• Libby

Transcript - Mental Health Support for All with Michaela from Thurrock & Brentwood Mind (Episode 20)

Libby: You are listening to Constellations, the community podcast connecting charities, communities & causes in the two unitaries of Thurrock & Southend.

In today’s episode we’re speaking with Michaela, the head of services at Thurrock and Brentwood Mind. Keep listening to find out about some of the fantastic groups and activities that are on offer to the community to help support with Mental Health. Thurrock and Brentwood Mind offer a range of services from gardening clubs to the building of Crisis Houses to create a haven for those who need immediate help.

Let’s get going and find out about the crucial work Micheala and her team do to support the people of Thurrock and Brentwood.


Sharen: Welcome, Michaela. Thank you for joining me.

Michaela: Thank you for inviting me along.

Sharen: So for any listeners who might not be sure, can you describe what Thurrock and Brentwood Mind is?

Michaela: Yeah, no problem. Uh, Thurrock and Brentwood Mind is a local branch of the national charity Mind, but we are independent as an independent charity in our own right registered with the Charity Commission. There's about 125 different branches of Mind across the country, and each branch will provide different, uh, mental health services to meet the needs of their area.

Sharen: Okay, are you only accessible to people who live in Thurrock and Brentwood. Is that the idea?

Michaela: Yeah, we try not to overlap, but we do work in partnership. So there's Basildon Mind is right on our doorstep. But also um I think it's South and Mid Essex Mind. But there's a couple of others around the county as well that we work with.

So the services we offer the majority are in the Thurrock area, so but we're gradually looking at how we can replicate some of those in the Brentwood area. Some of the services people can self refer in to, but others people have to be referred in through their GP or another sort professional. You know if people were looking for counselling, uh we can take self referrals for that, and we provide 1 to 1 counselling, and we have some specialist counselling around bereavement and multi ethnic communities as well. And we have group counselling sessions so they might do a particular group counselling, uh, subject on maybe anger management or anxiety.

We have our wellbeing groups that bring people together in sort of a supportive environment. So quite, people that may be quite low level in their mental health and just need a bit of a boost and a bit of a pick me up. We have our wellbeing groups and as part of our wellbeing activities, we run stepping stones one morning a week, which is the gardening project. So we have a small undercover area for if the weather’s bad or we've developed an allotment behind one of our properties. So we get people out there who actually dig in and growing fruit and veg out there.

Sharen: Oh that sounds amazing

Michaela: So that's really

Sharen: So is that well used?

Michaela: It is because it's, uh the funding unfortunately, a few years back cease that project and it's been very difficult to make it profitable in terms of selling the plants and things. So we do a little bit of that. But everyone that comes along really enjoys it, and they get really stuck in and, uh you know, they come together a cup of tea or coffee in the sheltered area, and then they go off to the allotment and do some hard work digging. And then we've got a few people that prefer to potter and just do some planting of seeds and a bit of watering. So there's something for everyone really don’t have to all be physical gardening.

Sharen: It’s great. I've got an allotment, and there is something incredibly satisfying about growing your own produce.

Michaela: Mmm, something about watching it grow and then particularly if you then eat it as well. It's quite tasty!

Sharen: Yes! It makes a change, doesn't it? Than from just picking it off of the shelf.

Michaela: Other services that people can refer to um, themselves is our peer mentoring service. So we match people that just want a little bit of support with managing their mental health or a particular aspect of their life around mental health. We match them with a volunteer that's got lived experience, and they work for about 12 sessions, so probably 12 weeks, just to make some improvements. Uh, we have a carers service. So the carers, their family and friends that look after somebody else. Our advocacy service can make sure that people can get their voice heard when they're talking to professionals, whether that's hospital or council or housing, things like that and we work closely with the NHS as well. So if there's anyone that's in real crisis around their mental health, if they call the NHS 111 service and choose option two come through to one of our staff in the crisis sanctuary.

Sharen: Oh okay I didn’t know that. That’s, that’s a good service.

Michaela: Yeah so that's a very busy service and that service actually applies across Essex as well, although there's other um organisations that cover different areas, uh Minds the local Mind branches. But there's five crisis sanctuaries across Essex, so anyone in Essex that’s struggling with their mental health can bring in NHS 111 and choose Option two.

Sharen: Oh that's great. I did not know about that.

Michalea: Yeah. And we also try and sort of prevent sort of people from coming to harm. So, uh, we have let's talk about suicide training, online training that anyone can access. So it's just about how to start a conversation with somebody if you recognise or you think someone is thinking about taking their own life. It's just what steps can you take to start that conversation, because that can make all the difference to someone committing suicide.

Sharen: Yeah, so that’s, people can just access that from logging onto your website?

Michaela: Yeah it’s called, yeah, “Let's talk about suicide”. So if you just Google “Let's talk about suicide, Essex” they'll find the training is about 20 minutes to do, and anyone can do it, anybody in the community can access that training.

