All posts by 2gnft.comms

2gether Trust Working to Improve the Lives of Homeless People

People with poor mental health are at greater risk of experiencing the three main factors which can lead to homelessness: poverty, isolation and vulnerability.

In turn, being homeless can cause a decline in mental health and lead to anxiety, fear, depression, sleeplessness and substance misuse.

This is why ²gether is working in partnership with other organisations to improve the lives of homeless people in Gloucester.  The life expectancy of a street homeless person is just 42 years, compared with 74 for men and 79 for women in the general population. Andy Telford, ²gether’s Community Services Manager for the West Locality & Vocational Services, said: “The effect of being homeless on mental health and wellbeing is a big issue. We have homeless people in the community who are not engaged with our services, and some of them are clearly mentally unwell.  We’re trying to help them have access to what they need to support their mental health and overall wellbeing.”

At the George Whitefield Centre run by Gloucester City Mission, agencies including ²gether, Gloucestershire Care Services (GCS) NHS Trust, Change Grow Live and P3 are working together to provide ‘hub style’ care for rough sleepers.  Dave Kinghorn manages the centre in Great Western Road where homeless people can register and access GP clinics four days per week. Nurses are there five days a week to wash wounds and change bandages and clients can have a shower, a change of clothes, a hot meal and a clean sleeping bag.  A Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) visits weekly, as well as a podiatrist once a fortnight.

Gayle Clay, Team Manager with Gloucestershire Care Service NHS Trust’s Homeless Healthcare Team, has 22 years’ service with the NHS. She said: “We’re seeing a very high level of anxiety here, much higher than in general practice.

“This also impacts on nursing time. There’s a lot of listening ear – 98% of people here have experienced early years abuse. They have feelings of hopelessness and rock bottom self-esteem. Things we take for granted like a family network, they don’t have.”

Joanne, 49, who visits the centre, has a dependent personality disorder and is homeless.

She said: “I find coming here helpful because I need support but I can’t stay here forever, I need supported lodgings.  I was working at the job centre for 31 years but I had a breakdown.”

Rob Phillips, Joanne’s CPN, said: “Joanne had a husband, two kids, a job, money, a house and a car. She was offered redundancy and she took it but she lost her routine. She was a functional person then her dad died of cancer. Her marriage broke down. She didn’t have a mental health problem until the age of 46.

“Homelessness impacts on someone’s mental health and their physical health is affected, which then impacts on their mental health”, added Rob.

“Having no base and nowhere to go during the day is not going to be good for anyone’s mental health”.

Some of the other support provided at the centre involves building skills including:

  • Cookery and healthy eating courses
  • Help with maintaining accommodation
  • Access to drug and alcohol workers
  • Assessments
  • A recovery group
  • Narcotics Anonymous runs once a week on a Saturday

Andy added: “If someone has a complex need they may not engage.  It’s about creating opportunities and signposting people to services which meet those needs.  We can’t eradicate homelessness but we can make the engagement process much slicker.”

Losing the Need for Hospital – a blog by Ed

It’s more than three years since I was last in Wotton Lawn, but still when my mood dips I want to be back in hospital.

I spent almost 16 months on the recovery ward at Laurel House in Cheltenham, between November 2014 and February 2016, and when I left I was ready to live on my own. Living on my own had worked before. I’d tried living in shared housing, which really didn’t work.

I’ve been on my own for nearly two years now, and most of the time I am happy to be my own boss. But when I do get low – and the lows have been quite gentle recently – I want to be surrounded by fellow sufferers.

In the past I’ve helped other patients when still a patient myself. My role as an expert by experience is very present when dealing with young people new to hospital.

Fifteen years ago I was first sectioned and placed in Wotton Lawn. I didn’t want to be there and, for several years, hospital was the last place I wanted to be. Then it became a safe place for me. I had some bad breakdowns between 2008 and 2011 and it became my sanctuary – the big wide world looked very scary.

In 2015 I made a commitment to myself, that I would be sensible about my illness. There are many risks to living with paranoid schizophrenia, but I would do my best to stay out of hospital. A big step was seeking work, but there were many more small steps to be taken.

Hospital is no longer my happy, safe place; now it’s a big step backwards. Eventually I would like to work in Wotton Lawn, helping people in a similar situation to me. But for now I have to leave the need for help behind.

Time to Talk Carers’ Event

Do you regularly help or support a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague who has mental health difficulties or a learning disability? Do you do this without being paid?

If so, you could be classed as a carer.

On national Time to Talk Day – February 1 – we’re hosting an event for carers in Hereford.

