Spotlight

Innovative mental health hub opens in Bridgwater

A new high street centre opened this week in Bridgwater that promises support for people with mental health challenges.

Based in the town centre, people can walk into the Fore Street hub to access the mental health support they need.

It’s part of the innovative Open Mental Health alliance between the NHS in Somerset and a number of voluntary sector organisations – which work together to ensure that people with mental health difficulties get the right support at the right time.

Helen Surridge, our operational service manager for the Bridgwater and Minehead community mental health service, said the hub has been developed as a community base where patients can be seen for a range of mental health appointments.

“Just some of the many services available at the hub include psychoeducation groups for sleep hygiene, food and mood, and general health and wellbeing education,” she said.

“People can access the hub either via their GP, another healthcare practitioner, or via a self-introduction. Depending on a person’s needs, support would then be provided either by the NHS or by one of the wide range of third sector partners, including, for example, Citizen’s Advice, Age UK Somerset or Second Step, a community mental health charity.

“We also have a section for group sessions, which can be of real benefit to some people, as well as a series of consultation rooms where people can be seen by mental healthcare professionals on a one-to-one basis.

“The group room, in particular, will be of huge benefit as there is limited space in the local area for face-to-face group sessions, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic as we had to limits the number of people that were allowed in a room together and some buildings changed their use altogether.”

Colleagues from Somerset FT and the Open Mental Health alliance worked closely with a number of experts by experience – people who’ve had experience of mental health or homelessness services – to get their ideas.

“The contribution of our experts by experience proved invaluable,” Helen continued. “They helped to inform the type of services available at the hub, as well as important things like the building décor.

“One of the themes that shone through from the experts by experience was how they didn’t want to be seen at a typical NHS-type facility, such as a hospital or health centre, as they felt there was a stigma attached to it.

“Previously these people would have been seen at the Glanville House NHS centre, also in Bridgwater, or at one of the town’s GP practices.

“With a number of people who need housing or homelessness services, in particular, being unable to drive or not have access to a vehicle, being right in the middle of town means the hub is easily accessible to them.

“It will also be handy for NHS trust and Open Mental Health Alliance colleagues, who will have access to general hot desking facilities to prepare for appointments or write up notes afterwards.”

With both NHS and Open Mental Health colleagues located in the same building, those informal but important conversations about an individual’s social circumstances can take place, which are sometimes vital in their longer term care.

Jane Yeandle, our service director for mental health and learning disabilities, said: “It is great that we have this opportunity to provide people in and around Bridgwater this high street facility.

“This development is all part of our endeavour to support access and early interventions for people struggling with mental health challenges. We look forward to further developing the venue in the forthcoming months.”

Aileen Edwards, chief executive of Second Step, said:

“We’re delighted to continue the trailblazing work of Open Mental Health alongside our NHS colleagues and our Open Mental Health experts by experience in Somerset.

“The opening of the Fore Street Hub will expand the options available for people in Bridgwater and beyond to receive immediate in-person mental health support. This is hugely important at a time when people are struggling and we’re in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

“We’re confident that by valuing the lived experience of our staff and volunteers, and through working with our experts by experience, we’ve created a uniquely supportive and responsive safe space.”