Mental Health Support For The Voluntary Sectors

An event for users of West Berkshire Mental Health services was put together by West Berkshire Healthwatch who wanted to provide feedback since the last ‘Thinking Together’ event in May 2017. This week’s event was open to service users, families and carers, voluntary agencies and professionals throughout West Berkshire. The event was co-hosted by Brighter Berkshire, West Berkshire Council, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Newbury and District Clinical Commissioning Group.

After a long presentation, I asked if I could stand and talk to the professionals in the room about my perception of mental health support for the voluntary sectors locally.

I explained that Newbury Soup Kitchen has opened its doors at the Salvation Army between 6.00pm and 8.00pm on Thursday evenings since January this year. During this time we have be involved with the homeless and vulnerable who have self harmed, been verbally aggressive, suicidal, depressed, desperate and lonely, most of which have lots of different types of mental illness with lots of different symptoms.

Through my experience it has been very difficult if not impossible to get any “out of hours” mental health support other than a couple of crisis telephone lines. Mainly it has been an answering machine and in one case the team phoned back two days later. This was particularly worrying as I was phoning about a client who had arrived at the Soup Kitchen after self harming and talking of suicide.

I appealed to all the mental health teams for more support on a professional and voluntary basis. I hope to improve the mental health support for my homeless and vulnerable locally through the Soup Kitchen.

Since my appeal at the event, the Head of Mental Health Services West Berkshire, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and West Berkshire Adult Social Care have both asked to meet with me following this Thinking Together event. I am hopeful this will be a positive step forward.