There will be information and advice, including a question and answer session from our professionals, Herefordshire Carers Support and Crossroads Care. We’ll also have workshops, lunch and a pamper session.

Registration is from 9.30am and the event will end at 2.30pm. The venue is Saxon Hall, Hoarwithy Road, Hereford, HR2 6HE.

To book your place, ring our Social Inclusion Team on 01452 894200 or email

Expansion of Criminal Justice Liaison Service

The service which helps address the health and social needs of people in the Criminal Justice System within Gloucestershire has been expanded. The Criminal Justice Liaison Service, provided by ²gether NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with PROSPECTS and the Nelson Trust Women’s Centre, involves supporting adults and young people in custody and in the community who are facing criminal investigations. The service has been provided thanks to extra funding from NHS England as part of the national development of liaison and diversion services in England.

Andy Webb, Criminal Justice Liaison Service Team Manager said: “We have staff embedded in the police custody suite seven days per week and in court for all the court sessions. We also provide a service to the Crown Court when necessary.

“We are also working towards developing a service for those persons attending for a police voluntary interview in the community. This is to ensure that those invited to attend an interview outside of police custody receive an equitable provision.”

The main aim of the service is to identify health and social inequalities for people aged 10 and above who find themselves within the criminal justice system facing criminal investigation. This might include people with mental health issues, learning disabilities and substance misuse issues, as well as those with accommodation and financial problems.

In the first year, staff within the team of eight completed over 1,200 assessments. This averages at about four formal assessments per day, but the process is broken down into complex cases and informal ‘cell sweeps’ where issues are quickly identified.

For young people in Gloucestershire, the Youth Support Team (PROSPECTS) offers a comprehensive outreach service to pinpoint and respond to a variety of needs including emotional wellbeing/mental health, substance misuse and positive occupation. The Youth Support Team works closely with professionals within areas which support young people such as social care, early help, health and education.

The Nelson Trust Women’s Centre provides holistic support to women who need help with things like accommodation, mental and physical health, drugs and alcohol, finance and benefits, family and relationships, domestic abuse, sex work, education and training and attitudes and behaviour. Women who are arrested and identified as vulnerable through the Liaison and Diversion service can access the Women’s Centre. Each woman is allocated a keyworker who will work with them to develop an individualised plan of support. Niki Gould, head of Women’s Community Services said: “We encourage women to make choices to take control of their lives. We always believe in the possibility of change, and we never, ever give up hope”.


The Power of Positive Writing

Writing is more than a hobby; it helps with so many areas of my life. I believe, and I’ve been told, that I am good at it.

I’ve written two books about my experiences of mental illness which I hope to publish one day. I’ve also started writing short stories about mental illness. They are meant to be fiction but contain a lot of my own life.

Just the act of writing gives me a buzz. I write 500 words at one go and try to do that twice a week. Writing helps my mood and insight; I stay aware of illness and I’m happy to be creative.
From the very start of my illness in 2003, I said I was going to be a writer. I was going to write a philosophy book that would cure all the world’s ills. I still plan to write a philosophy book, but with more realistic expectations.

It wasn’t until I went back to university to study Religion, Philosophy and Ethics, that I learned to write. Before then I would write maybe only one paragraph and then get stuck. But, through writing essays at university, I discovered how to write.

Maybe one day I will be a full-time writer? I haven’t discovered the commercial possibilities of my writing yet, but at the moment I get so much out of it; being creative helps my confidence. Possessing such a skill gives me a great feeling of satisfaction.

It’s a way to express my hopes and fears. To put my worst experiences down in writing provides me with a great release. I feel can let go of some of my darkest times. Writing is a way to move on in life.

Maybe my writing will inspire people with similar problems? Hopefully it will show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Occupational Therapy: “The greatest thing you have probably never heard of.”

Occupational Therapy: “The greatest thing you have probably never heard of.”

“Today is the start of Occupational Therapy (OT) Week. During this week, we are challenged to raise the profile of the profession and the difference it makes to people’s lives across the UK.

“The Royal College of Occupational Therapists put out the usual call to action, this year asking us to be ‘Loud and Proud’ about the profession. So we have embraced the challenge and will be using a range of social media channels and local events to tell the world what Occupational Therapy is. We will be bringing together OTs across the counties we serve to network, share experiences and take a moment to be proud of what we achieve.

Rebecca Shute, Head of Profession for Occupational Therapy, 2gether NHS Foundation Trust

“So why bother?  Well, usually, we don’t really bother much at all; the odd info stand, maybe a case study, a last minute dash to do something, probably unnoticed by most of you reading this.

