Michael, a Peer Support Worker at our Chichester service talks about his experience of loneliness to mark Mental Health Awareness Week and tips to help overcome feeling alone.
Restrictions may have eased but the impact of the pandemic continues to bite, with recent figures showing that mental ill health has increased amongst adults and young people. We know that people will need support and services like ours ahead more than ever and we are proudly able to deliver that support and be part of the solution ahead to mental health.
However, without our Recovery Workers, this support wouldn’t exist. They are our frontline staff, providing the direct support that makes recovery a reality for many people every year. We are proud of our recovery workers and the important work they put in to make recovery reality for the people we support. We want to send out a huge thank you to all our recovery workers for their dedication to continue delivering this needed support to people experiencing mental ill health.
So, what is it like to be a recovery worker at Richmond Fellowship and what does the role actually involve? This week you’re going to be hearing from staff in a whole range of different services and models to support recovery. People we support will be sharing their stories and how the support they received from their Recovery Workers made a real difference in their lives. And this month’s Radio Sparky will be talking to staff at Holder House about their work, and what being a Recovery Worker with Richmond Fellowship has led to for them.
You won’t want to miss out on the week, and we can’t wait to share some of the stories of our recovery workers. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and check out #RFRecoveryWorkers to stay up to date!
Our recovery workers are inspiring individuals that make a real difference in people’s lives every day. Much of their work can be very challenging but equally rewarding. You could also be a part of our team of recovery workers across England. Why not see if there are vacancies in your area and start your journey with us as a recovery worker? See our vacancies here.
This week we have been hearing from staff and people we support all about what it’s like to work within and be supported by one of our Employment Services. Our employment services help people to maintain or gain meaningful employment, training, education or volunteering opportunities that are right for and tailored to them. We deliver 38 employment services across England – and one of them is Kirklees Employment Service. We’ve already heard this week from some of our Employment Advisors at Kirklees over on our social media. Today we’ll be getting even more insight into the support that the service delivers, as well as hearing from our Kirklees Service Manager about what’s coming up next for the service.
So, what does the support look like at our Kirklees Employment Service? Their team of staff let us know…
Our employment advisors work with individuals aged 18 and over experiencing mental ill health and/or hidden disabilities. We work on a 1-2-1 basis to form an individual plan on how we can work together to achieve their goals. We provide practical employment advice and support around identifying skills, finding the right job for that person, creating CVs, interview preparation and much more, including retaining employment.
There’s so much more we do in between as well; we listen to people’s worries around employment and their confidence and skills, and we really focus on empowering people to see their own value and strength – there’s really nothing better than watching someone learn to realise that they can do these things and achieve their goals.
Without a doubt Kirklees Employment Service has a huge impact on the people they support – but what do they have to say about it?
“I was given so much support and encouragement that I considered a career in mental health support to try and help people as much as I was helped. I’m now a support worker feeling very satisfied in a job I might not even have considered if not for my advisor.” Person we support
“I have been able to find new volunteering opportunities which will strengthen my CV and have applied for jobs with the help of my employment advisor. Without her it would have been an impossible task.” Person we support
“The support that I have received from my employment advisor has enabled me to live a more confident and happy life. She has provided me with support and encouragement.” Person we support
“I felt like I was alone and back to square one, but my employment advisor made me feel like I mattered and always called at precisely the right time when I needed some help and guidance the most. I would definitely recommend the Richmond Fellowship for anyone going through difficulty with mental health.” Person we support
Kirklees Employment Service very recently won their contract to continue delivering this important support in their area. So, what’s coming up for service as they continue delivering support? Our Service Manager at Kirklees gave us an update.
“We recently won our contract to continue delivering our employment service in Kirklees. Towards the end of last year, I was lucky to be involved with the retendering of the service, working alongside our central service team. To support with this process we involved all staff, volunteers, customers, referrers and partners. We supported commissioners with consultation sessions, and made sure to use the feedback of people we support to help with identifying the needs of our service users to create a vision of a new employment service from April 2022. I was happy to see commissioners had taken on board people’s feedback from the consultation process, and the new service specification reflected the feedback of people we support.
