
The young people at schools have been trained by professional athletes, among others, to become champions for the positive impact of physical and emotional wellbeing as well as having mental health first aid training.
To improve provision in the higher education sector for student mental health and mental illness, we have developed a dedicated treatment and support centre, so that students can access services quickly and easily. This is being done in partnership with our universities and our voluntary sector.
Mental health and homelessness are intertwined, and our mental health professionals and volunteers are working alongside a range of teams who help rough sleepers and the “hidden homeless” such as those who “sofa surf”.
This is happening with outreach and temporary accommodation providers in Stockport, Wigan, Rochdale, Manchester, Bolton, Tameside & Glossop and Wigan.
We know there is no health without good mental health. We know too that in the past provision for improving mental health has not been good enough. We have made improvements, though of course we can always do better, and we will continue to build on these improvements and all the transformation initiatives by importantly working together as a whole system.