Friday, 08 October 2021
Vanessa Ford, Chief Executive of South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust talks about the practical steps we are taking in south west London to start to shift the dial around inequalities in mental health.
This year World Mental Health Day is shining a light on the impact that inequalities have on mental health and wellbeing.
At South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust we care for a hugely diverse population of 1.2 million people, across five boroughs. We know that our communities living with disability and our LGBTQIA+ and black and ethnic minority communities experience disproportionately high levels of mental illness. In a double blow, groups facing poor mental health often experience the greatest challenges accessing services. These challenges have only become starker during the pandemic.
While the reasons behind this are complex, we are committed to being part of the solution. For me that means taking practical action to address inequalities at every level.
Working together with local partners, service users and our staff, our Ethnicity and Mental Health Improvement Project (EMHIP) pilot in Wandsworth aims to reduce ethnic inequalities in access, experience and outcomes of mental health care. This includes community-led health and wellbeing hubs embedded in the community, developing a culturally capable workforce and the grassroots involvement of black and ethnic minority communities in their own care.
In Sutton we are working hand in hand with patients, carers, community groups and health care professionals to develop new community adult mental health services. Designed to ensure our patients get the right support as they need it, with care closer to home, I am excited about the potential of this programme to make a real difference to how people experience local mental health services when it launches in January 2022.
In 12 months’ time we will open ‘Springfield Village’, our new community that has mental health and wellbeing at its heart. Comprising state of the art mental health facilities, residential housing, a 32-acre public park and facilities for residents, patients and staff alike, our new community will shows how far we can go to create an environment that breaks down stigma around mental health.
While across South London we have come together through South London Listens to hear the testimonies of over 6,000 people who have shared their experiences in order to help shape an action plan for our local recovery. Through this we have pledged a series of actions including paying the London Living Wage, training and equipping staff to understand the barriers that members of black and ethnic minority communities face in accessing services, and developing a social isolation, loneliness and digital inclusion strategy.
We have come a long way since I trained to be a nurse at Springfield 20 years ago and there is a lot to celebrate, but there is still much to do. I cannot promise that things will change everything overnight – but by taking small practical steps, together we are starting to turn the dial.
So, as we come together to celebrate World Mental Health Day, we are clear in recognising the impact that inequalities have on the people we serve. We are clear in our commitment to providing accessible, person-centred care that is available at point of need. And we are clear that the challenges we face are best tackled together, by listening, collaborating and giving everyone a voice.