– Helen Sanderson, Helen Sanderson Associates
“What would Wellbeing Teams and self-management look like in mental health?”
Carey Bamber, Policy Adviser and Member Support at The Association, asked me to think about this, and to share ideas through a webinar. A couple of months later we were sat together in my office managing technical challenges in delivering a webinar on the subject. I shared how Wellbeing Teams were working to support older people at home, and we talked about some potential implications for mental health support.
I don’t have the mental health services experiences to make the next step in suggesting specifically how Wellbeing Teams could add value in mental health services, but I know two people who do. Let me introduce them. Jane Pightling works with me as one of the Advisors for Wellbeing Teams. We met on twitter last year, which led to lunch and now we are colleagues. Jane worked as a social worker in acute and forensic mental health services before taking up operational and then service development management positions with Mental Health services on behalf of local Authorities and the NHS. She would describe herself as a “mental health activist”, passionate about improving mental health and wellbeing. My other go-to person around mental health services is Rob Michael-Phillips. Rob leads on Mental Health for us at Helen Sanderson Associates. Rob has worked in community based social care services for people with Mental Health needs for 20 years, working at all levels of third sector organisations. Prior to joining us, Rob was Chief Executive of a Local Mind Association for 5 years, and has continued to work with Mind at a national and local level.
My question to both of them was how Wellbeing Teams can support good mental health, and here are their reflections.
Research shows that services which are co-produced are safest and deliver the best outcomes. Wellbeing Teams are built around effective co-production, supporting people’s aspirations through delivering person-centred, outcomes-based care. We address what matters to the person, giving them control of their support. We accept that there are times and circumstances where power and responsibility are not and cannot be shared equally, but Wellbeing Teams can work to satisfy statutory obligations and at the same time add real value to the life of the person being supported. For example a Wellbeing Team can offer some support traditionally provided by Assertive Outreach teams through visiting someone every morning to help them take vital medication, but at the same time help them check their travel plans for the day so they can get to their college course on time.
Challenging stigma and social isolation
Wellbeing Teams challenge the stigma and isolation often experienced be people with mental health problems. The mode of support actively engages the person with their community, making use of community assets rather than seeking to create separate spaces especially for people with a certain diagnosis. For example, a traditional service might set up a special jogging club for people with mental health problems who wanted to improve their fitness. By contrast, a Wellbeing Team would link people up with volunteers who could support people to join in the local Park Run.
An asset-based approach
Wellbeing Teams take an asset-based approach supporting the person to build on their assets and also to protect what’s already working for them. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, the way we organise our services creates barriers that prevent people, their families and communities from doing things for themselves. The Wellbeing Team approach ensures that people are supported to be as independent as possible and that support from family and friends is welcomed and proactively incorporated into the plan. A Wellbeing Team might liaise with other professionals to streamline or reorganise visits to enable the person to continue to meet a friend for lunch. They might arrange a regular weekly lift with a neighbour so the person can continue to do their own shopping.
Continuity of relationships and support
Wellbeing Teams offer the opportunity to create consistent approaches and sustainable relationships as a person travels through mental health services. Often services are arranged to meet certain levels of needs. For example, a person may experience care during an acute episode of illness form one area of service and then be transferred to another area of service and group of staff providing rehabilitation support. Wellbeing Teams can offer consistent support from a small team of staff. Creative commissioning could allow this small team to flex levels of support but maintain a relationship with someone throughout their experience of services. This is achieved through both the Wellbeing Workers, and the Community Circle.
Wellbeing Teams make proactive use of everyday technology as part of their approach to support. This can be supporting someone to use Facebook or WhatsApp to keep in touch with friends or family, helping someone to complete their online shopping order for delivery or download an App to help them relax, monitor their mood or support them to adopt a healthier lifestyle by exercising more, eating more healthily or drinking less.
A sense of purpose and being able to contribute and give is part of good mental health for all of us. Becoming a Community Circles facilitator is an opportunity for people to volunteer, boosting their own wellbeing, gaining experience towards employment and as a positive example for people receiving support. This could be another way to provide peer support.
Promoting wellbeing for everyone
Wellbeing Teams model wellbeing for everyone. This isn’t an intervention for someone who is ill – this is a research based, inclusive approach for everyone. Everyone working with and for Wellbeing Teams will be supported to enhance their 5 ways to wellbeing and have their own wellbeing plan.
These seven contributions or ideas and worth exploring further, and Jane and Rob are doing this, and looking at different service models – new models of care – that could have a positive impact on the mental health of people who use services, but on the people who deliver them as well.