“Then, something happened that changed my view of why we should do more. Earlier in the year, an Expert by Lived Experience who came to a development session for the OT workforce shared her story about how OT had helped her recovery, so much so she aspires to one day train to be one. This was lovely feedback and a pat on the back for us, but she then said: ‘The problem with OT is that it’s the greatest thing that no one has ever heard of.’ She is probably right.

“Unless you are one, work with one, are related to one (and then that’s questionable as I’m sure my brothers think I am a nurse!) or happen to have benefited from the services of one then you probably won’t know what we do and the difference we make.

“It’s about time we changed that. Occupational therapists work in many different roles in health, social care, the voluntary sector, employment – the list goes on. But, fundamentally, no matter where we work, our purpose is to understand the impact of a person’s illness, disability, social circumstances or any other challenge on their ability to do the things they want to do and need to do, and most importantly work together to help them ‘live life their way’. It’s as simple as that.

“So hopefully, after this week, more people will know who we are and what we do and we can become the greatest thing that a lot more people know about!”


A day in the life of a children’s occupational therapist

This is a day in the life of an occupational therapist (OT) working with our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in Herefordshire:

“I arrive at the office and grab a coffee and sort through messages from parents, often about concerns or requests for support to help school understand. Returning calls and trying to catch teachers before lessons start is always a bit of a challenge.

“First appointment today with a young girl and her mum and dad. She is struggling at school with learning and socialising with others. Working with the whole family helps to see how they are together. Some roleplay helped us all to understand what happens when things go wrong and lead to her social isolation. As OTs, we are really skilled in coming up with practical strategies to manage challenges. Some cutting, sticking and laminating later for this family, they have a traffic light system to use at home and school to help her share how she feels.

“Dealing with the unexpected is part of every single day in a CAMHS team. This time, a phone call from a distressed dad whose son is struggling to come to terms with the death of a friend by suicide. Drawing on the skills of the medic and psychologist in the team, together we can support him through the grieving process.

“My skills as an OT really help to support young people to achieve success in spite of their challenges with anxiety. Planning activities so they are achievable is a really important part of what we do. This might be homework, essays, meeting friends after school or things that are more important to them, such as being able to ask for a can of Coke in the canteen.

“Helping schools to understand how best to support someone and enable their success is so important. Often, it’s about helping teachers to understand the young person’s experiences and suggest that maybe asking them to read aloud in front of the class isn’t the best thing right now. We can challenge them with that later, but first let’s give them a space where they can be confident enough to do their learning.

“At lunchtime there is time to catch up with my fellow OTs, to share knowledge about a new referral and the best approach to support a young boy who has been diagnosed with Selective Mutism following a major trauma and is struggling in school. Sharing experience and picking the brains of colleagues is always useful.

“Every day is different and being creative (another OT skill!) about how we might support a person to overcome their challenges is a great part of the role. Today, it’s running down to the radiology department at the County Hospital to take lots of photos of the department, X-ray machines and members of staff holding a board with messages of encouragement for a girl who is on the Autistic Spectrum who is trying hard to overcome a specific phobic of X-rays so she can have  important surgery.  Brilliant!

“It’s a busy, demanding job with many positives and the odd challenge or two. Now and again, things happen which remind us why we do what we do. While cycling home, I pass a young person I used to work with who is hanging out with his mates and ‘being cool’ but manages to give me a quick grin that reassures me all is still going well; phew.”

A night in the life of an occupational therapist

A night in the life of an occupational therapist

Lucy is an occupational therapist with the Trust’s Mental Health Acute Response Team. She shares a night in her life…

“I’ve just finished a night shift at the Maxwell Suite and am looking forward to sinking into bed.

“On my drive home I have been reflecting on the many conversations I’ve had during the night; with my colleagues, the police, AMHPs, doctors, the accident and emergency department, the wards, taxi drivers, service users and family members – true multi-agency working!

“Many were conversations with services users who can’t sleep because of their intrusive thoughts or voices. As an occupational therapist, my skills in understanding how mental illness can impact on the things we want to do and need to do come in really useful. They help me identify what might help. things people enjoy that might be a distraction, but also sometimes just to listen and acknowledge how tough it feels.

“There was a call from the police. They have detained someone and are on route to the Maxwell suite and we will soon need to meet them and understand how we can best support the person.

“While on my phone call I could hear a colleague talking to someone on the phone and asking how many pills they had taken and trying to gently get information about their whereabouts.

