Together For Mental Wellbeing

Since Together was formed in 1879, we have believed that people with mental health issues have the right and the abilities to lead independent, fulfilling lives as part of their communities. We offer a wide variety of support to help people deal with the personal and practical impacts of mental health issues. The services we provide include one-to-one support in the community, supported housing and 24 hour accommodation services, advocacy and supporting people in criminal justice settings who’ve experienced mental distress.

Our core principle at together is service user leadership as we believe that benefits those people who are accessing support and has positive impact on all aspects of Together, and wider society. We want to be able to learn from people who have a range of views and who have experienced mental distress. By learning from the people who use our services in that way we aim to inform and influence Together from a Lived Experience perspective.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

At Together the people who use our services are at the heart of everything we do. They influence and shape the support they receive from us, and the way our services are run. People often have a better insight into their own mental health and know when they are becoming unwell. Staff are vigilant when recognising warning signs of people becoming unwell or reaching a crisis point. Together staff take a multi-agency approach, working with people’s professional contacts and families where appropriate to ensure that they are supported effectively.

At Together, we use a number of processes to ensure that people have their say on what they want to happen prior to becoming unwell; these processes are part of our work in supporting people in their recovery and include:

• A Staying Well Plan
• A WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan)
• STARC (Support Treatment And Recovery Checks)
• A Crisis Plan

When a person becomes very unwell or is a risk to themselves of others, this will require greater intervention. Depending on what type of service we provide to the person, we would either support people to access specific services or staff would contact them on behalf of the person.

Should a service user be affected by the loss of someone to suicide, staff support them to access support groups and bereavement counselling services.

For our own workforce we adopt an open culture where people feel safe to talk about their mental health, promoting a sense of togetherness. We talk about the importance of taking care of ourselves and the impact of stress within our teams. This provides a more supportive, understanding environment. Creating a positive, inclusive and more productive workplace for everyone.

Managers build supportive relationships with team members and ensure workloads are manageable, to reduce work place stress, below are some examples of how we achieve this and support anyone affected by suicide:

• We conduct employee wellbeing engagement surveys.
• Staff complete a wellbeing action plans which they share with their line manager.
• We have robust people management policies and practices, which promote inclusion and diversity and prevent unfair treatment.
• Senior managers lead by example, by role-modelling healthy behaviour (such as an appropriate work–life balance and taking regular breaks) and sending out clear messages about the importance of mental health.
• We direct staff to seek help from their GP, our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or managers can request more specialised counselling through our insurers.
• Reflective practice and debriefing sessions, which are facilitated by managers and we have recently employed a dedicated person to offer reflective practice to our employees.

What are your current priorities?

We are reviewing a postvention framework which will provide appropriate wellbeing support for employees who have been affected by suicide and other traumatic events. Developing a bereavement policy to ensure bereaved employees are aware of and given the support they need, supporting these individuals in dealing with the shock and potential trauma they may experience. Staff are supporting the development in these areas.

We are offering additional training and support for managers and colleagues on how to support a bereaved employee.

We are reviewing waiting times for counselling services.

Offering additional development for employees on crisis planning, undertaking mental capacity assessments and how to effectively advocate for service users at risk or in crisis.

What challenges are you currently facing?

The COVID epidemic has had an impact on staffing, creating additional workplace stresses on individuals whose workloads have increased.
COVID restrictions led to some service users isolating or receiving support from services by other means such as by phone or virtually. For some this has led to a decline in mental wellbeing and has set back their recovery. It has also increased the demand for mental health services.

Demands for commissioned services to deliver more for less funding have continued to increase and can impact on work load pressures. We aim to gain a better understanding what else we can do, aside from utilising support from the persons General Practitioner (GP) and Together’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)to better support our workforce – this work is currently underway in consultation with staff.