We are always striving to increase the support we can offer to the community. As we begin a new year, and new contract, we are going to be increasing our offer to employers which will show us providing tailored support to organisations around mental health in the workplace, and support with the retention of employees.
We are linking up with far more organisations across Kirklees to provide our peer workshops around mental health and wellbeing into the community. We are also going to be providing community transition and integration workshops to minority groups.
We are excited about our new website that is currently under construction. The website will help us to reach even more people across Kirklees. The website will host some online guides to developing employability like a CV builder and interview tips. People we support will be able to seamlessly book onto peer support sessions and find out which service is best for them. The website will also host our new online referral system to services.
I feel lucky and privileged to be a part of shaping the future Kirklees Employment Service and supporting people across Kirklees.”
In 2021 our Kirklees Employment Service supported 472 people to find new employment, training, education or volunteering opportunities, as well as retain their current work. We can’t wait to see the impact they make this year – congratulations to the Kirklees team!
All our Employment Services put in important and necessary work to help people with mental ill health access employment opportunities. We are proud of the work they put in to inspire recovery. Check out employment services in your local area here, or find out more about Kirklees Employment Service here, as well as how to be referred to the service.
Stay tuned to hear more from our other Employment Services across England this week. Including our Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire IPS Employment Service in this month’s Radio Sparky Podcast. Follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page to keep up to date.
The month of January can be a difficult time of year for people, what with winter weather, the start of a new year and finances biting after the festive season. All too often we’ve started to see and hear the term Blue Monday being used to describe this particular Monday in January – packaging all these effects up and applying them to one day, and how people might be feeling.
As a leading mental health charity, we don’t believe Blue Monday is the best way to talk about mental health and wellbeing. As we all know, people experience mental ill health throughout the year, not just on one day. We do acknowledge that the winter can be particularly hard on people’s mental health though. So, we’re turning our social media and internal communications focus on Winter Wellbeing – today and through the rest of January.
Many of our services are for people experiencing severe mental ill health, often for people who need long term specialist support and help – maybe through our Crisis Services, or our Supported Housing. However, as a national mental health charity, we know that from time to time we all need to remind ourselves of the simple acts that can support our wellbeing. Basics that we could all be doing more often – particularly after a challenging two years when many of us may have not noticed the long-term impact a pandemic has had on our mental health.
One of our models to support recovery at Richmond Fellowship is Community Support, and we’ll be particularly drawing on their expertise this month. As we all know, having community around us that can help to lift us up is so important for our overall wellbeing. Our Community Support services work to limit social isolation and reach individuals experiencing mental ill health to help reconnect them with their communities. They’re tailored to the individual and work in multiple ways to deliver support. This could be either 1:1 support with day-to-day activities such as shopping and finance, or group support sessions with opportunities to volunteer, get outside and involved with local people.
“I could discuss my triggers with a staff member without feeling ashamed. His lived experience allowed me to become more confident in expressing myself and to feel less ashamed of my illness. I have never found this support anywhere else.”
Person we support
“I feel that every person should be given a chance to achieve things in their life, no matter how big or small. I enjoy building relationships with people we support and their families – this enables them to get the best support tailored for them.”
Community Link Advisor
Our community services and staff encourage the people we support to develop new skills and further their interests knowing the powerful impact that has on people’s wellbeing. For instance, at Our Time Community Support in Liverpool, Marshall, a person we support developed podcasting skills through his support from us. Marshall then featured on our very own RadioSparky Podcast to share his experience within our community support services and how the opportunities he had to develop his creative skills improved his mental health. You can find out more and listen to the RadioSparky podcast here.
“I feel our community services have a massive impact on the people we support. We give them hope and a purpose as we help them achieve small meaningful goals they set themselves. Our support is very service user led and we work with them to develop their own ideas into achievements.”
Community Link Advisor
So, as you can see our Community Support teams are experts in everyday wellness and mental health recovery – and this week and month we will be sharing their advice on wellbeing, particularly in the winter season, whether that’s how they facilitate wellbeing in their own lives or with the people we support.
