Cases of dementia are on the rise. Around 700,000 people in England have the disease Healthwatch York launched a comprehensive guide to mental health and wellbeing following numerous requests from members of the public about where to go for support. We spoke to their manager Siân Balsom and their volunteer Louise Sangwine about this.
How did the guide come about?
Siân: One of the key messages we hear from people is how hard it is to get information when you need it. We wanted to help people get straight to the right support.
Louise: The guide is exactly what I would have wanted when I had a mental health issue. It would have helped me find the support I needed much more quickly. I’ve spoken to so many people who faced the same challenges I did.
How did you develop it?
Sian: The development of the guide was led by Louise. As a former mental health service user, she knew how vital good information is so she was able to shape the directory to answer the questions those with mental health issues regularly ask. Supported by John Brown, another volunteer, together they researched and created this invaluable resource for us all.
What difference will the guide make?
Louise: Hopefully, no-one will now need to wait or struggle to find the right help – they just need to look at the guide which gives comprehensive information in an accessible and easy to follow format. Producing it has been a real team effort and I am very proud to have been involved.
Siân: Our guide is unique because of the vision behind it, and how it was developed. It’s a real demonstration of the power of working together. The best people to change health and care services are the people who use them. We’ve made it clear that this wouldn’t have happened without the passion and dedication of our volunteers. Local providers have said how impressed and pleased they are that such a resource is now available to people in York.
What feedback have you had from the public so far?
Siân: We’ve been overwhelmed at the positive response from the public. A mother told us this was exactly what she needed a year ago when her son was having serious mental health problems. She couldn’t find any information anywhere and the guide was exactly what she wanted.
Another person also told us that they hadn’t known where to turn, they used the guide to get immediate support and are now having regular contact with the Community Mental Health Team.