Leonardo da Vinci Mobility Programme
My experience visiting different Rethink services in the West Midlands, UK
Thanks to this placement, I had the opportunity to visit a good number of mental health services that Rethink offers in different areas in the West Midlands. My placement had a particular focus on mental health and people from black and minority ethnic communities (BME). Birmingham, the place I was based in, is the second largest city in the UK and it is also home to many BME people with the majority coming from Asia, the West Indies, Somalia, Eastern Europe and Ireland. In fact 27% of the population in Birmingham is from BME communities.
There are many different services that people with mental health difficulties can access. Some of the services I visited include a nursing home where people live in the community with support, supported housing, home support and floating support which offer support to people in their homes, gardening projects, psychological services, different groups, drama group, different drop in services where people can go and socialise and employment and training services amongst others. Apart from visiting these services, I also had the chance to attend 3 groups in Birmingham. These were a women’s group, a mental health awareness group and a current affairs group. Some of the service users came from different cultural backgrounds. One of the service users I met was half Maltese. All the groups I attended were held in the community. All these services aim at helping users to engage in healthy activities in the community, learn new skills and to have a better quality of life.
Some of the services I visited were for carers of people with mental health problems. As carers, they are very significant people in the lives of people with mental health difficulties and they need to be acknowledged, valued and supported. I had the opportunity to attend a carers group called ‘Re-access’ which is specifically for West Indian carers. The person facilitating the group is also a West Indian. Guest speakers were invited to this particular session and they spoke about an advocacy service for carers. I also went to two carers’ visits in Birmingham, an elderly British widow and an elderly Irish couple. Both families care for their daughters and both daughters have schizophrenia. Other carer services include help lines, respite services, support groups and information on different aspects of caring.
I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in a Leonardo project and visit these services. This experience has been very enriching and it has positively contributed to the work I do as a project worker at Villa Chelsea as it has not only helped me to reflect on the work I do but also on the mental health services in Malta as well as the different services I had been to during my placement.