A report in 2019 published by The Guardian highlighted that only 18% of people working in social care are male. As a charity that works in the social care sector, across Richmond Fellowship, less than 30% of those working in front line roles are men. Whilst this may be better than others in the sector, as an organisation we still want to improve on this statistic. As the Guardian also said, social care ‘needs to change the public’s perception that a career in care is only for women’.
In the last month, the UK government launched a nationwide recruitment campaign to encourage more people to join the adult social care sector, so the conversations around the subject couldn’t be more timely.
To mark Men’s Day 2021 we hear from Matt, our Communications and Marketing Officer who previously worked as a front line member of staff in one of our services about how he finds working in a charity rewarding and how, as a man, you can make a real difference to people’s lives if you choose a career in the social care sector.
“As someone who’s been a person we support, worked in a service in a frontline role as a Community Link Worker and now work in our central services team as Marketing and Communications Officer I’ve been at all the touching points of our charity.
I’ve also met some incredibly inspiring men along the way. John, who I spoke to as part of our Radio Sparky podcast in January this year is one of those. He was also a person we support before he became an Employment Advisor. He uses his lived experience to support others and finds his role as a frontline member of staff very rewarding – we’ll be hearing more from John as part of our International Men’s Day social media campaign.”
“I would recommend Richmond Fellowship as a good place to work. It’s got a good work-life balance for me. One of the first things we did when I first started at Richmond Fellowship was take my daughter horse riding lessons” – John, Employment Advisor, Cambridgeshire Employment service.
“I personally came to Richmond Fellowship as a person we support, after experiencing bullying at work and domestic abuse by an ex-girlfriend and never considered working for the organisation. The thought never crossed my mind, until one day I was told about a vacancy in a service as a Community Link Worker. I came into my final Employment session with my Advisor, Anna in Cambridge and I said I’d applied for a job as a Community Link Worker at Richmond Fellowship. She was over the moon and 2 weeks later I went for the interview and was lucky enough to secure the role.
When I joined the Supported Housing service in Sudbury, Suffolk there were only 2 male members of staff out of a team of 8, myself and the Service Manager. When the Service Manager moved on, I became the only male member of staff. It then dawned on me, why do so few men apply or want a career in frontline services – not just within Richmond Fellowship but across the whole sector?
Our frontline roles such as Recovery Workers, Administrators, Employment Advisors and Community Link Workers are so rewarding, the difference you can make to people’s lives and helping the people we support along their recovery journeys is so inspiring. I know… I’ve done it.
I think that diversity across every part of an organisation or charity is vital. It’s important we break down boundaries to encourage more men to work in roles within sectors where they’re underrepresented just as it’s important that support is there for women to do the same. You need a diverse workforce and talent across all levels of an organisation to make it flourish.
I’m proud to work for a charity that has open and honest conversations about this, and there are ways we can raise issues at senior level through Listening Lunches, but the onus is on all of us, whoever we are, whatever our job role, to make change happen.
If you’re a man who’s never considered a job in the charity or care sector, it really is a great place to work. The roles can sometimes be challenging, but the feeling that you get from supporting people is incredibly rewarding. I never thought that I’d be where I am now 10 years ago and Richmond Fellowship has played an incredibly important part in my career progression, both personally and professionally”.
Inspired? Check out our vacancies page today and support us with Making Recovery Reality!
This World Mental Health Day, with the theme “mental health in an unequal world”, we consider geographic inequities in mental health support, how the pandemic is exacerbating them and what we need to be doing about it.
In a crisis
We’ve all seen this coming. We knew the pandemic was going to intensify existing needs and create new ones. Great mental health support has never been more needed. Yet we are heading for a situation where people will need to be more unwell than ever to access the support they need, when they need it. According to the Centre for Mental Health: “the equivalent of 8.5 million adults and 1.5 million children and young people will require mental health support as a direct impact of the pandemic during the next three to five years. The total increase in demand is around 10 million people. The predicted levels of demand are two to three times that of current NHS mental health capacity within a 3 – 5-year window.”
We know this will horrifically impact so many people – especially those experiencing a mental health crisis. We are already seeing that from our own work – with a marked increase in referrals to our crisis support services from pre-pandemic in 2019 to 2021. To put this into context – between January and March 2019 we received 368 referrals, 396 in that same period in 2020, but 570 in 2021. This equates to an increase of 7% from 2019 to 2020, and then a 43.9% increase comparing the same periods in 2020 and 2021.