Sharen: Okay, so you mentioned that people can get referrals from their GP. But not everyone is in that situation where they would happily go to the GP. So are there other ways that people can get referred?

Michaela: Yeah I mean it’s sometimes through hospitals, um you know so things like community mental health teams, they make referrals to our services. We might take referrals from, uh, housing at the local council. People coming out of hospital you know are often referred into our services. Some of our young people services, they’re referred specifically the via schools or the young peoples mental health service. So things like our positive pathways is to help people who have been to their GP. We have wellbeing calls, so people that just need to talk to somebody, and that's recognised we can get them referred into our wellbeing calls as well, so they just receive a weekly call from somebody, as a professional person and they chat, just have a chat, someone just to talk to

Sharen: Just have a check in with them

Michaela: Yeah so

Sharen: No that's great. And it's nice to hear that you're working with the schools as well.

Michaela: Yeah, yeah


Sharen: So um what kind of projects or tools do you use to increase public engagement and understanding around mental health?

Michaela: Uh we make sure that we're regularly putting out sort things on our Facebook and Instagram post, pages. So we’re normally always posting things every day. We are trying to get out as much as possible, particularly I think where things like community events closed down over the last couple of years, we're just starting to see things be put in the diary for the future, so we'll make sure we have a presence. Other community groups are now also returning in the last few months. So we're going along to them talking to them about mental health services and and what they can do to support their mental health. Uh doing things like this, this is a great opportunity to get the message out there about mental health services. Um, yeah, our website. We're just going to be updating our website in the next few months that be easier to navigate, but there's information on there about mental health as well, so it's just trying whatever means we can get the message out there.

Sharen: Yeah and we hear the term mental health and I was just sitting here wondering because I did a Mental Health First aid course through my work, and it was this two day workshop and it was incredible. And I remember picking my little girl up from school the day that I've done it. And I said to one of the moms that I've been doing this mental health first aid course and she comes from a very corporate work environment, and she was saying to me, What does that mean? The first aid, what, how that fits in. So what does mental health mean to you? Like how would you describe it?

Michaela: Yeah I think you know it's very different for everybody, but it's, mental health, you know we all want to have good health generally, whether that's mental or physical, so and when it's physical, some people can actually see it, whereas mental health is often hidden and people are experiencing real pain at times because they're struggling with their emotions and their feelings. But we just can't see it. So it's just about making sure that people live well, are good, emotionally stable and supporting those people that are struggling with that and you know because everyone is different. Some people are able to have a bit of anxiety in their life, and I think there's probably not anyone that hasn't at some point experienced anxiety, whether that's even the thought of moving house or you know, for new relationships. And other people, some people can cope with that level of anxiety, and they sort of, a couple of weeks and they're able to move on. And other people, they really struggle to come to terms with that level of anxiety, and it can really give them, send them down into a little bit more of a spiral around depression. Yes, so it's very much about you know, in terms of we can have difficult, different physical illnesses, we can have different mental health illness as well and what it is is often then not seen.

Sharen: Yeah and it's when it consumes you I guess. When it affects what you do every day. Then you know, it’s

Michaela: Yeah, yeah, when you get to a stage where you feel that you can't even get out of bed. You know, if you have arthritis and you can't get out of bed, it's obvious why you can't get out of bed because you know your joints have stiffened up overnight. If you've got mental health, and you struggle to get out of bed, people can't always see why that why that is so. It's just the fear of facing the day, really.

Sharen: Yeah, I think you're right. It's because it's not a physical thing. It's harder for some people to understand.

Michaela: Yeah and it will just affect everybody in different ways. And some people, you know, some people can heal quicker - the same goes for mental health.

Sharen: Yeah. So what do you do to support your own mental health?

Michaela: Ohhhh uh

Sharen: Put you on the spot

Michaela: No, that's fine. I try I try and get out for a walk. Physical exercise can make um make a huge difference to how you feel. It releases endorphins in your system, so so must admit in the winter I'm not so good at getting out for a walk, but now the weather is better.

Sharen: It’s a bit easier

Michaela: I live near a, I’m really fortunate where I live. There's a big open space with the lake and there's ducks and swans. So it makes a really nice walk, and it's literally a couple of minutes from my house, so I have no excuse.

Sharen: Oh lovely

Michaela: And when I had a dog, I was out every morning. Now I don't have a dog, unfortunately, she passed away, but I still think I need to get a walk. So at the weekends I will definitely make that effort. And I crochet.

Sharen: Ahhhh

Michaela: So I'm involved in a community project called “Hug in a Shrug”, and I'm not an expert, there's a lot of people in the group that much better than me. But we make blankets and other things like worry worms and sunflowers to raise money for the Ukraine appeal. But, yeah, anyone that needs a lift we’ll provide them with a blanket. Young or old, children, older people.

