Chief executive of Mind Paul Farmer talks all things mental health during visit to Ipswich

Quay Place in Ipswich

Quay Place in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

The chief executive of national charity Mind has said leaders need to “turn rhetoric into reality” in order to truly bridge the gap between physical and mental health services.

Chief executive of charity Mind, Paul Farmer CBE, visited Ipswich to attend a conference about herit

Chief executive of charity Mind, Paul Farmer CBE, visited Ipswich to attend a conference about heritage and mental health. Picture: Mind - Credit: Mind

Paul Farmer CBE spoke to the Star and EADT during his visit to Quay Place in Ipswich this week as part of a conference exploring the link between mental wellbeing and historic buildings.

Demand for mental health support is rapidly increasing, indebted partly to the fact that stigma around the subject is being broken down so people feel more comfortable asking for help.

Today one in four people in the UK will suffer a mental health problem every year, and Mr Farmer said Mind was seeing more clients than ever before.

Last year the charity supported 400,000 people nationally, a rise of around 8% from the previous year.

“We are really now beginning to understand the true scale of the need,” Mr Farmer said.

Yet according to Mr Farmer there is still a disparity between the quality and availability of mental and physical health care - “but we are catching up”.

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“As public attitudes start to improve about mental health and the stigma begins to take a bit of a step back we are beginning to understand the very significant needs of our communities, and I think that is a big challenge because our system generally hasn’t been sufficiently embedded,” he added.

“It’s not just about health services it’s about what goes on in schools, universities and employment.

The inside of the refurbished Quay Place, which stood as a redundant church for many years. Picture:

The inside of the refurbished Quay Place, which stood as a redundant church for many years. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

“Slowly but surely that’s all beginning to change, but it’s almost as though we need to accelerate that in order to respond to the need.

“There is a real need to make sure mental health services are properly and adequately resourced.

“There is a growing level of political commitment and media interest.

“I think the key thing for the next phase, the next year or so, is to turn that rhetoric into reality so as well as becoming of interest, people actually see a difference in terms of their experiences.”

There have long been calls for improved out-of-hours facilities - like A&E - for people in a mental health crisis.

Often the emergency services will be the only ones available to help mentally ill people at serious risk during weekends and evenings, which puts added strain on teams already working at capacity.

In 2014, the Department of Health published the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat.

It is a commitment now backed by every local area in England to provide round-the-clock support to those who need it and puts responsibility on professionals across the board, including police and paramedics.

Nigel Suckling, chairman of Suffolk Mind, and Paul Farmer, CEO of national Mind, during a previous v

Nigel Suckling, chairman of Suffolk Mind, and Paul Farmer, CEO of national Mind, during a previous visit to Quay Place. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

Mr Farmer said this agreement had gone some way towards addressing the problem.

“We were finding and hearing from far too many people that their experiences of crisis services quite often just stopped on a Friday afternoon,” he added.

“So it’s really important that there’s a proper 24/7 plan in every area, and every area does now have that plan.”

On April 1, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust will launch a new out-of-hours crisis service for children in Norfolk and Waveney.

It will operate between midnight and 8am, and 9am and 1pm at weekends and bank holidays, and will see trained professionals on hand in A&E to give young people the right assistance they need.

The move follows a successful trial in Great Yarmouth.

Wednesday’s conference was organised by The Churches Conservation Trust and Suffolk Mind is a bid to find new solutions to challenges facing the mental health, cultural heritage and museum industries.

Mr Farmer praised the work happening at Quay Place - a formerly redundant Ipswich church transformed into a heritage and wellbeing centre which hosts counselling and therapy sessions among other activities.

“I think it’s really innovative,” he said. “We don’t have any example quite like this across the country, so Suffolk Mind are leading the way and I think in 20 years’ time people will look back on this building and say ‘this is really groundbreaking’.”

Speakers at the event included Mr Farmer; author, newspaper editor and columnist Sir Simon Jenkins; and architect, broadcaster and former Royal Institute of British Architects president, Angela Brady OBE.

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