It is clear that if we’re seeing more people in crisis, we need to have the right services to support them. As we’ve said before, presenting at A&E can’t be the only option available to someone experiencing a mental health crisis. And the NHS, now more than ever, needs to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and delayed discharges for mental ill-health. Alternative crisis provision, provided in partnership with the NHS, is going to be needed even more in the months and years ahead.
We have been pioneering crisis services for over 17 years – and we’re on course to open our 10th and 11th Crisis Houses this year. These will be Crisis Houses like our Oak House service in Central Lancashire – a safe and welcoming home for up to six people. Someone in crisis will be referred to us by the local Home Treatment Team – and come and stay for between 7 – 14 days. They’ll have their own ensuite room, and work with us to develop their own tailored support package. We pride ourselves on the quality of our accommodation as well as the quality of our support – and our non-clinical crisis bed costs as little as £171/night compared to an average of £406 for a hospital bed, which can rise to £561/night if an Out of Area Placement.
We believe that everyone in England should have the right to access alternative crisis provision like this in their local community – yet right now this sort of provision is patchy at best. People in crisis should not be facing a postcode lottery for support, nor face being sent far away from friends and family
Jobs, homes, friends
Looking at the mental health landscape ahead, we know it’s not going to just be about supporting people in crisis. We’re facing up to a volatile economic and employment situation – and all the uncertainty that will come with it. Supporting people with mental health needs to stay in and access jobs is a key tenet of our work – and we know that specialist employment services are going to be very necessary in the post-pandemic world.
The NHS Long Term Plan already recognised the importance of models like Individual Placement and Support (IPS) – and we wholeheartedly support this. As the NHS says “it is the best evidence-based approach to help people get and keep a paid job.” Staff in our IPS services (we currently run 11, all in the south of England) meet regularly with the people referred to us to provide support with looking for employment, developing a detailed work preference profile to ensure the work is suited to the individual. Those using the service will receive support and guidance on how and where to look for jobs, help writing effective CVs, cover letters and applications and help to get through interviews. They receive confidential advice on how to disclose health matters, when and how best to do it.
However again we see geographic inequities – with IPS services still at the large-scale trial and pilot stage. At a point where we know we’re going to see more people with mental health needs affecting their employment and job prospects, we need to keep the pressure up for services like these to continue to be invested in and at scale.
This World Mental Health Day we’ve focussed on two areas of our work where we fear inequities, especially geographic ones, could have the biggest impact. But finally, as a charity that began in supported housing over 60 years ago, we’d never miss the opportunity to reiterate the importance of safe, stable and secure housing in the face of mounting mental health needs.
We offer nearly a thousand residential placements for people across the country – ranging from housing support to help people manage their own tenancies, to supported housing and registered care homes. We know that a stable home is essential for people to have the security to regain positive mental health. However pressurised NHS provision means that in many areas people are stuck in hospital beds, and not being proactively moved from hospital into settled accommodation.
Ultimately we’d like to see, and want to help, more effective pathways of support. Ones that make the most of partnership working and the skills and expertise of the charity sector. We know what best practice can look like – let’s use this World Mental Health Day to keep the pressure up for it to happen on an ambitious and national scale.
This week at Richmond Fellowship we are shining a light on our Supported Housing services. Supported housing is where we started over 60 years ago. We now have a wide range of mental health services but continue to pioneer and develop our supported housing services. Our supported housing provides people with a real home as well as access to support from Richmond Fellowship’s team of highly trained recovery worker.
Today we are hearing from Stephen, Service Manager at Beeches Supported Housing in Liverpool. ‘The Beeches’ has been supporting people with mental ill health for over 30 years. So, what’s it like in one of Richmond Fellowship’s longest running Supported Housing services? We spoke with Stephen to find out!
Why do you enjoy working at ‘The Beeches’ Supported Housing?
