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Kindness and compassion key to people's mental health

A mental health champion has urged the people of Cheshire to look out for each other and seek help if they need it amid the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week (May 18th-24th) Chris Lynch, a Governing Body Lay Member for NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), emphasised the ongoing importance of kindness and compassion.

Chris, a passionate advocate for services which are co-designed and co-produced by those that access them, also pointed to a number of services that are already in place locally to support people.

“It is really positive that a 24/7 mental health crisis line was fast-tracked to support people amid the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.

“Staying at home and practicing social distancing has been difficult for many of us, but it is vital that people continue to access the care and support they need, when they need it. It is also heartening to see the many acts of compassion and kindness which are helping people throughout the COVID-19 response.”

Earlier this year, a mental health crisis café – Number 71 – was launched in Chester to enable more people to access the care and support they need, including peer support, in a warm, welcoming environment.

Chris argues that it is vital to establish places in the community that people can go to in times of crisis to receive help from peers and supportive staff, without always medicalising what people are going through.

He said: “The CCG is committed to promoting the benefits of co-design and co-production and making this a key emphasis in our approach to engaging with local people. Only by involving you can we ensure health and care services truly meet your needs.”

Six community-based, self-referral crisis beds are also now in place across Cheshire for people experiencing a mental health crisis and in need of support and a place of safety.

This is just one of a string of improvements made to mental health services following a public consultation on proposals to redesign care for people suffering serious, long-term ill health. Other developments have included £4.5m investment in two new state-of the-art inpatient mental health wards in Macclesfield.

The consultation and resulting improvements have been shortlisted in the Health Service Journal (HSJ) Value Awards 2020 in the Mental Health Service Redesign Initiative category, with the winners due to be announced in September.

Chris added: “We’re in unprecedented times and any one of us can experience mental health issues at some time. You’d seek treatment if you broke your leg, and it shouldn’t be any different for your mental health.

“I’ve experienced anxiety, depression and manic episodes on and off for the last 30 years and it’s been the help from the community and peer support that has made the biggest single difference on a day-to-day basis. Like my colleagues at the CCG, I’m passionate about working with people and communities to help improve the health and care of everyone in Cheshire.”