Hundreds back our plea to help save vital mental health helpline
09:30 18 February 2016
Copyright: Archant 2016
Hundreds of people have already signed up to our campaign to save a vital mental health helpline, with several telling how the service had directly saved lives.
Our We Mind campaign was launched yesterday after it emerged the support line, run by the Norwich and Central Norfolk branch of the charity Mind, was to lose its funding. This is despite the fact that it saves lives, fills a recognised gap in mental health care, takes around 800 calls a month and costs just £120,000 a year to run.
So far, more than 800 people have signed the online petition, via our website, with dozens more registering their disgust using the Twitter hashtag #WeMind.
Harriett Powell, 29, from Bowthorpe, who is bipolar and uses the line about five times a week, said: “The line has supported me through some very, very difficult times and it helps so much to be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone who knows me and knows about my condition.
“It seems you hear all this talk nationally of money going into mental health, but then locally services like this are cut. David Cameron needs to know what is really going on. There already isn’t enough support out there for people suffering and I’d be devastated if this service went.”
The line was funded until last summer by Norfolk’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), however they said it was only meant as a temporary measure. The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) stepped in to provide cash until March 31, 2016, but neither said they could continue to support it.
Backing our campaign, Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP, said: “There is strong evidence that it works. I applauded Norfolk health leaders when they established this line. I am now dismayed that this service could be lost. It is shortsighted in the extreme. More people will end up in crisis needing more acute care at enormous cost.”
A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, said: “This is yet another case of the health commissioners at the CCGs refusing to fund mental health services properly. The mental health crisis shows that NSFT cannot provide essential services without sufficient money. The CCGs continue to divert resources away from mental health.”
Has the service helped you? Email David Powles at firstname.lastname@example.org
LADY DANNATT, A PATRON OF THE NORWICH AND CENTRAL NORFOLK BRANCH OF MIND, WRITES...
How ironic, and how deeply sad, that we see the announcement that the mental health line operated by Mind Norwich and Central Norfolk is to lose its funding, on the very day our PM promised an extra £1bn to be pumped into our long neglected mental health service.
For many, I fear, this cash injection has come far too late. Two mental health charities I am involved with have had to suspend their services since the New Year; and, tragically, I fear another may be forced to follow suit very shortly.
These organisations are, quite simply, a lifeline for so many of those living in towns, villages and rural communities across the county.
Without them, men and women of all ages and all backgrounds will simply retreat back indoors, with their suffering, their anxieties and their fears unheard and unaddressed.
Some will attempt to take their lives as a way of eroding their loneliness and despair. Others will self medicate by well recognised methods.
There will be a significant rise in self harm and surviving charities such as MAP and the Samaritans will be under pressure as never before – as, of course, will our NHS.
The tragedy is that we are looking at such relatively tiny amounts of money to keep open mental health charities that have fine and proven track records in transforming the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
The suspension of Sweet Arts last month in Norwich, is a disaster for its clients – and once lost, extraordinarily difficult to bring back.
The Wensum Group, based in Fakenham, has been providing companionship advice and activities for those suffering with mental health difficulties for nearly 30 years, as have many similar organisations across Norfolk.
All these small, but life transforming charities are now fighting for their very survival.
Last year I was privileged enough to spend a day shadowing our ambulance service.
The very first blue light call of the day came from a lady who, it transpired, just wanted to see a friendly face.
Last week I asked another lady, who depends three days a week on another excellent mental health charity, how
she had spent Christmas Day?
“Well, I made a peanut butter sandwich and just got through it best I could,” came the reply.
If the charity supporting this lady closes, she will be alone making her sandwich every single day of the week.
So what is to be done? We know that central and local government seem to have run out of money, so as a community we now have to look to ourselves. I just hope that individuals, trusts and foundations, who may have money to disburse, will look favourably upon requests from mental health charities.
In this area of need a little helps; but most importantly regular and established funding, can help so much more.
It is this continuity of funding that will make a real difference to those who need it most.
Jane Durrant, 52, a mother-of-two from Heartsease, suffers from multiple mental health conditions and relies on the service most nights.
“It is a lifesaver, they are absolutely fantastic. They get to know you, spend time talking to you and you get to trust them.
“I often feel so miserable but when I hear that familiar voice at the end of the line it makes such a difference, I don’t feel alone.
“You just don’t get that from anywhere else.
“I haven’t taken an overdose for six months, and that’s a big thing for me.
“That is because I am able to talk to Mind, it makes that much difference.
“If they are not there, the suicide rate will go up, I am sure of it. I don’t just fear for myself, but everybody else.
“I spend most of my time indoors and having that outlet provides such a release.
“They are making such a big mistake.
“This will put extra pressure on the police, A&E, the 111 service and The Samaritans, which all already have enough to deal with.
“If it was to go it would be like losing my family all in one.”