I enjoy working in a supported housing because I feel that the positive relationships that can be built between staff and residents can form a very solid foundation for recovery. I believe working within supported housing enables a closer, personal relationship with residents, identifying daily routines, personal preferences, personal and group needs. It is a real joy to support a person and see their recovery journey progress in a positive way.
What does a day to day look like in a Supported Housing?
A day in a supported housing would usually consist of supporting residents with taking their prescribed medication and accurately recording daily events within resident’s case notes, checking on resident’s welfare. Liaising with GP’s and Community Mental Health Teams, liaising with referral agencies, speaking with family and friends of residents, accompanying residents to go shopping or to medical appointments. We also support residents to prepare meals, do laundry, clean rooms, and other general life skills. Our recovery workers also accompany residents to supported day service activities or simply take residents on a cultural walk or a visit to the seaside or any other activity that promotes health and wellbeing.
How does a Supported Housing positively impact someone on their recovery journey?
Supported housing positively impacts a person’s recovery journey because of our staff. The opportunity to develop a positive working relationship with residents, underpinned with professionalism, respect and a desire on the part of the staff member to go the extra mile and make a real difference to the person we support’s recovery.
What has the Beeches been up to recently?
Our service ‘The Beeches’ recently took residents on a day out to Llandudno in North Wales which residents enjoyed immensely, rounded off with some pub grub! Our residents have also supported the RSPCA in the ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ documenting all the different bird species that visit our beautiful garden and reporting the finding to the RSPCA, further to this, residents have sourced recyclable materials and constructed ‘Bird boxes’ for our garden. Hopefully in the future we shall see some nesting birds take up residence!
How did your service delivery change during the pandemic and what did you learn from it?
Our service delivery changed during the pandemic as we had to be more inventive. We had to look for activities which residents and staff could do which kept people safe and met with Covid-19 restrictions. This limited our opportunities to engage with external support programmes but enhanced the opportunity to develop internal activities. We started movie nights, communal meals, the development of a monthly magazine ‘The Beeches Bugle’ which focussed on health and wellbeing, word search, trivia, poems and stories from residents.
I suppose that the learning we took from delivering support during the pandemic is that it is possible to be more inventive with ideas to promote recovery in different ways, and not to take for granted the many options available to work in partnership to support our residents.
What would you say to someone thinking about working in a Supported Housing?
Do It!! It is very rewarding to work in a supported housing service. It gives you the opportunity to work in a person-centred way, supporting residents with their daily tasks, whether that’s taking medication, attending appointments, going shopping or learning new life skills.
You can find out more about working for us at Richmond Fellowship here.
A huge thank you to Stephen for this insight into Beeches Supported Housing and the great work going on in supporting people’s recovery journeys. To stay up to date on our Supported Housing week, follow Richmond Fellowship on Twitter and like our Facebook page, or check out #OurSupportedHousing. We have over 50 supported housing services across England, and we can’t wait to share more with you about our work!
For Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, journalist Julian Worricker has penned a personal blog exclusively for Richmond Fellowship about his experience of a friend’s battle with mental ill health.
Julian is a presenter on the BBC News channel, Radio 4 and the BBC World Service.
“I have a photo on the window ledge of my study, and each time I look up from my computer keyboard it catches my eye. It’s a close-up of a dear friend of mine…she’s leaning forward, chin resting on her hands, smiling broadly, as she so often did. I look at her sometimes when I’m in need of a bit of wise advice – she was always very good at wise advice – and occasionally I look at her with a hint of envy because she remains ever youthful while I’ve added lots of grey hairs and a few kilos since we were last able to meet in person. You can probably guess where this story is going.
This dear friend – Sue – took her own life in 1998; a shattering blow to her partner, her family, and to all those of us who knew her. It was a horrible culmination of acute mental health issues that she wrestled with over a number of years, and it’s why shining a brighter spotlight on mental health has always been important to me.
I’ve been very fortunate, in that my experience of fragile mental health has been mostly seen through the travails of others. Like everyone I’ve had my ups and downs, my good days and bad, but none of those come close to the challenges faced by people like Sue. Her normally bright and bubbly personality could be transformed in a matter of hours by her illness. The shutters would come down, there’d be a blankness to her facial expression, and whatever you tried by way of casual conversation was met with a look of tiredness, indifference and confusion. I didn’t understand why, but you could tell she didn’t either.
