VAC Mental Health Community Development Project Final Report

 

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The final report of VAC's Mental Health Project 2007 - 2017

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Mental Health Community Development Project Raising cultural awareness and tackling stigma voluntary action camden VAC’s Mental Health Community Development Project was first established in 2007. Over the years it has evolved in line with the requirements of our funders, the London Borough of Camden. Our aims are to work with Black,Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) communities to: • Support staff and volunteers from Camden BAMER voluntary and community groups to improve mental health awareness and promote mental wellbeing in their communities • Challenge stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness • Improve knowledge of local mental health and wellbeing services, both statutory and community-based • Identify the needs of BAMER communities in relation to mental health services • Increase involvement of BAMER community members and service users in the planning, commissioning and delivery of mental health services • Raise participation levels of BAMER communities in relevant partnerships From 2014 onwards our volunteer Mental Health Champions from BAMER communities have played a crucial role in helping us to spread the word about mental health. Our work has been informed by our Mental Health Advisory Groups, comprised of members of BAMER communities and voluntary and community organisations working with Camden’s Bangladeshi, Irish and Black communities. Mental Health Champions (MHCs) and Community Advisors have brought many benefits to the project including their cultural knowledge and awareness, along with insight into their community’s needs and religious faith, where appropriate. They have also invested time in building the trust of their communities. Some speak community languages and are able to take key mental health messages to those who face language barriers in accessing services. Many of our MHCs also have personal lived experience of mental health difficulties. This has given them insight into how it feels to be stigmatised within their own community and has helped them to develop empathy for and trust of others experiencing mental distress. They have played a crucial role in raising awareness, preventing mental health problems from going unnoticed and untreated, and in developing resilience in their communities.

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Summary of key Project achievements • 17 individual Mental Health Champions from BAMER communities recruited, trained and supported to raise mental health awareness within their families and communities. • 12 Workplace Mental Health Champions recruited, trained and equipped with the skills to improve mental health awareness among their own volunteers and clients from BAMER communities. • Simple, accessible tools and resources developed to help our Mental Health Champions start conversations about mental health in a non-threatening and non-stigmatising way. The tools have been adapted with input from our MHCs to make them culturally appropriate e.g. for the Irish, Bangladeshi and Chinese communities. • MHCs and VAC volunteer Health Advocates have the mental health awareness and facilitation skills to enable them to deliver short community-based workshops. • MHCs are knowledgeable about local mental health services and are able to signpost people to both statutory and community-based services, or encourage them to access appropriate support. • More than 320 people have attended mental health workshops co-delivered with or facilitated by our MHCs in a variety of community settings. Subjects covered include: Mental Health Awareness, Five Ways to Wellbeing, Sleep Hygiene, Managing Stress and Dementia Friends. Some of these workshops have been adapted by our MHCs and delivered in community languages such as Bengali and Cantonese. • We have tailored our mental health awareness training so that it is relevant to different BAMER communities, including faith groups. • Our MHCs have recorded around 250 conversations with the public about mental health and wellbeing, using our mental health quiz, at community events and festivals around Camden. • MHCs say they feel better equipped to look af t e r their own mental health, as well as promote mental health awareness and wellbeing.

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Our key mental health messages: We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health Looking after our mental health is just as important as looking after our physical health Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. At least one in four of us will have a mental health problem during the course of the year Mental illness can be treated, just like any other illness. People can and do recover Getting help sooner rather than later increases the chances of an earlier recovery The Context: Mental Health in Camden One in seven adults in Camden have been diagnosed in primary care with one or more mental health conditions, including common mental health disorders, serious mental illness or dementia. Mental health conditions also affect 13% of young people. Approximately 3,500 residents registered with a Camden GP have a serious mental illness, a figure significantly higher than both the London and England averages. The prevalence of mental health conditions is much higher in most deprived areas. It is thought that a significant proportion of mental health conditions go undiagnosed. In many BAMER communities in particular, mental illness is traditionally viewed as a taboo subject, shrouded by myths, fear and misunderstanding. This can lead to widespread stigma and shame, preventing people from talking about their difficulties or seeking help at an early stage before reaching crisis point. People from BAMER backgrounds often face additional barriers to accessing treatment and services are not always seen as culturally appropriate. At least 34 % of Camden’s population is of BAMER origin, with the Bangladeshi, Black African, Irish, Chinese and Indian communities being the largest with a distinctive cultural identity. Men and women from the Irish community are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with a serious mental illness and be admitted to a mental health unit than other groups, with the highest rates seen in Caribbean men. Depression and anxiety are very common in the Bangladeshi community, particularly among women.

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Next steps The volunteer Mental Health Champions have created and developed a unique model of community engagement in raising cultural awareness and tackling the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. VAC hopes that the learning from the Project will now be used to inform the development of community mental health services in the future. Acknowledgements VAC would like to thank all our volunteer Mental Health Champions, Workplace Mental Health Champions and Community Advisors. We could not have done this work without their expertise, dedication and enthusiasm. We would also like to thank our funders, London Borough of Camden. This is what our Mental Health Champions say about the Project: “I know how the Bangladeshi community have appreciated and benefited from your work. There is definitely more awareness of mental health and where to go for help. When I am out and about talking to community groups, they are more open and willing to learn and discuss mental health issues.” “I feel that VAC’s mental health training has enhanced every area of my life. Not only my own, but everyone that I come into contact with. I am quite active and vocal in the community and I’m keen for everyone to benefit from my knowledge, because everyone could do with having good mental health.” “I have increased awareness – in terms of understanding how culture and faith play a massive part in an individual’s or community’s understanding of what mental health is and how it can be approached and managed or treated.” “I feel more confident about facilitating the groups and being open about sharing my feelings, experience and knowledge.” “I want to help people see that the discrimination they have towards people with mental health problems is wrong and damaging. If there is some way to reach as many people as possible and teach other people to go out to talk about these issues then all the better.” “The crucial gain for our volunteers supporting the Irish community is that they are better able to look after their own mental health, as well as being better equipped to support their clients, signpost them, or simply start a conversation about mental health and wellbeing.” “The Project has given me the opportunity to share and learn from the experiences of other Mental Health Champions from different faiths and cultural backgrounds. This has been of huge value to me and emphasises the role of culture and faith in mental wellbeing.” “Being a Mental Health Champion has been so helpful. I can see signs of mental illness and know what to do. We give a lot of information to families from different BME communities. Now I can give them something to help them take care of themselves.” “I value the training and support we’ve received from VAC, enabling me to deliver sessions and talk to people about mental health. There is a “domino effect” in making people aware. It is very important to continue to support this work.” “African communities often believe they will be healed by God and stigma around mental illness is huge. There is so much more work to be done by those who understand the community.” “As a long-term community activist, I didn’t know about mental health until I joined the VAC service. Now I know a lot, for example about managing stress. Beliefs around black magic are very common in my community. I now have the trust of people who have been suffering in silence. I have gained so much knowledge from VAC. There has been big progress and people are now ready to engage.” Voluntary Action Camden 29 – 31 Hampstead Road, London, NW1 3JA

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