Over the last year Time to Change Wales has been working closely with Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB and Swansea Bay UHB to develop and roll out a pilot module aimed at tacking mental health stigma within healthcare settings.

We know that stigma and discrimination is experienced across society in Wales, at many different levels and that healthcare settings are no exception. Stigma within healthcare settings can have a negative impact not only on a person’s access to and experience of services, but it can also hamper recovery, and can have an adverse effect on future help-seeking behaviour. We believe that addressing stigma is fundamental to delivering and futureproofing quality healthcare services and for achieving optimal health outcomes for all and we’re very grateful to CTMUHB and SBUHB for working with us towards this goal.

In preparation for this module, we reached out to our network of Champions and asked them to share their lived experiences in relation to their mental health, of accessing health care for both mental and physical health reasons. We had dozens of replies which highlighted some of the brilliant care they received, but also many stories of poor practice where they felt they had been stigmatised for their mental health. Many of our Champions and those with lived experience of mental health issues tell us that the stigma they experience in services as being worse than the diagnosis of a mental health problem.  We also reached out to healthcare professionals working within the health board to share their experiences of good and poor practice and brought them together with some of our Champions to film their discussions on this topic.

This interactive pilot module is an opportunity to explore mental health stigma and the different ways in which it affects people. Central to the training are three videos which include our Champions and health care professionals in conversation about the positive and negative things they have witnessed or experienced themselves, in terms of mental health stigma and the impact this has on patients but also staff. After each video there is a chance to reflect on the conversations though an open and honest group discussion and to consider what we can do to ensure the best possible care for patients and staff alike. We look at how we can work collectively to prevent stigma through role modelling good practise and managing difficult conversations. We also acknowledge the immense pressure healthcare professionals often face, and how we can manage our own personal mental health too.

Though some of the examples and case studies shared in the training are challenging to hear, we recognise that this is not standard practice and that on the whole experiences are positive. Rather than looking to point blame, we highlight examples of poor practise in order to have open conversations and to learn from the experiences, to reflect on our own practise and how we can improve patient care. As one participant said “A lot of professionals can find the subject of stigma and challenging stigma daunting, or feel the programme is looking to point blame but it’s the opposite of that. It was a lovely morning spent with the trainers, and I enjoyed – it allowed me time to reflect on my own practice and gain more knowledge and understanding.”

We’ve delivered our first few training sessions already, primarily on Microsoft Teams but also a couple of face-to-face sessions which was great! We’ve had a mix of attendees from across the health board and had some powerful conversations about mental health and stigma, with many recognising some of the examples of stigma shared having either witnessed it or experienced it themselves. We are so very grateful to those who have joined us so far and are encouraged that they will be helping to challenge mental health stigma within their healthcare setting.

There is still plenty of time to book on to training with sessions being held virtually every week in the new year up to March. Please contact learning and development for further information and to book on. 

If you have any questions, please email info@timetochangewales.org.uk.

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