A story by GAMH
We provided social opportunities for mental health carers including those from hardly reached communities to participate in “Me Time” health and wellbeing sessions, social activities and outings. Outings focused on fun time out from caring.
What ME TIME did
Before delivering our Me Time Project to the mental health carers we fully consulted with them through questionnaires and a focus group prior to the funding commencing. Issues e.g. social isolation were prominent for the carers and they were keen to be able to meet other carers through social opportunities and well being events, It was highly evident that meeting other mental health carers would help to reduce the stigma and subsequent social isolation experienced.
All suggestions were taken on board and implemented by the staff team and any barriers to inclusion e.g. mobility problems were identified and addressed. Carers were identified through our assessment and review processes and those carers with the most need for a break from caring and those who hadn't accessed the 'Me Time' project were given priority.
The Me Time project was promoted widely through a variety of media and networking opportunities. These included social media, GAMH website, carers partnership and external agencies who we work closely with e.g. The Mental Health Network and Patient Focus Public Involvement forum.
We delivered two social opportunities and two wellbeing events, these included activities such as Cinema, Afternoon Tea, A Play, A pie and A Pint and two group lunches which promoted positive health and wellbeing by providing some fun time out from caring. Our plan was to deliver six social opportunities and four wellbeing events throughout the year, however, unfortunately we were informed that the GAMH Carers project was to be decommissioned at the end of April 2019.
The carers then asked that their second wellbeing event be a group lunch affectionately named " The Last Supper" to accommodate a larger group than normal and end their support on a positive experience. " It was the first time I got to have a meal in a restaurant in Glasgow, I enjoyed the company of the other carers, I have now made friends" "I enjoyed the day out, it was very good and nice to be away from the pressures and responsibilities even for a few hours" " it was good to be taken out of the seriousness of caring role and just to be entertained and have fun, to connect with other carers".
What GAMH has learned
We found that this type of respite project adds a great deal of value with positive outcomes for unpaid mental health carers. Particularly in regards to reducing social isolation which is prevalent in mental health caring. We have delivered this model of respite for several years and our consultation and feedback highlights the difference the social and wellbeing opportunities have on overcoming loneliness, isolation and thus improving health and wellbeing.
Further evidence has been gathered in the benefit of meeting peers who share similar experiences. Mental health carers realise they are not alone.
How GAMH has benefitted from the funding
The project was highly valued by mental health carers who accessed our service and also other carers services and statutory providers. This was evident by the response to the decommissioning of our service. However there are no other mental health specific carer projects in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area. Therefore, unfortunately rather than celebrating the good practice and excellent service provided a decision was made to decommission our service.
The mental health and wellbeing of mental health carers is improved. The Cared for receives indirect benefit too. Mental health carers self-report improved mental health and wellbeing mental health carers are more aware of what protects and promotes their mental health and wellbeing.
Although our project was cut short and we were unable to achieve positive outcomes for as many carers as we had anticipated we still were able to deliver fully on the outcomes we set. We evaluated the outcomes with a wellbeing scale from 1-5 (poor -good) at every social opportunity and wellbeing event and all carers reported either a 4 or 5 on our state of wellbeing scale after each event. Carers attending also reported positive feedback again with 4's and 5's on things such as 'I had fun', ' I feel less isolated', 'I feel recharged and rested', "'I feel supported in my caring role' and' I feel less stressed'. One carer said" I enjoyed everything. It was nice to meet other people in similar situations and it was good to have people to talk to" The cared for person received indirect benefit from the break with one carer reporting " my son likes watching movies online so this gives me something to talk to him about and have a discussion with him".
