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Our Priorities - Priority 1 - Mental health and wellbeing

We have used data and insight to identify the main health challenges and opportunities we see in Castle Point and Rochford. From this we have agreed our four priorities:

  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Physical health and wellbeing
  • Ageing well
  • Community resilience

The different themes and opportunities that we will focus on within each of these priorities are outlined in this strategy. Some themes cut across all four priorities due to their interlinking nature.

We will introduce you to some residents in this next section too. These are not real people; they have been created based on data and first-hand observations over the course of the pandemic. Their purpose is to highlight some of the issues and inequalities people experience, and the varying levels of need within our communities. We’ll also give examples of some of the activities, help and support that is available locally and how this is accessed.

We’ll follow these residents over the life of the strategy to see how their health and circumstances have changed. 

Priority 1: Mental health and wellbeing

Health and Wellbeing Board member Caroline Grant, Chief Executive Officer of South East and Central Essex Mind, talks about the factors that can affect mental health:

Paula, 54, is an only child. Her widowed mother, whom she lived with, died recently after contracting COVID-19.

Paula works part time and her children (from her previous relationship) are all young adults living away from home outside the local area. Paula feels very lonely and depressed.

She didn’t know how to apply for probate and could not afford her own solicitor. She needed probate because her home was owned solely by her late mum.

Citizens Advice assisted Paula to work through the long list of things to do when someone has died, including notifying relevant organisations. They explained how to apply for Probate and letters of administration.

Paula also received some help from one of their local solicitors to help her complete the inheritance tax form, which must be completed prior to applying for probate. With this help, Paula was able to navigate through the legal process. This helped to ease her stress and anxiety. She also went to see her GP about her mental health and has been referred to a Primary Care Mental Health Nurse. They have provided her with information for a local bereavement service and telephone helpline to help her manage her grief. 

Half of all mental health issues start before the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24. This is why it is so important to build good emotional wellbeing and resilience from a young age. This can be helped by forming good relationships, social connections, and strong support networks. When someone in the family is unwell, it is also important to look at support for everyone in the family. 

Harry, 10, has Autism and ADHD. He doesn’t like leaving the house and gets very anxious and upset about going to school. He finds it difficult to make friends.  

Harry’s school contacted their link Educational Psychologist who provides advice to the school, and to Harry’s family, to support his learning, development, and wellbeing. Harry also goes to family sessions at The Megacentre for children with additional needs.  

Body and mind

There is a strong link between mental and physical health; they go hand in hand. Mental health can affect (and be affected by) our physical health. This is why having good mental health is just as important as having good physical health. One can benefit the other.

People with long-term mental health needs are at a higher risk of poor physical health. Compared with the general population, for example, people with severe mental illness (SMI) are at a greater risk of obesity, diabetes, lung conditions and heart disease12. Similarly, people with a long-term physical health condition can be more likely to have a mental health need.

We feel that mental health and physical health should have an equal focus, which is why we are prioritising them both in this strategy.

COVID-19 has impacted on mental health

COVID-19 affected the way we all live, learn and work. It has impacted on jobs, finances, education, families, caring responsibilities, and social life and has placed immense pressure on essential workers. Some groups have been affected more than others. Health inequalities have widened too as a result. This means we need to focus more of our efforts towards those whose needs are greatest.

More people are self-reporting that their mental health has worsened since the pandemic began. There is now an even bigger demand for mental health services.  Factors that may have impacted on people’s mental health include furlough, job losses, reduced social contact, and family bereavement.

Patricia, 78, lives in Great Wakering in a housing scheme for older people. She used to enjoy going out regularly but did not leave her flat for over year due to the pandemic. One of her neighbours died from Covid-19 which made her feel very sad and frightened. She missed seeing her friends and family and became depressed and anxious about going out when the restrictions lifted.

The manager at Patricia’s housing scheme has suggested she come along to the games afternoon that has started every week in the communal lounge. A neighbour has offered to accompany Patricia to help build her confidence.

The right support, where and when you need it

There is a range of mental health support available in Castle Point and Rochford, including NHS services and community support. However, not everyone can easily access the help they need for their mental health. This might be for reasons such as:

  • not knowing what help is available locally, or where to go to get it
  • not wanting to talk about their problems because they feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or ashamed (stigma) 
  • language and communication barriers 
  • insufficient capacity to meet changing needs and rising demand

Where people live may also influence where they go for help. Some people are also less likely to seek help for their mental health, such as men, older adults, and people from BAME groups.

Mark, 27, lives in Benfleet and works in London for an investment bank. The long hours and stressful nature of his job is causing him to drink too much, smoke and engage in recreational drug use to cope with the pressure. This is affecting his sleep and caused changes in his behaviour, which has led to a relationship breakdown. He is having suicidal thoughts and has started taking time off work. A colleague, who has trained in Mental Health First Aid, reached out after seeing Mark in distress and encouraged him to seek some help. Mark doesn’t feel comfortable talking to his boss about how he is feeling, but his colleague told him about some organisations that offer free, confidential support via text, helpline, and webchat services.

Services are being transformed to address these issues as outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan. More resource and investment are being made to increase capacity. This means providing more flexible and better access to services and simplifying referral pathways. This in turn will help people with mental illness to engage in employment, volunteering, and education, which are major factors in maintaining good mental health. They are also important outcomes for recovery for people with mental illness. As a Board we see more opportunities to work together with our communities to plug gaps like these where there is a need identified.

Championing mental health

Health and Wellbeing Board member Caroline Grant, Chief Executive Officer of South East and Central Essex Mind, talks about the Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health: