Behind the scenes of the Norwich and Central Norfolk branch of mental health charity Mind
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016
Hundreds of people with a mental health illness receive support from the Norwich and Central Norfolk branch of Mind. As part of our Mental Health Watch campaign, the charity has granted exclusive access to its work. Investigations editor David Powles spoke to its chief executive, Amanda Hedley.
There is a worrying contradiction which currently exists within mental health care – an issue of which Amanda Hedley is only too aware.
On the one hand, £1bn government announcements like that made a fortnight ago by prime minister David Cameron give the impression that years of under-funding are about to come to an end.
Yet on the other hand, when you take a closer look at the picture locally, the prospects do not always appear so bright. Norfolk and Suffolk's Foundation Trust, which provides mental health, substance misuse and learning disability services across the two counties, continues to grapple with millions of pounds of cuts and an expected £9m surplus spend for this financial year.
That often means services are axed and third-sector charities like Mind are left trying to find ways of picking up the tab to ensure those in most need don't miss out.
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Meanwhile, more directly linked to the work the Norwich and Central Norfolk branch of the charity carries out, are the cuts currently proposed by Norfolk County Council to Adult Social Services.
In spite of the fact more people than ever need help, the council is looking to slash £5.1m from its support people services, something Mrs Headley fears could have a huge impact.
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It's decisions like that which make some suspicious about the pledges from the prime minister.
All too often words don't translate into actions.
Mrs Hedley said: 'Our work has grown since the introduction of personal budgets, which gives people the choice of what services they want to access, some of which we provide.
'However, we are worried county council cuts could see less money allocated to personal budgets, meaning fewer people will be able to use them and the money they get is reduced. If some of this money goes it will have a huge impact.'
Given the great work the charity does, it's a shame much of the discussion with its chief executive ends up coming back to money.
However, in an era when the third sector has to fight for every pound and often even then the funding it does receive comes in six-month or yearly chunks, that is the reality of life in charge.
Having worked in the health sector for most of her life, the last 14 years of them in Norfolk, it is a challenge for which the New Zealander is well qualified.
She joined Mind five years ago after a long stint at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust.
Her aim is to make the branch 'the leading providers of care for mental health problems' as well as head in a different direction to that which it is used to, by increasing the campaigning they carry out.
That's seen as an unfortunate necessity of the modern world.
The 56-year-old added: 'The big worry still is that mental health will see more cuts.
'That is why we reviewed our strategy last year and said we will campaign as well, because it needs to be done. We worry that otherwise a lot of people with mental health problems will miss out or not have their voices heard.'
The Sale Road-based charity, which formed in 1966 and now employs 120 people, supports around 2,500 people at any one time through a range of services paid for through grants, fund-raising and public money it bids for.
On the subject of efforts to reduce the stigma around mental health, Mrs Hedley says that although progress has been made, there is much more work to do. This is despite the fact people are more likely to know someone with a mental health condition than they ever have been. On the rise in prevalence, she said: 'People have a lot more worries around money, employment, marital problems, not having a good family support or friend network.
There are a lot more pressures on young people than there used to be.
'But the stigma still exists. People often feel a person should simply snap out of it, but it isn't as easy as that.'
Looking to the future she believes health chiefs in Norfolk need to come together and publish an up-to-date mental health strategy which looks at increasing preventative services, rather than tackling problems as they occur. There is also a need to increase awareness among the young – and in response to this Mind is currently looking at how it can expand its youth services.
She added: 'Early intervention is the way forward, helping to develop ways of coping.
'But we have to do it in a way that doesn't make people spend their whole lives walking around saying they have a mental health problem.
'Schools are absolutely key. So much of your life is framed by what happens at school. A lot of adults relate their behaviour to school, were they bullied, did they lack confidence or have bad relationships.'
In spite of the ongoing challenges, it's a job she finds 'immensely rewarding'. She added: 'We don't always get it right but we try really hard to do our bit for people and I'm very proud of what people do here.'
Tomorrow: The people who make the charity tick.
THE SERVICES THEY OFFER
A range of services that can be designed and purchased to suit people's needs.
A residential recovery programme for people with severe, enduring and complex problems.
A small residential programme which assists Omnia graduates to make the full transition to independent living.
A mobile team offering short and long-term support to those with mild mental ill health to complex diagnosed conditions.
CARER SUPPORT AND BEFRIENDING
A mobile team offering individual and group support to carers of people with severe and enduring mental health problems.
NORFOLK WELLBEING SERVICES
A range of psychological interventions into primary care for people with depression and anxiety.
MIND BODY & SOUL
A range of complementary therapies.
Tailored solutions around mental health in the workplace.
MIND FIRST AID/YOUTH MIND FIRST AID
Training for people in the community in mental health first aid.
A support group offering life skills for those with a personality disorder.
An out-of-hours support line.
Lady Dannatt MBE and William Armstrong OBE, the Sheriff of Norwich, are patrons of the charity.
Lady Dannatt has said: 'There is still a long way to go, but it is my absolute intention that the stigma of mental illness may yet be removed during my lifetime. Stigma means 'mark of shame' and that is simply not acceptable in the 21st century.'
WHO TO CALL?
Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind can be contacted on 01603 432457 or log on to www.norwichmind.org.uk for more information.
For West Norfolk Mind call 01553 776966 or www.westnorfolkmind.org.uk.
For Great Yarmouth and Waveney Mind call 01493 842129 or www.gywmind.org.uk.
For Suffolk Mind call 0300 111 6000 or www.suffolkmind.org.uk