The Covid-19 pandemic shone a light on an existing public health crisis in England – mental health. Last year, the BBC reported that across all age groups, mental health had worsened during the pandemic. As more people found themselves coping with loneliness, social isolation and physical illness, our collective mental health declined. Local services across the country realised they needed to improve their mental health support, and a new initiative in Durham aims to do just that.
Alliance of local support
The Alliance brings together Durham County Council and the NHS along with 21 other preventative mental health and wellbeing services. Some of these services include Waddington Street Centre, If U Care Share, Creative Support, Home Group, St Margaret’s Centre, Richmond Fellowship and Mental Health Matters.
An ambitious project, with an annual budget of £2.38m, the Alliance encompasses the majority of Durham County Council’s spending on voluntary and community based mental health services. However, City of Durham MP Mary Kelly believes it is an effective use of taxpayers money:
“The Pandemic has put mental health support services that were already feeling the pressure of increased demand under incredible strain in Durham. As a local MP I am regularly and alarmingly approached by so many people who are struggling to find help. Its clear that while demand has risen for mental health services, the Government has repeatedly failed to match this with resources.
That’s why I am so delighted that this Alliance has been formed. The range of services it will offer to people accessing community based mental health services has the potential to make a hugely positive impact on their lives. Whether this is some brief advice and information; help with combatting social isolation; assistance with accessing temporary or long term accommodation, or more in-depth support and intervention, it’s clear that the people of County Durham will not be left without the support they need. “
Mary Kelly MP
Mary Kelly has not been a stranger to the growing public interest in mental health. In her speech at today’s launch event, Kelly stated her concerns that mental health services are often a “Cinderella Service” receiving only 11% of funding, despite mental health conditions representing 23% of diseases within the NHS, according to the Health Think Tank the Kings Fund.
A 2018 government report into mental health found that, while people in the North East “have similar levels of wellbeing to the rest of the country”, there are “unique challenges” facing the region. The Alliance aims to address these, and it is the first organisation of its kind in the North East of England.
Kelly also praised the work of local community services who have joined the Alliance:
“who never fail to impress… with the incredible support they offer service users as well as their innovative ways of fundraising during times of financial uncertainty.”
The Waddington Street Centre
The Waddington Street Centre is one of the local services working under the umbrella of the Alliance. A small independent mental health resource centre in Durham, the Centre opened in 1981 and offers a range of educational and support services. Their centre manager, Ali Lee, spoke at the Alliance launch event:
“Over the last year we have all worked hard to shape an Alliance which puts the care of people at its heart. Waddington Street Centre is very proud to be part of the new Durham Mental Wellbeing Alliance. By working together we hope to ensure that people in County Durham will always have excellent, person centred, mental health support. Between the main partners and subcontractors there will be a plethora of services to meet diverse needs. We want County Durham to be a healthy, happy and supportive place to live.”
Anyone who would like to seek help and support from the wide variety of services offered by the Waddington Street Centre can find out more by visiting: https://www.waddingtoncentre.co.uk/
More information about the County Durham Mental Wellbeing Alliance can be found on their website at: https://www.durhammentalwellbeingalliance.org/