I feel sure that if she were alive today, she’d be able to look back with pride at an increasingly successful broadcasting career…and still forwards, too, to more of the same. She’d still love a bit of gossip about the workplace, she’d never lose sight of some of the dafter aspects of what we do for a living, and she’d still be thinking of others before she thought of herself.
So I hope Mental Health Awareness Week can reduce the numbers of stories like hers.
The global pandemic has tested all of us, and it’s probably raised the issue of mental health in the minds of people who’ve not had to think about it a great deal before. The timing, therefore, could be serendipitous. Let’s make the push for greater awareness count, and ensure that our decision makers live up to their promises on this crucial issue”. – Julian Worricker.
You can watch Julian’s introductory video to Mental Health Awareness Week at Richmond Fellowship here and follow our social media channels across the week for more Mental Health Awareness Week stories.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we’ve a special video episode of Radio Sparky, the podcast which shines the spotlight on the excellent work happening at Richmond Fellowship services across the country.
In May’s edition, Matt Webb, Communications and Marketing Officer speaks to John from our Cambridgeshire Employment Service and Leah from Leicestershire Life Links about how they’ve been Connecting with Nature as coronavirus lockdown restrictions begin to ease.
“I have found coming to the Old Moat during the pandemic has helped me so much – it is the one place that I feel at peace. I can focus on taking care of the plants, learn about them and be with people who are just so kind, supportive and accept me for who I am whether I’m having a good or bad day. I am truly grateful for that.” Person we support.
How much do you know about Richmond Fellowship? You might well know that we’re a national mental health charity. Or that we’ve been going for over 60 years. But did you know that one of our services supporting people’s mental health is … a garden centre?
If you didn’t then we can think of no better time to tell you all about it. Because this week it’s Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme this year is nature.
But our Old Moat Garden Centre and Café in Epsom isn’t simply about selling people plants to brighten up their mood and home. It’s actually a social enterprise designed to help people living with mental ill health (re-)gain important life skills.
At any one time the Old Moat is supporting around 50 people living with mental ill health. The support is rigorous and wide ranging. They provide the people who use the service with a safe and secure experience of working in a commercial environment, and help them to identify what support may be needed to help them meet their future plans and aspirations.
Not only that but with the help of local organisations like the Workers’ Educational Association they provide courses in subjects like, stress management, confidence building, customer service and creative arts.
It’s not surprising that the service has won a number of awards – most recently the Good Retail Awards “Community Award” for the second year running! And this Mental Health Awareness Week we wanted to particularly appreciate the work that they do – not just this week, but all year through to support people’s mental health. As they say themselves – “Helping plants AND people grow”.
We asked people we support at the Old Moat to tell us in their own words how nature has helped them this past year and we leave you with these quotes and striking examples of the Japanese haiku.
“Probably for me it’s being able to go out with Tilly (my dog) and just detox from all the noise in the world and the stress. Just to even go out into my garden and sit with no distractions or worries and just listen to the birds and the wind in the trees and feel as if even though the world may be in panic for now I don’t have to be.”
“I have had two plants for over a year and I look forward to watering them. The outside plant is in full bloom purple colours. And the inside plant is really green but small reddish flowers are starting to come out of the plant. I’ve enjoyed watering them even though I have no idea how many times a week I’m meant to water them. I think it was Jane that told me that if they look sad water them. Thanks for the advice it’s paying off!”
Haiku by person we support
sits on my finger and blinks
to show me heaven
a dot in the sky
sends such beautiful music
Pom Pom Dahlia
so precisely engineered
there must be a God!
two mute swans lift off
each wing clipping the river
to show me rhythm
the Ursa Major
looks like a huge question mark
in the midnight sky
invite me to dance
the Earth is at work
take time to ponder
a slug slowly slides
along the moonlit garden
and shows me the time
a murder of crows
congregate on a steeple
spelling out gothic
the feverish flies
find the carrion flower
the defeated moth
attracted into the flame
teaches me hindsight
on a night to remember
tell me to shine bright!