ACCORDING TO Wokingham Borough Council, one-in-six residents are diagnosed with depression.
Resident Ian Shenton asked Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services, what the council is doing to support mental health provision during the pandemic at last week’s executive meeting.
Cllr Margetts revealed that in the borough, 15% of residents have a formal diagnosis of depression and more than 40% of GP consultations relate in some way to mental health issues.
He said: “The borough’s community response has sought to reach out to those isolated and vulnerable. Adult Social Care made over 6,000 initial welfare checks with some 16,000 follow up welfare calls via WBC Link Visiting Scheme and there have been some 4,000 calls to the One Front Door, supported by WBC and Citizens Advice.
“The One Front Door (scheme) takes calls of any nature, many of which impact on mental health. These initiatives will be repeated or stay in place over the next few months as Covid cases rise.”
Cllr Margetts explained the council is launching a pilot mental health programme in partnership with Earley Plus PCN and Citizens Advice.
The project will encourage people to call One Front Door if their wellbeing is suffering.
“Citizens Advice will try to resolve some of the underlying issues causing depression and anxiety, such as financial stress and relationship breakdowns,” Cllr Margetts said. “And part of their service is they can signpost to other specialist services, be it formal mental health services or other voluntary organisations. If successful, the project will be rolled out across the borough.”
Cllr Margetts said the council is also sourcing a “specialist voluntary sector partner” to provide support for people with mild to moderate mental health issues, which is hoped to be ready early next year.
He said the council set up a Recovery College that provides courses and workshops to understand mental health issues, manage mental health in a positive way and generally keep well.
They are open to the public and take place online.
“These resources are available for both children and adults and include information, guidance, access to voluntary sector services and apps,” he said.
Also questioning mental health provision was Cllr Andrew Mickleburgh, Liberal Democrat councillor for Hawkedon. He asked what is being done “when it comes to responding effectively to culturally-specific mental health needs”.
Cllr Margetts said he recognised that “older, deprived, male and from BAME groups have a higher prevalence and poorer outcomes” when it comes to mental health, and said that: “there is also evidence that BAME, older isolated, carers, LGBTQ+ and young mothers have suffered from a higher level of distress than the population as a whole.”
“Non-paid carers as well. The increased sense of isolation, lack of face to face support and respite as well as anxiety related to caring for those at very high risk from Covid-19, has had an impact on this group. And 72% of carers said they had suffered poor mental health as a result of caring, prior to the pandemic.”
He said these groups have been supported by the Wokingham Community Response, with welfare check calls to the vulnerable and to carers.
He added: “Additional support for young mothers was also put in place from WBC and Primary Care, for example, additional Health Visitor surveillance.
“Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust jointly provides Community Mental Health Services in Wokingham Borough with Wokingham Borough Council and has BAME and LBGTQ+ leads and forums.
“The trust is committed to improving access by hard to reach groups and are connecting to local community groups in Berkshire to assist people in accessing and navigating mental health services.”