Two groups of service users at Newton Lodge have successfully completed a new mental health self-awareness course and were awarded certificates in special celebration events to mark their achievement.
Newton Lodge provides specialist mental health care to people from across the Yorkshire and Humber region. The newly developed mental health self-awareness course, involving service users from Chippendale and Appleton wards and available to people across the service, was introduced in March 2014 and two groups have successfully completed the training to date.
Developed by Anne Todd, advanced nurse practitioner, the course runs for 16 sessions and encourages service users to work together in a group setting to develop their understanding of mental health issues. By sharing their lived experiences, it is hoped service users will gain greater understanding and self-awareness, helping them to make progress in their own recovery.
Course sessions are interactive and tailored to meet the needs of the group. Sessions cover a number of topics including symptoms, diagnosis and stigma in order to develop understanding and raise awareness. During group work, participants completed individual stress buckets, ‘hot cross bun’ formulations of their experiences and staying well plans. Service users also developed time lines which told the story of their lives and significant issues they had faced around their mental health issues.
A focus on developing coping strategies ran throughout the programme with new and innovative sensory ways of coping with anxiety introduced. Lizzy Osborne, occupational therapist said, “This was done by creating a safe space for service users to discuss their thoughts and perceptions of anxiety. New and familiar activities were sampled in the session, which could be used to support them with coping with the symptoms of anxiety”.
Each person that attended the programme was given stress balls to try to use if they were feeling anxious or stressed. A poster display was also created to raise awareness of anxiety across the service.
Sessions were also facilitated by pharmacist Mark Payne who led a medication session and Richard Padwell and Jonathan Coward who led a session on the link between physical and mental health.
Simon Brown, clinical practitioner, supported the facilitation of the group sessions and said, “The group enabled service users to explore their mental health journey and discover more about their own and others mental health.”
Paul Taylor, therapy instructor, described how “The mental health awareness group gave the opportunity for clients to develop a better understanding of their illness and to promote confidence, self-esteem and resilience for the future”.
After the course had finished, participants gave a variation of positive feedback and said that they felt the group had “listened to each other’s opinions and everyone involved took part in discussing the experiences of people with learning disabilities”. They also identified that they had learned the about the stigma surrounding mental health and learning disabilities.
Following the group’s success it is planned that the course will run on a regular basis. It is hoped that service user involvement will increase further as those who have successfully completed the course have asked about becoming involved in the delivery of future groups.