Involving individuals and communities in mental health support and wellbeing

Social Prescribing

H&ED Mind was involved in the development of some of the earliest Social Prescribing pilots in the country with our local PCT.  We were actively engaged in how the process might work and in consulting those using services, carers and partners to see how it might work for them.


While we recognise its value in redirecting individuals away from a fully medical response and a chance to avoid any unnecessary medication in favour of a more social and community based remedy, we quickly recognised alternative delivery mechanisms might have ever greater benefits.


In line with our own core values and linked to the development of ABCD and Co-production we moved to putting a higher value on the individuals role in the process and having greater awareness of the social context.  This saw positive improvement and benefits for the individual and their micro and macro communities.

 

Over time our thinking and understanding extended further, and we began to bring together other elements, issues and challenges that recognised as significant and that led to our “Human Approach” concept.  An approach that seeks to recognise that the majority of mental distress experienced by individuals, is a logical response to difficult and demanding life events and circumstances.  This approach also seeks to accurately define the social and community factors that form the terrain in which the individual is operating, and works to draw them into a unique tapestry of support and action.


With this approach, people would not identify as having a problem that a doctor needs to fix, rather a life problem requiring a normal, practical, social, community based support plan.  A plan recognising and building on the skills, abilities and resources of the individual and their community.

 

Ultimately we want to see Key Individuals within Community Based Transformation Centres, able to work “with” individuals, to describe, offer and direct a whole range of support and activity options (including those typically offered as part of a social prescription) that would make a significant difference to the majority of those experiencing challenges, as well as their communities.


This “Human Approach” is not about a “one off fix” or a short term benefit for a few.  This framework, strategy and process is about individual and community well-being for everyone.  It is about reclaiming what it is to be “human” from those who would reduce us to isolated units of bio medical activity.  It is about reconnecting to ourselves and our sense of power and agency to learn, understand, explore and make change.  And then it is about connecting in to our communities, micro and macro, and to our collective power and purpose.
 

Kate's Story

Initially a community member Kate became part of a small community social group as a result of a “Social Prescription” from her GP (Kate was struggling with high levels of anxiety and not able to work).  Kate then progressed to regularly attending a craft group (she had a previous interest in textiles) before deciding to take part in our Peer Support Education Programme.  From Peer Support she progressed to the Supporting People in Recovery training and secured a nationally recognised qualification.  

This, her own lived experience and past work as an adult trainer meant she was then able to progress to volunteering and leading groups within her community.   

Eighteen months later she is employed as the Co-coordinator of our Enhanced Social Prescribing contract she so tentatively started to attend.  She has a central role in the National development of education programmes and works with a large cohort of peers, volunteers and community partners to build better options for individuals and to create better communities for everyone.  


 

KATE’S WORDS

“I was really scared that first day I arrived to attend a coffee and chat group.  I walked round the block three times before I dared come in.  I was shaking, felt sick and couldn’t speak for a good ten minutes.  But the other group members and the staff lead at the time were great, not at all pushy, they gave me time and space to find my own place in the group.  I felt included but not pressured.

That first step was hard, and, if I’m honest there are still difficult days but this process really worked for me and I see now, how it also works for others.

I meet new people every day, people like me, they have been through all kinds of things in their lives and been offered all kinds of “fixes” that just have not made any real difference.  

They are often tired of being told what is “wrong” with them, and ashamed that they can’t “cope”.   

By encouraging people to look at their situation differently, acknowledging the difficulties and helping individuals to tell their own story, acknowledge their own skills and experience (as well as the people and communities around them), and provide space for them to create and design their own solutions, lives are changed forever.  People become active, helping themselves and helping others”.