CAMPAIGNERS kickstarted National Mind Week by unveiling new initiatives designed to help bridge the gaps in Chester’s mental health services

Lord Mayor Cllr Brian Bailey, Lady Mayoress Mrs Raewyn Bailey and city MP Christine Russell were on hand as Mind in Chester launched their new developments.

They follow the group’s “Mind the Gaps” report in October 2008 which highlighted what they claimed were major gaps in the district’s mental health services.

“I am delighted to be involved in the next phase of Mind in Chester‘s development following the success of their World Mental Health Day event in October last year,” said Cllr Bailey.

The association’s report highlighted what it described as “worrying gaps in the area’s health services” which were leading service users “to feel isolated and misunderstood”.

This year it promises to introduce three new services.

Influenced by the findings of the report, the charity, after successfully securing funding from the Department of Health, has begun to develop a peer mentoring scheme. Open to the public in November 2009, this will recruit and train mental health service users to become mentors to other users with shared experiences.

Following consultation with mental health professionals, Mind has also developed a partnership with Chester Crossroads and will be launching new social and leisure groups for people experiencing mental health problems in west Cheshire.

These will aim to provide an opportunity for local people to socialise and to share experiences outside their homes.

Finally a “Bridging the Gaps” project, funded by the Western Cheshire Primary Care Trust, forms the next phase of the association’s development.

“The charity aims to provide a comprehensive information service which will allow services users and carers the opportunity to access information and support on a range of issues,” says the association.

This service will include the development of a new website which will provide contact details and information about services in the area, a small telephone- based information line run by a new information officer and new “public get togethers” which will provide the opportunity for the public to meet the charity’s travelling information staff at locations in the Chester area.

“Following a period of dormancy, we are delighted to have secured funding which allows us to start providing services in the Chester area again,” said Allen Bowen, chair of Mind in Chester.

“We feel that by having a more visible presence in the area, through our public get togethers and our new website, service users who previously felt isolated will now have access to the support they need.

“We hope that by taking our work out into the public this will encourage the understanding and acceptance of mental health issues in society”.

Mrs Russell added:“I am always happy to support Mind in Chester and as a former employee myself, I understand the importance of the work done by the association.

“It is crucial that the public is made aware of the mental health issues within our area and this can be achieved not only through the work done by Mind but by advocating policy through other governing bodies.”

National Mind Week (May 9-16) aims to reduce the stigma and ignorance which surrounds mental health issues.