“Another colleague is on a call with carers, who are desperately trying to advocate for a loved one, while they can be heard in distress in the background.

“As I end my call, I reach over for information about where the service user might be, and call an ambulance.   Working together and supporting each is so important in this role.

“Then everything falls quiet and tea is made. The three of us on nights write up our notes, still wondering how that family are managing their distressed loved one and if the ambulance has found the other person.

“At 2am, a moment of respite, the bright office light goes off and the lamp on. Everything falls silent.

“2.30am: The front buzzer goes. The police are standing with the service user they have brought in for assessment.  They are welcomed and reassured.  Physical health checks are completed and tea and toast offered. It’s really important to remember the small things that can make a tough situation a little bit better.  The police go and the AMHP and doctor are called.  The suite bustles with people and work continues till daylight breaks.

“After a busy shift I arrive home and make a cup of tea to take to bed.  There’s something nice about sleeping in the day while my untouched cuppa goes cold.”

A Day in the Life of Jon

Jon Haynes is a Consultant Psychiatrist with the Gloucestershire Recovery in Psychosis (GRiP) / Early Intervention team

“I’ve worked for the Trust for five years. After qualifying in 1997, I did a range of jobs including surgery, but became much more interested in psychiatry. I find it allows you to get to know patients better and understand what makes them tick.  It’s more of a challenge”.

“My day to day work is wonderfully varied. My day often starts with a team meeting.  This includes professionals such as occupational therapists, social workers and nurses. No day really looks the same because I see patients in clinics or in their own homes.  I supervise junior doctors and my team, and teach medical students.”

“A highpoint is seeing the impact of the annual outward bound trip which some of our service users go on, organised by the GRiP Team. They come back with increased confidence and a sense of autonomy which they didn’t have before.”

“I’m also Associate Medical Director and Clinical Director; therefore I also help shape the future of mental health services for Gloucestershire and Herefordshire; I contribute to the clinical governance programme that gives assurance to the public that services provided by 2gether are safe.”

“We undertake more home visits in Early Intervention than in most other teams as we aim to increase engagement because the early years are so crucial for the long-term trajectory of psychotic illness. It’s a job where you can make a huge difference but it’s a challenge because we are still combatting a degree of stigma. Psychiatry can often be under appreciated as it takes commitment and time to keep working at it to realise what a fantastic speciality it is.”

“I love all of it, the variety, but what I love most is people getting better and patients either returning to normal health, or recovering and gaining a meaningful life even if symptoms are persistent”.

Dursley RFC support campaign to tackle mental health stigma

A Gloucestershire rugby club is tackling stigma around mental ill health.

Dursley Rugby Football Club has joined forces with the Gloucestershire Tackling Stigma partnership, a multi-agency group which works to reduce the stigma around mental illness.

The Tackling Stigma group includes NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucestershire County Council, Gloucestershire Hospitals  NHS Foundation Trust, Independence Trust, Stroud District Council, Gloucestershire Constabulary, ISIS Women’s Centre and Healthwatch Gloucestershire.

The group, which meets regularly, has a focus on raising awareness of mental health issues and tackling stigma within sport.  As part of this, the group has produced a series of themed stickers and is working with a number of National Governing Bodies and sports clubs to spread the word.

Jane Bullows, Sport and Health Development Manager at Stroud District Council, is one of the representatives of the Tackling Stigma group. On visiting Dursley RFC she said: “We know that one in four people will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives and we want to encourage them to feel more safe, supported and able to talk about their feelings.

“Sport is known for its inclusivity and we aim to encourage sports clubs, whether it be spectators, players, coaches or officials, to be more aware of their mental and emotional wellbeing and to know where to gain further support. Dursley RFC is a great proponent of a positive and proactive club and the first to show their support for this campaign.”

Melissa Bundy, aged 31, plays front row for Dursley RFC ladies’ team. As someone who has experienced mental health issues, she understands the importance of tackling the stigma around this area.

She said: “I suffer with depression and anxiety, so going to the club when I joined was a massive thing for me.

“But I was welcomed with open arms and now these ladies are more than just team mates; they are my mates and my extended family. The game and the club has made me more confident about myself and I look forward to the future of Dursley ladies.”

Nicola Davies, Marketing and PR Officer, Dursley RFC, added: “Sport has long been promoted as a way to look after your physical health, but it’s also proven to have a positive effect on your mental health as well.

“Our club is a community where we want everyone to feel safe and supported, able to discuss how they are feeling without any stigma or fear of repercussions. We fully support this campaign to kick mental health stigma into touch.”