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Mental health matters

Mental health matters
27 May 2016

Last week was national mental health awareness week and the theme might surprise you – relationships.

Mental health and emotional wellbeing is a priority for both our Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Barnsley’s Health and Wellbeing Board. That’s as it should be because every year around one in four of us will experience a common mental health and wellbeing problem such as anxiety or depression.

As well as being chair of the CCG I’m a local GP. A lot my appointments are for mental health and emotional wellbeing related issues, which can also often mean poorer physical health too. I’m sure this is only the tip of the iceberg, as some people never feel able to seek help.

But how often do we think about the impact our relationships can have on our mental health and mood?  Not at all perhaps, or only when they’re not going well? 

Well, the truth is, the contribution that the relationships in our lives make in adding to our wellbeing, and protecting and sustaining our mental health can be huge.

I know that only forms part of the picture though. It’s clearly important that when you do need support, you can get it in a timely manner.

You may know that in Barnsley, similar to lots of other areas across the country, waiting times for children and young people to access mental health services have traditionally been unacceptably long.  Early last year you could be waiting around a few months for your first assessment. There has been lots of effort made to reduce those times and it’s really positive to see that the wait has now come down to just over a month.  We’re not leaving it there though.

We’ll be focusing now on improving the time to get the treatment or support started. The children and young people using these services tell us that it is a positive experience for them, which tells us it’s a quality service for the young folk of Barnsley. As a dad to teenagers myself, it’s something I’m really passionate about.

Barnsley has received just over half a million pounds from the national ‘Future in Mind’ fund to invest directly into improving children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, which will help us do some of that improvement work.  

Some of this money will also go directly to set up a local eating disorder support service. I’m also really pleased to say that, using feedback from young people, parents and carers, we’ll now be able to do much more work with schools and local communities, getting in there early to promote positive mental health and emotional wellbeing.

That’s where it comes full circle to relationships, I think. If we can make all these relationships and opportunities to listen count, then we’re going some way to improving our mental health and wellbeing now, and into the future.