Mindful of Mental Health

By Sue McDermott, Programme Manager

Ageing Well Torbay is now more than three years into a six-year programme, and lessons are being learned as we go

We now know much more about Torbay’s ageing population and the problems it faces – particularly about the often crippling and life-changing experience of isolation and loneliness.

Already, with the help of some superb partners, we have identified and begun to deal with problems faced by thousands of over 50-year-olds across the Bay.

Ageing Well Torbay comes with £6 million pounds worth of Big Lottery funding but because of other funding that sort of money attracts and the value of ‘in kind’ voluntary efforts by local people, the true value of the project is nearer £15 milllion.

It has enabled Ageing Well, which is part of the Torbay Community Development Trust family, to identify key areas that need to be addressed, not least mental health, which experts and organisations across the Bay are struggling to deal with – mainly because of funding cuts elsewhere.

But at the core of nearly everything that Ageing Well Torbay does is the idea that given the right tools a community can help itself and that includes support for mental health issues.

To help achieve that we are this week inviting organisations to tender for funding totalling around £115,000 to allow the people of Torbay can be at the forefront of the battle to overcome issues concerning mental health.

Our Ageing Well Wellbeing Co-ordinators and Ageing Well Community Builders identified the need and a year-long pilot project called Daybreak which ran out of Paignton to support people across Torbay has had some amazing results.

Daybreak has found that self-referral to their services has worked well,  although because of the squeeze on other funding,  referrals have also come from doctors and other health support services.

Most importantly they have found that in contrast to the formal clinical support, a service where people help each other and share experiences does not attract the same stigma.

Furthermore, because it is informal, it raises awareness of a whole host of issues including personal relationships, the environment, physical health, work finances and spiritual wellbeing.

Or put another way, they feel much better about themselves on so many different levels.

That is why Ageing Well Torbay is looking to do more of the same. We want to be able to support open door/drop-in centre sessions or groups for people aged over 50 who need it across the Bay.

We want more people to be able to cope with:

  • bereavement and grief
  • anxiety and depression
  • life after retirement
  • managing thoughts about self-harm or suicide
  • building and maintaining self-esteem and confidence.

As we have found time and time again, a happier over 50-year-old is much less likely to be troubled by minor physical illnesses as has been shown by a drop of GP visits among the people we have dealt with from 6.8 times a year to 3.5.  Or the number of hospital visits that have dropped from 1.75 to 0.65 times a year.

We learned early on that we need to ensure that older people get the services that they want, rather than what “we” think they need and mental health is one of those areas that this is essential/

Older people need to be leading and making decisions about mental health issues and the services set up to tackle them. It is another opportunity for older people to use their lifelong acquired skills, knowledge and experience.

Issues surrounding mental health are for a whole host of reasons becoming more acute and play a massive part in so many people’s lives.  Here at Ageing Well Torbay, we cannot claim to all the answers, but we are continuing to learn, and with your help, we can make a difference.

We are also tendering for an IT project which will increase access to health care and welfare benefits for which £25,000 is available.

For more details on how to get involved or submit a tender for either project please visit: https://bit.ly/2zZv8Jh