Mental health first aid push to help battle ‘nightmare’ waiting times for Hartlepool patients

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A drive to provide more mental health first aid training is to take place to help battle issues such as ‘nightmare’ waiting times for specialist appointments.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee was given a presentation on an ongoing investigation into mental health services in the area.

Coun Stephen Thomas.

Coun Stephen Thomas.

It warned that by 2020 one in four families in Hartlepool are likely to be affected by mental health issues, and one in five households with a person over 65.

Coun Stephen Thomas warned people can at times be waiting three months or more to access help after making initial contact.

National figures from Public Health England also showed 15 million work days are lost to stress, anxiety and depression each year.

However Jayne Gardener, approved mental health professional lead on the council, said they are encouraging more people to take mental health first aid training to help those close to them.

She said: “People who know best are those who have experienced it themselves.

“It is one of the things we are looking to expand and hope people can act as peer mentors.

“It’s about asking the questions and getting the answers people need to give, and really finding out when someone is struggling and when someone is fine.

“It really helps in everyday life if there are people who can support colleagues, friends, family, anyone who is struggling.

“A lot of work is going on and this can always improve, we’ve got to aspire to be the best out there.”

She added the Tees Training Hub offer the first aid training and said more organisations are starting to follow.

Training offered to councillors also offers mental health first aid along with wider awareness training.

Neil Harrison, council head of safeguard and specialist services who gave the presentation, also added numerous awareness sessions and activities were being held to help improve people’s mental and physical health.

He said: “We have a very big focus on mental health and well-being.

“We have a number of services and activities which we provide throughout Hartlepool, anything from archery to zumba.

“A healthy body and a healthy mind are closely linked.

“As a local authority we have to be aware of issues within adult services and hope moving forward we can develop a better understanding in terms of that.”

Coun Stephen Thomas, chairman of adult services committee and Healthwatch Hartlepool representative, welcomed the work but urged more needs to be done.

He said: “I really do welcome this piece of work, I really think it’s important to use this time to focus spotlight onto mental health issues in Hartlepool.

“For a lot of people when accessing mental health services they’ve gone through quite a big period of time building up before that.

“There’s still a lot of fear and stigma to look for around the mental health issue, we’ve chipped away at it but it’s still out there.

“If you make the first step and then are waiting for three months then that must be hell for people, it’s a real cut against the whole process.

“It exacerbates people’s problems, it’s a real nightmare for people to make that first step then having a quiet period.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service