New Horizons for wellbeing
Posted Monday 15 March 2010
I’ve never been asked to unveil a plaque before, but I have to confess I hadn’t spent much time in Telford until today, apart from a visit to the Ironbridge Museum.
The reason for the visit (and the plaque) was to join in celebrating the re-opening of Telford Mind’s building, now named the Wellbeing Centre. And I have to say I’m thoroughly pleased I went. Telford Mind, like so many local Mind Associations, is an embodiment of what the Government would like to see across the country in its New Horizons strategy.
The newly renamed (now with plaque) Wellbeing Centre provides an open access service to the local community and offers a range of more formal and informal services under its roof.
It’s a million miles away from the old day centre concept of years gone by, with therapy rooms upstairs offering counselling and complementary therapies, an IT suite, and a refreshing open door policy 6 days a week. It’s run by a small staff team with over 40 volunteers, and 5,500 people walked through their door last year, even when the builders were in.
The organisation is evolving to a more community-oriented approach, with more outreach planned, and partnerships with local and national bodies. These range from Combat Stress to the Shropshire Geological Society, and support from the Lloyds TSB Foundation among others.
Like many towns, Telford has been affected by the recession, and the need for a non-stigmatising open service has never been greater. I spoke to a service user who told me about how he hid his mental health problems for nearly a decade before breaking down. Once he found Telford Mind, he’d been able to build up his confidence and he’s now one of the trustees, a volunteer befriender and thinking about a return to work.
This is exactly the kind of approach that New Horizons would like to see across the country, and yet we hear that in some areas such open access services are threatened by funding cuts and the tightening of eligibility criteria.
So our challenge is to prove the effectiveness of this approach, both in cost-effectiveness for the taxpayer, and more importantly in helping people with experience of mental distress recover and reclaim their place in society.
With some trepidation, and watched on by a “chain” of mayors with far more experience than me of plaque unveiling, and a great crowd, I managed to pull the right string, the curtain fell, and the Wellbeing Centre was deemed open for business.
Paul Farmer, CEO
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