Jane Hetherington: Mental health and substance abuse meeting

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A third public meeting for the community to share mental health concerns and hear from experts has been held in Ramsgate.

The meeting follows on from two last year that were held following a campaign for more services after a number of residents took their lives due to being unable to access professional help.

The latest meeting centred on  substance abuse and mental health.

Jane Hetherington, a psychotherapist and supervisor for East Kent Substance Misuse Services and a Ramsgate Town Councillor was on the panel at the event and shares her account of proceedings:

It was a wet and windy night last Friday (February 7) which probably deterred a lot of locals from attending the mental health and substance abuse meeting at The Comfort Inn in Ramsgate but nonetheless it was positive  and outcomes arose.

This was the third meeting organised by KCC councillor Karen Constantine following the spate of suicides in Thanet last year. There had already been a well-attended mental health meeting focusing on suicide and mental health. This was followed by a meeting on young people’s mental health options. This third meeting arose because substance misuse and related mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression had been involved in many suicides.

Karen Constantine chaired a knowledgeable panel of professionals including:

Pete Dunger the service manager for the Forward Trust

Amanda Hatfield-Tugwell locality manager CMHT

Rosarii Harte deputy medical director KMPT

Jane Hetherington psychotherapist and supervisor for the Forward Trust and RTC councillor

Becky Wing lead mentor for Charlton Athletic and RTC and TDC councillor

The meeting started off with an initial description of services and Jane Hetherington read out the information in relation to the Young Addaction Service who see young people up to the age of 24.

Rosarii Harte provided a comprehensive outline of services both community and in-patient provided by KMPT, the local mental health NHS Trust. Amanda Hatfield-Tugwell focused on the more local aspects of KMPT and the services provided by The Beacon, outlining joint working that occurs with the Forward Trust for patients who have both mental health issues and substance misuse problems.

Becky Wing provided a breakdown of some of the support work in local schools in relation to young people who are potentially becoming involved in substance misuse and gang related activities and the attempts made to engage them.

Pete Dunger described how the Forward Trust provides services for adult substance misusers in Thanet, working in conjunction with mental health services and Addaction – the young people’s service.

The Forward Trust works with 500 plus individuals in the Thanet area, many of whom have complex social and mental health issues. The majority of clients are opium users, some of whom are on substitute prescribing, with alcohol being the second most common problem. The Forward Trust has an open door policy which enables those with issues to access treatment and support on the day they attend their first appointment.

After this there ensued an open discussion with members of the audience who had a range of questions and information queries.

A number of questions involved the support provided to carers or family members.

Pete Dunger described counselling and support groups in addition to education around substance misuse and addiction, whatever the addiction the impact for the family and friends is similar.

Becky Wing described how the family are involved and supported in her work with local young people.

There was criticism of mental health services and a lack of support and guidance for families and there was an acknowledgement of the staffing issues that have resulted in service provision difficulties. New recruitment efforts have now improved the situation locally.

Amanda Hatfield-Tugwell and Rosarii Harte discussed monthly meetings for carers and family members, support groups at St Martins and monthly meet the manager meetings locally.

It was generally accepted that there are a number of services available that the public are not aware of and that the Trust need to publicise their services better.

Cllr Constantine offered to address this issue and the information in relation to service availability. There was a general discussion about what causes addiction and ACE’s (adverse childhood experiences) and it was generally agreed that poverty was not always a factor and that sometimes social markers do not relate to addiction.

There was also further discussion on the nature and pattern of local drug use, the terminology and language and new products on the market although Pete Dunger stated he had not noticed much of a change in the substance issues clients present with.

Becky Wing discussed further early work with young people to prevent them from requiring later interventions from mental health services

Amanda Hatfield -Tugwell talked about learning from everything that had been discussed and ensuring that services provided by The Beacon and the Richmond Fellowship receive better publicity.

Rosarii Harte talked of the impact on carers and the community and highlighted that East Kent had received additional funding that could be put to good use.

Jane Hetherington talked about promoting the ACE (adverse childhood experiences) programmes and the fact that Thanet is an area that has been recognised as requiring additional support.

Pete Dunger discussed the practicalities of day time meetings and attendance and how to provide meetings at times and in places that met people’s needs . Additionally he discussed how to promote information around these meetings.

Councillor Constantine summed up the meeting and pledged to keep people in the picture and to help to promote services.