A new partnership service will support County Durham residents with all aspects of their mental health.
The all-inclusive approach of the new Durham Mental Wellbeing Alliance, which brings together 13 individual organisations, will improve access to 21 separate services, helping people to get the help they need without having to write, phone or attend in-person, each service individually.
The alliance has been commissioned by Durham County Council, in partnership with Home Group, Creative Support, If U Care Share, Mental Health Matters, Richmond Fellowship, St Margaret’s Centre, Waddington Street and the NHS, and launched last week.
The new service removes the need for people to approach a number of different organisations and instead means that they can call one phone number, a single point of access, to have their needs assessed and be automatically referred to the most appropriate teams.
People will no longer have to tell their story more than once to access a wide range of free mental health, wellbeing and recovery services, including those which help with relationships, bereavement and impacts of suicide.
The service will also provide support with accommodation, education and employability, as well as physical activity, befriending, finances and more.
Seventy-year-old Tom Raine, from Gilesgate, is a service user turned volunteer who helped to plan the launch of the new alliance.
Former engineer Tom sought support from two of the services which are part of the Durham Mental Wellbeing Alliance, before progressing to become a volunteer with both members, Waddington Street Centre and Home Group.
After several years, a heart issue forced Tom to take some time out and, like many people, he found that living with a chronic illness had a negative impact on his mental health.
He turned to Waddington Street Centre again for support and after a period of recovery, was keen to get more involved in helping others to receive the help he had found beneficial.
Tom, who has always been someone who thinks of others before himself, quickly became involved with the mental health, anti-stigma and anti-discrimination charity, Stamp it Out, where he is now a very proud trustee.
He is also an active member of the County Wide Forum, a service-user-led group which acts to support and address the concerns of people living with mental health problems.
Tom said: “I enjoy giving back to the community and have been volunteering and supporting many community projects for years.
“I’m pleased that the new alliance recognises the importance of involving service users in the planning and delivery of its services and am looking forward to being involved in making it easier for people to access mental health support.
“Approaching services for help is a big step for a lot of people who struggle with their mental health. Reducing the number of services that someone needs to contact to get support is a fantastic move towards helping people to live without fear of stigma or having to repeat information.”
Cllr Paul Sexton, the council’s cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “The alliance will have huge benefits for people experiencing issues with their mental health, providing a joined-up approach which will ensure they receive the most appropriate support to meet their needs.
“The collaborative approach brings together the skills, knowledge and resources of a number of providers for the benefit of people in County Durham and will provide an enhanced streamlined service.”
For more information or to self-refer to the service, people can visit www.durhammentalwellbeingalliance.org or call 0300 304 5527.