In 2016/17 the Community Foundation for Calderdale and the Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust made an initial investment £150,000 to kick start a Todmorden mental health project aimed at supporting those who had been affected by the devastating floods of Boxing Day 2015.
The project offered mental health support, information and advice in accessible, coordinated and holistic ways. It supported 1,522 people in its first year, including 367 people who attended information and support drop-ins.
Sam, who attended the drop-in, said: “I have not just learnt skills and techniques that are helping me manage my conditions, but to put these into action without fear of judgement; just what I needed!”.
Nine activity groups where run on a weekly basis throughout the year, with 264 people attending them. Activities such as the peer support group for managing long term conditions were vitally important to those who took part.
Michelle, who attended the support group, said: “At the beginning, I didn’t know what to expect as I’ve never been to a support group before. I have lived with depression and anxiety since my early teens and am now in my 60s, so that’s a lot of years. One of the good things about the group is the feeling of belonging. I experience a lot of support from other group members which often means that I feel more able to cope with difficult things. I appreciate so much the generosity of spirit that other group members bring. Going to the group twice a month is one of the best things in my life.”
Ella has a long history of depression, psychosis, agoraphobia and chronic fatigue, which has left her bed bound in the past. She contacted the project when she started struggling with the impact of her health on her work.
She started by accessing the self-management group at Todmorden Health Centre, and quickly learned to recognise links between her physical and emotional health. This has helped her to turn the corner, leave the house on her own, and develop more control of her life.
Specifically, her movement has improved, helped by attending a movement exercise class at a local gym.
Her next focus was to start attending the project’s evening peer support group as part of preparing herself to return to work. The evening groups continue to support her recovery whilst working and attending university lectures in Manchester.
Local school children were also involved in workshops to help them identify and manage their mental health concerns. 661 pupils took part across seven schools, with 96% of them reporting increased knowledge about how to keep themselves happy and healthy, and importantly how to access help should they need to.
Since the original commission, the Community Foundation and NHS Trust have re-commissioned the project for a further year. The project will also be rolled out across other flood-affected areas in the Upper Calder Valley.