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Prevention is our watchword
A NEW mental health strategy for Worcestershire will focus on stopping illnesses from occurring rather than treating them when they do.
Almost 70,000 adults, and more than 7,500 children, are currently living with mental ill health in Worcestershire while about 50 people in the county take their own life each year.
While the numbers are broadly in line with national averages, driving them down and improving residents’ mental health is a top priority for the county’s health and wellbeing board.
They met to debate a new mental wellbeing and suicide prevention plan and agreed to put the document out for wider consultation.
Dr Frances Howie, Worcestershire County Council’s head of health and wellbeing, said one in four people will have to deal with a mental health condition during their lifetime. “There really are very large numbers of people within the county who are dealing with mental health issues,” she said. “We really are thinking about prevention and doing all that we can to stop problems from escalating.”
The plan looks to raise awareness of cyber-bullying as well as promoting greater general awareness of issues around mental health and the support that is available.
More promotion of mental health will take place in schools and workplace screening and wellbeing programmes will be encouraged in a bid to ensure early intervention. Active lifestyles will also be promoted, with Dr Howie stating mental wellbeing is “inextricably linked to physical health”.
The “Five Ways to Wellbeing” message developed by the New Economics Foundation is also a cornerstone of the new plan.
This encourages people to “connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give”. Dr Howie said: “We need to make sure that everybody living in Worcestershire has the opportunity to weave those five things into their everyday lives.”
Dr Jim Goodman, a GP and representative of Wyre Forest Clinical Commissioning Group, believes mental health issues are a large part of what is driving increased demand at hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.
He said it is vital that GPs and commissioners are involved closely with the plan.
“If we are going to tackle the additional demand coming through the front doors of practices and A&E departments it has got to be about finding a way of restoring mental wellbeing to the population in general,” he said.
A final version of the plan is set to return to the health board in January.