MS cares for his wife and who suffers from Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and also is the primary carers for his two young children. The family are Asylum Seekers and are waiting on a decision on their application on Indefinite Leave to Remain. This means that money is tight on top of the mental health problems his wife suffers from. There is little scope to do anything nice for any of the family. When MS was referred to the project it was clear he was struggling with caring for his wife. We told him about the Me Time project and he felt that connecting with other people in similar situation would be very beneficial for his own mental health and wellbeing but expressed that travel would be difficult as it would require him to get public transport into town to attend the Cinema and Afternoon Tea social outing as he could not afford the bus fares. It was decided to offer MS a refund on an all day ticket when he came along on the day so he was able to attend and this was no longer a barrier for him. MS reported a jump from a 2 to a 5 on our wellbeing scale and reported all 5's in relation to having fun, feeling less stressed and supported. He said "The team was great and the other carers were very friendly, I particularly enjoyed the Afternoon tea" he also reported an indirect benefit for his wife " My wife was satisfied she could allow me to take a break from caring for her".
Mental Health carers are better able to take part in activities outside of their caring role which sustain their caring role and have improved connections with the community
We were able to use our Me Time project funding to access a low cost option for a social opportunity that carers could easily save for and organise themselves when the project ended. We organised an outing to see a musical comedy called Spuds through A Play , A Pie and A Pint followed by tea and cake. The feedback from our evaluations was extremely positive with every carer reporting 5's on a scale from 1-5 on how much they enjoyed the activity. "It was a good play, good company, well organised- Excellent!", "It was fantastic, so funny, lovely to see people, took over the wee café and it was a very good afternoon. Fabulous". Once again all carers reported 4's and 5's on our state of wellbeing scale (1-5). The project aimed to get carers to engage in activities out with their caring role and connect with their community and some of the carers who met at outings have continued to meet up independently to see A Play, A Pie and A Pint once every two months.
PJ carers for her son who has ongoing mental health issues. This is very stressful for her and she sometimes struggles to take time out to enjoy herself. PJ was identified through the review process to attend the next social opportunity as her son was particularly unwell and this was impacting on her own wellbeing as she was increasingly isolating herself from others. PJ came along to the play and reported a 5 in her enjoyment of the activity. She said" I enjoyed it, it was good because I haven't got an opportunity to see a show in a long time. I enjoyed the company of other carers. Tea and cake were so nice!". PJ also reported a jump from a 2 to a 5 on the wellbeing scale and said the outing indirectly benefited her son as "It gave me something new and nice to talk about". PJ is also one of the carers attending A Play A Pie and A Pint independently with others she met at the outing we organised and has informally fed back to us that they are really enjoying their wee days out.
Carers will have fun, rest and relaxation by participating in wellbeing events, taster sessions and social outings and opportunities.
In response to our service being decommissioned this outcome was only partially met. The staff team consulted widely with all of the carers and our second well being event was a farewell lunch affectionately called The Last Supper. Twenty five carers attended this event.Regardless of this the evaluations collected show that carers had an improvement in wellbeing. Please see some of the feedback below.
A snap shot of some feedback includes; " Don't often get time to spend with those who understand or even time to get out at all. Because of family problems we don't get to go out together. Lovely break and brilliant company. Feel cared for myself for a change." "Really enjoyed today as I'd been feeling stressed and anxious over the last few days. Today really helped me relax and unwind" " Great food, Great company" " More relaxed, calm, feeling I have had self care today , feeling blessed." " I have really am really grateful for the support and activities I have done with GAMH, I have enjoyed it loads. Thanks!" " Meeting all the other carers and workers, good conversation, we had a good laugh and plenty of fun."
Additional project outcome
Hardly reached carers have access to short breaks and respite activities.
One of our carers who is 62 years old with long-term, multiple caring responsibilities, living in a SIMD area who has neglected her own wellbeing over the years and now has chronic physical health issues was identified as an ideal candidate for the ME Time project. The carer would have been unable to participate in the Me Time project without additional support due to financial and mobility issues. She is often excluded from older people services because she is under the 65 year old age criteria for access to these services. Even though her needs require this support. We therefore provided taxis for her to come along and participate in our opportunities. She reported that this made a difference to her wellbeing and she felt less isolated as a result. " I don't get out much anymore and this has been a breath of fresh air for me, had such a good time and a laugh with the other carers and staff, thanks for helping me get here the taxis were a wee bonus" She also reported a benefit for those she cares for "will make me more patient and this will help the people I care for, thanks a million".