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Mind Your Head team in place ahead of mental health support service launch

Mind Your Head's new team, from left to right: supporting practitioner Charity Johnson, wellness practitioner Aimee Barclay, service manager Anouska Civico, finance/admin assistant Joanna Breeze and wellness practitioner Derry Meredith. Photo: Shetland News/Neil Riddell.

MENTAL health charity Mind Your Head is entering a new era after getting all the necessary staff in place ahead of the launch of a one-to-one support service for local people and carers later this month.

Four new members of staff have now been recruited after the organisation secured £300,000 in lottery and EU LEADER programme funding over the next three years.

The Market House-based charity, founded in 2005, has spent the last decade or so raising awareness of mental health issues – most notably through its popular annual fun run in the South Mainland.

The new support service will officially launch at the Cunningsburgh running event on 27 August, and the four new staff – joining service manager Anouska Civico – are now in position.

She said it was an exciting time for the charity which now had the “biggest team Mind Your Head has ever had” and described the new staff, most of whom began their new jobs on Monday, as “fresh-faced and ready to go”.

Derry Meredith, who has moved to the isles from Perth, and Aimee Barclay fill two full-time wellness practitioner roles.

They will work alongside individuals aged 18 and over to improve their wellbeing and ability to function from day to day. Support will be offered for a period of up to three months, and Anouska said the two were hoping to support 32 people in each quarter.

The focus will be on “low level intervention – getting in early to prevent [someone’s issues] turning into a crisis” – often in cases where someone’s mental health problems are not deemed serious enough to be referred to the NHS’s under-resourced service.

Anouska said Mind Your Head was looking to pick up people who may have visited a GP who has “nowhere to signpost them to”, as well as people who are struggling but have not engaged with a doctor at all.

While women are more likely to seek help, Mind Your Head – through its “grubby hut” workplace initiative – has been trying to encourage more men to speak to someone when they are struggling.

While they are not trained counsellors, Derry said the principal role of wellness practitioners was simply to provide someone for people to talk to so they “know they’re not on their own”, to “help them look at their own situation and what they can do for themselves”, and if necessary direct them to other sources of help.

Aimee agreed, saying it was about providing reassurance and support: “It’s a big thing – nobody likes to ask for help, to be a burden,” she said. “But it can be important to have someone to speak to who’s not family and friends.”

Derry and Aimee will be joined by Charity Johnson as a part-time supporting practitioner.

She will offer short term help over a period of six to eight weeks to anyone caring for someone with mental health problems. That will include practical tips on what to do if someone has a panic attack, or how to deal with someone who is struggling to get out of the house.

Charity said she had found things difficult when she came to the islands and “I wished there was something like this service – people that I could speak to – when I first moved here”.

Joanna Breeze, meanwhile, has been recruited to work part-time as a finance and administration assistant.

Anouska said a monthly “planned activities programme” would also be run to encourage people to get together, and that will be open to anyone in Shetland.

The new service is “nothing out of the ordinary” in a UK-wide context, but those involved with Mind Your Head have long known it was a “massive gap” despite all the great work done to raise awareness over the past 12 years.

She said charities like Mind Your Head were keen to emphasise that everyone has mental health in the same way everyone has physical health: “All of us have difficult times, good times and bad times. Sometimes people need help only for a short time – that’s quite normal.

“What we just need now is for people to refer and enquire. I’m confident that we’re not going to struggle to get the word out.”

  • For more information about Mind Your Head’s new support service, you can call (01595) 745035 or visit www.mindyourhead.org.uk/contact. The charity is also hosting an open day at Market House this Friday (14 August) from 11am until 3pm.
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