Leonardo da Vinci Mobility Programme
An experience at Rethink Services in South East England My visit to the Rethink Services in Gravesend and to other services within South East of England has been a positive and a useful one which reinforced the work I do at the Home Support Service whilst highlighting some differences in systems, perceptions and services in supporting people suffering from mental health difficulties. I spent the majority of my placement at the Sahayak services in Gravesend which are run by mental health professionals and volunteers who have a big awareness of the cultural aspect which influences the way a person experiences and thinks. 1 in 8 people in the UK belong to ethnic minority communities and due to different reasons, the mental health needs of people coming from black and minority ethnic groups (BME) are often neglected. BME are also highly over-medicated and offered less talking therapies. Gravesend is one of the places where one finds a higher proportion of ethnic minority groups and Sahayak, meaning ‘helpful’ in Hindu, focuses on providing the assistance to their needs. Apart from the universal stigma that mental illness carries, talking, accepting and going for help for your mental health difficulty is quite shameful for members of the BME as it is understood that one does not talk or ask for help about family issues, especially with regards to such problems. The root of the illness is sometimes associated with black magic, someone who has done something wrong, or is connected to behavior in a past life. Professionals have to reach out to their clients, educate them, guide them to their treatment, and assist them to meetings and medical visits sometimes acting as translators due to the language barriers. The different services offered include a drop-in service (initial contact with the service and assessment), a counseling service, a carers support service (including a support group and individual support), an Asian mental health helpline, and a floating support service (support for independent living and social housing). In Dover’s Rethink services I met with mental health professionals working in a floating support service (similar to the one mentioned above but time limited), a carers support service and an advocacy service The latter provides guidance regarding queries on the rights of mental health clients. I also had the opportunity to be present during a users forum at Sittingbourne where people who have experienced a mental health problem meet to forward any views, concerns or questions regarding mental health issues and these are then used to make representations to the organizations responsible for planning and providing mental health services. Besides visiting these services and talking to professionals and volunteers, I also had the opportunity to visit a Sikh temple and be present during assessments and carers’ support sessions. During this time I observed how carers require a specialized service to provide to them a particular and individual support. I also attended an activity with the clients to Whitstable, a fishing and harbour town in Kent. During this day I mixed up with clients and got to know more about them and their lives in Gravesend. This experience has provided me a time to ponder about the support I provide to my clients and revise some of my techniques whilst learning about services which Richmond Foundation can consider to provide for a more holistic community service to people who need support for their mental health.
Jean Paul Magrin