Sharen: So you donate everything that you make?

Michaela: Yeah, yeah, I mean, otherwise I'd have too many blankets in my house. So, yeah. A lot of people do it in their own homes and that's fine. But there are a couple of like groups, either like sort of knit and knatter but crochet and knitting uh groups. And, uh, yeah, I go along to those.

Sharen: And what is a worry worm?

Michaela: A worry worm is a little crocheted um creature, uh creature, obviously like knitted, couple of eyes, and it looks a bit like a spiral, and we just put a note in with it, and it says, “if you're worried, tell me and I'll take your worries away”

Sharen: Oh!

Michaela: And they go to children uh, maybe a time when they start in new school, they've been just left in the park, they've been given out supermarkets or older people's homes… And they’re just called a worry worm.

Sharen: Oh that's such a lovely idea. I want one!

Michaela: Yeah I know

Sharen: You’ll have to knit me one.

Michaela: When they first started, they were left in parks and people were finding them and like it's so lovely, you know, and and it's like I never found one. But now we had, you know, now we actually go in and people were asking for them. So teachers were saying, “Can I have some for September when my new children start?”


Sharen: So looking forward, do you have any projects lined up for the future?

Michaela: Yep

Sharen: Anything new

Michaela: We are just about to open a crisis house, the first in Essex, as far as I'm aware. It's covering a really big area, including Thurrock and Southend. So we will have four rooms where if people are struggling with their mental health and they don't feel safe being at home, they can spend a couple of nights in the crisis house, that will have 24 hour specialist support on hand. So but we're the lead partner on that with the NHS.

Sharen: That would be brilliant. I have that in place.

Michaela: It's all about preventing people to about admission prevention

Sharen: And it makes sense because it’ll be less people going into hospitals, and you know hopefully

Michaela: Yeah and yeah we expect to be very busy on that service


Sharen: Hopefully you can open more.

Michaela: Yes. Yeah, be nice to see how this one goes and hopefully there might be some more coming up as well. So

Sharen: That's great. And you mentioned peer mentoring, and that's a volunteer service. Do you have um any other volunteering opportunities?

Michaela: Yes. So we have a new volunteer manager starting on Monday, So I'm really looking forward to having a new member of staff join the team. And so we've really been looking to get more volunteers involved, particularly as we're coming back to face to face work. So we have volunteer counsellors, but they do need to have the relevant qualification to enable them to do counselling. But things like, our wellbeing groups, we just want people that can come along chat, make teas and coffees and just spend a bit of time with us for a couple of hours. Similarly, on Stepping Stones you don't necessarily need to have gardening experience, but just someone that is happy to help someone in the garden. We have volunteers in there and our charity shop. We obviously have quite a lot of volunteers in our charity shop on the shop floor, sorting donations, so even admin volunteers. So in our office, we have volunteers just help with some of our day to day admin as well

Sharen: So it's kind of as little or as much as you can give

Michaela: Yeah we ask, probably for different roles will have different things. But you know, sort of the wellbeing groups or when we meet in person for a couple of hours. So obviously, maybe someone gives sort of three hours to help us set up and put away. Or if someone wants to help on our wellbeing, zoom calls. An hour is great and they don't even need to be in the office they can join remotely to volunteer on the wellbeing Zoom. So it's a different opportunities

Sharen: And I guess with a peer mentor and there's some training is there that’s involved?

Michaela: Yeah, we do. So we ask that all our volunteers do some training. So things like safeguarding adults, you know, if they're in the shop, we ask them to do manual handling. But then we also have some bespoke training for around things like peer mentoring. We actually sort of give people the training to be a mentor around someone that's got mental health. So uh yeah, sometimes there's bespoke training as well that that people come along and that's probably about a day's training.

Sharen: So if anyone listening would like to follow along or volunteer or get involved, how can they do, what's the best way?

Michaela: Okay so uh the best way you can just pick up the phone to us on 01375 391411. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, so we’re posting things there all the time. Our website is tbmind.org.uk. But we also have two hubs, so one in Grays shopping centre and one at the keys in Brentwood, so you can always just call in, no appointment needed. Just call in and speak to somebody.

Sharen: Just pop in. Okay. We'll put all those in the show notes as well.

Michaela: That’s good thank you.

Sharen: Thank you so much for joining me today, Michaela. I've really enjoyed finding out all about Mind.

Michaela: You're more than welcome. It was a pleasure to come along and talk to you.

Sharen: Thank you.


Libby: Thanks for tuning in - we hope you enjoyed learning all about Thurrock and Brentwood Mind. For the full transcript and show notes for this episode, please visit our website at constellations-podcast.org.

Remember to tune in next Tuesday for our next episode. Until then, all of us here at Constellations hope that you get to enjoy the long jubilee weekend! Bye!

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