Glyn Butcher: All it takes is a conversation

During Mental Health System Perfect week, patient ambassador Glyn Butcher describes how mental health services have supported him over the last 25 years.

For me, one of the key things that people facing mental health issues need is a conversation. It can be as simple as that.

25 years ago when I began to suffer with my mental health, I turned to drugs and alcohol. My life took a huge downward spiral. I became socially isolated and life became a difficult chore for me.

Things were very different back then. Mental health services and support were typically clinically focused and wrapping services around individuals didn’t always happen. I found myself regularly attending the emergency department when I was at my lowest. Not necessarily because I was in danger, but more so as I didn’t know where to go and just needed someone to talk to, to help me make sense of life and my mental health problems.

Sometimes all people need is a conversation. Somewhere for people to go and talk to like-minded people that have been through or experienced what they are going through to reduce loneliness and isolation, to build networks and form friendships.

In Doncaster and Bassetlaw there are some great services that provide much needed support to people when they are in need. And over the years, support has changed and moved on. Services are more readily available in local communities and organisations work much more closely together.

I’m fortunate to be part of a fantastic organisation in Doncaster called People Focused Group, which successfully provides peer support. It’s a dedicated group operating from the Wellness Centre which provides vital information, support and advice with people they can confide in. The Wellness Centre is open Monday to Thursday’s 9:00am until 4:00pm and Friday, 9:00am until 2:00pm. It can really help people to feel human again.

Glyn Butcher and People Focused Group, Doncaster

Despite this, many services remain clinically led which can be a barrier to some people, especially when they are experiencing a mental health crisis.

Working with health and care organisations across Doncaster, we had an idea; to create a new service that could provide out of hours support for people experiencing mental health crisis to avoid them from going to the local emergency department.

In November 2018, Safe Space was born. It was created as a pilot during the busy winter period to see if this type of support would be accessed and used by people in need as an alternative to going to the emergency department.

Like me, people don’t always need a clinician, a social worker or an assessment. Sometimes all they need is some friendly information, support and advice to help them through a difficult time. This could be anything from managing debt through to gambling or an addiction to alcohol which over time can make mental health problems far worse.

Safe Space allowed people to access a service that wraps support around them. Organisations such as Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, Doncaster Council and members of PFG were always available at Safe Space and their needs were addressed holistically. This meant that a team if people could work together and in many cases provide the right support people needed.

If someone attended with a gambling problem, we would sit down and talk through their issues with them – how they were feeling, why they were feeling that way, what support they needed and how we could make things better or help to stabilise things for them. We always did what we could to help people there and then and followed up people visiting with support in the immediate days after.

For me, it all boils down to one thing – being able to have a conversation and being listened to. Nurses and doctors aren’t always able to do this at the emergency department. Being supported at the right place and right time in local communities can quite often stop problems from getting worse.

The Safe Space pilot is now being evaluated and I am really pleased that the pilot is running for an additional seven consecutive days. This will then help organisations that fund health and care services across Doncaster better evaluate the service to determine if a model like this can be implemented in the future.

This is a really important week of action to raise awareness of mental health services and encourage people to talk about mental health. You can get involved in the conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #MHSystemPerfectSYB and by completing a short survey that will be used to help understand people’s awareness of mental health services and support across Doncaster and Bassetlaw.

Like me, if you face issues with your mental health or need support or just a conversation, please do look at what services are available across Doncaster and Bassetlaw. There is always help and support available so never feel alone.

If you are experiencing mental health crisis or need someone to talk to, come and see us this week at Safe Space. A friendly face and a brew will be waiting.