People using Live Well Kent, a community support service which is marking its first year, have been sharing their personal stories as Mental Health Awareness Week focusses on ‘Surviving or Thriving’.
Live Well Kent is a network of mental health and wellbeing organisations, co-run by charities Porchlight and Shaw Trust, which support residents to manage their mental health and physical or emotional wellbeing before things reach crisis point. Currently, 39 different organisations are part of the scheme which launched last May and has worked with 4,652 isolated and vulnerable individuals.
One of those is 54-year-old Nick from Margate who, for nearly a year, didn’t leave his home or speak to anyone. “I went into a deep depression and never thought I’d leave my flat again,” he recalls.
Live Well Kent put Nick in touch with a community inclusion service for people feeling isolated and he began meeting regularly with a support worker called Gill. “I can honestly say Gill saved my life. She helped me build the confidence to go back outside for short periods,” he said. “She was willing to sit and talk me through what I’d be doing which made it a lot less daunting. It was also nice having somebody to talk with again – it gave me back a sense of normality. My confidence is coming back and the future is looking good. If someone needs help, I’d tell them not to hesitate getting in touch with Live Well Kent. It’s the best thing you could do.”
Mental health, finance and budgeting help, and housing support are the main reasons people contacted Live Well Kent, which was launched last year by joint commissioners Kent County Council and the seven clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) for Kent (but not Medway).
Chris from Ashford explained how he was helped by the service: “I was suffering really badly with depression, anxiety and tried to commit suicide. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to people. I used to stay indoors most days.”
He added: “Eight months ago I came to the Live Well Kent centre and I learnt about the gardening project and I thought I’d give it a go. The work in the garden gave me a purpose. I had a reason to get up in the morning and I was feeling so much better. I still have a way to go but I feel 10 times better now. Coming here is like seeing my family. I know I won’t be judged. We’ve got a little community here. “
KCC Director for Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark says community support is crucial: “Live Well Kent is all about making connections so that people feel part of their communities and feel less lonely and isolated. It supports them into employment and suitable housing, giving access to a wide range of opportunities including life-long learning and volunteering, social and leisure and healthy living support. By helping people to manage their recovery, we can prevent mental health problems developing or worsening, support people recovering from mental health problems and provide a service people need and want to keep well.”
When somebody gets in touch, a Live Well Kent adviser helps them figure out what kind of support best suits their needs. This can be anything from sport therapy to groups based around shared experiences, services for people feeling isolated and ways to help people into employment.
Live Well Kent’s Chris Coffey: “It’s important that people know what support is available. By bringing it all together under Live Well Kent, it’s easier for them to see what their options are. Over the coming year and beyond, we’re looking to bring even more services into the Live Well Kent network based on the community’s needs.”
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (8 to 14 May), headlined ‘Surviving or Thriving’, is exploring why too few people are thriving with good mental health. Mark Rowland, Director at the Mental Health Foundation, which is behind Mental Health Awareness Week, said: “We often forget that just as with physical health, there are things we can all do to understand, protect and sustain our mental health. This is an issue that affects all of us. Too many of us accept that experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety are the price we pay to keep our lives on track. Now, more than ever, we need to find ways of building our collective resilience, supporting each other to thrive.”
For more information about the support available in Kent, contact Live Well Kent on 0800 567 76 99 and www.livewellkent.org.uk
Note to editors:
For case studies and more information about Porchlight, contact ChrisThomas@porchlight.org.uk and for Shaw Trust, contact firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com
For information about Mental Health Foundation, go to www.mentalhealth.org.uk