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Everything you need to know about Medway's mental health services

As reports warn there will be a rise in people using mental health services post-lockdown, Medway's services are likely to be under more strain than ever to help people.

With people around the UK recognising Mental Health Awareness Week, which ends on Sunday, much of the conversation has turned to how people can look after themselves.

Medway Council has issued a wide range of tips to help those suffering from mental health problems in Kent. Picture: Stock
Medway Council has issued a wide range of tips to help those suffering from mental health problems in Kent. Picture: Stock

Debate has raged on in Medway about the possible closure of a mental health facility in Nelson Road, Gillingham, which some say will be needed now more than ever.

However, the local authority has said they are still in the consultation phase of plans for the centre.

Portfolio holder for adult services, Cllr David Brake (Con), said: "We are still in the stages of consultation regarding the scope of this provision. There are three options being considered, and therefore no decision has yet been made.

"I would like to make it clear that if, and only if, the centre were to close alternative provision would be made available to those users of the Nelson Road facilities who continue to require essential, ongoing social care support."

He added: "My Conservative colleagues and I take very seriously the duty we have to support Medway’s communities and to provide the services they need to take care of not only their physical health but also, and just as importantly, their mental health.

Medway Council Cllr David Brake said if the Nelson Road centre was to close alternative provisions would be made
Medway Council Cllr David Brake said if the Nelson Road centre was to close alternative provisions would be made

"It is quite right that mental health has continued to rise up the public agenda in recent years, and I am proud of the culture of acceptance, awareness, and openness that Medway embraces."

However, campaigners from the Towns' Liberal Democrat party say closing the centre would cut vulnerable adults off from "vital, professional support", such as group activities, one-to-one support and opportunities to develop independence skills.

Alan Collins, who lives with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, said: "Too many people living with mental health problems are not receiving the support they need, particularly those who require acute or ongoing care.

"With the right care and support from family, friends and healthcare professionals, most of us who experience mental ill health are able to thrive and live long and successful lives.

"But despite the importance of individual support networks, out of area treatment for mental health problems is now being regarded as standard practice nationwide.

“A lot of the children are also worried about how the coronavirus may affect them and their family..."

"We believe this is not in the best interests of patients and does not provide good quality of care. This is why we will continue to call to reinstate a fit for purpose mental health unit at Medway Hospital and retain services such as 147 Nelson Road.

"In these challenging times, we believe that the future of mental health care is community-based and locally focused to help people experiencing mental ill health not just to survive, but to thrive.

"We are proud to support Mental Health Awareness Week and will continue to campaign for better mental health care this week and all year round.”

Aside from the centre in Nelson Road there are a number of other things people with mental health problems can do.

Recently the 'Release the Pressure' initiative launched, which is a helpline and text service for residents in Kent and Medway.

Charities predict an increase in the number of people seeking mental health advice after lockdown. Picture: Stock
Charities predict an increase in the number of people seeking mental health advice after lockdown. Picture: Stock

It is designed to encourage those under pressure to seek help, either by texting the word "Kent" or "Medway" to 85258, or by calling 0800 107 0160 to chat to a trained volunteer 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The service is funded by the Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) which is a collaboration between Kent County Council, Medway Council, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust and all the NHS organisations across the county.

The NSPCC has also launched a new service at their centre in Gillingham to help children who usually benefit from the charity's services.

The centre would usually see young people aged between 11 and 18-years-old who have therapy due to a number of reasons, ranging from domestic abuse to child sex abuse.

Now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a new six-week programme, which consists of two virtual sessions a week, has been launched.

“It is vital that children know that despite that, we are still here for them.”

The first session will include an interactive section for the youngsters to play games, quizzes and give them the opportunity to interact with friends.

The second class will be focused on structured learning, mindfulness and how to cope with the change brought on by the virus outbreak.

Abigail Hannan, a practitioner at the Gillingham site, said: “The sessions have been really helpful for a lot of the children.

“They really benefit from ongoing support following their initial contact with us knowing that we are still here to support them and listen to their worries or concerns is a boost. As well as this, it provides them with the opportunity to spend some time with their friends in the group.

“This is really helping them, as a lot of children are feeling disconnected from their peers at the moment.

Tips for looking after your mental health include exercising and going for walks outdoors. Picture: Stock
Tips for looking after your mental health include exercising and going for walks outdoors. Picture: Stock

“A lot of the children are also worried about how the coronavirus may affect them and their family, so we use these sessions to inform them about what is happening and reassure them.”

When asked why the service centre was adapting its services during the lockdown Abigail said: “We know there are a lot of vulnerable children who now don’t have access to the support systems that they normally would.

“It is vital that children know that despite that, we are still here for them.”

For more information on how to access these services call 01634 564688 or email gillingham.dutyinbox@nspcc.org.uk.

Medway Council also has a number of tips on their website for people to practice while in lockdown.

It includes exercising from home, spending time doing things you enjoy such as cooking, reading or listening to the radio.

It also suggests eating a healthy and well balanced diet, opening your windows or going into the garden for fresh air and natural sunlight and going for a walk outdoors while social distancing.

For more information on the council's mental health services, click here.

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