A story by Glasgow Association for Mental Health
We provided activities for mental health carers including those from hardly reached communities to participate in “Me Time” health and wellbeing sessions and social outings.
Sessions included pampering, relaxation, self-management tips and arts and crafts focusing on fun time out from caring.
What Me Time did
We delivered a bespoke Me Time respite project to unpaid mental health carers to enable them to reduce the social isolation and health inequalities they experience. Outings and wellbeing events were delivered through full consultation with carers which made them successful and well attended. Outings were held bi-monthly and wellbeing events quarterly. Our learning and experience gained through previous respite projects enabled us to deliver a model of support which provided positive outcomes for all involved; therefore, the project went to plan.
Carers who participated in our respite Me Time opportunities were able to have a life outside or alongside their caring role, better social connections and to participate in wellbeing taster sessions which benefited their health and wellbeing. This enabled them to continue in their caring role. The quarterly wellbeing events were very successful as we were able to reach more carers than anticipated these included, a Spa day, Tripudio, Krav Maga and Arts and Crafts.
Some feedback included, Spa Day “really relaxing massage therapy and coffee afternoon to meet with friends and have time to myself” Tripudio “ been taken out of myself” Krav Maga “ It made me more positive”
These activities have a positive effect on the carers wellbeing one profound quote received was as follows: “ if I feel well mentally and physically I am better able to support those that I care for, feeling part of a community of carers puts the difficulties I face into perspective which helps those I care for”.
Feedback for social outings included a trip on the Waverley “I waited almost 30 years to go on the Waverley! Great amazing experience, very grateful”. Our trip to Kelburn Castle was also well received “Brilliant day out in the country, a complete break from stress.”
What Glasgow Association for Mental Health has learned
We have learned the importance of tailoring the project around individual carers needs and ensuring the service is accessible to maximise participation. “I choose the most appropriate breaks taking into consideration my own physical ability or inability on mobility issues, I find all GAMH staff very helpful with this issue.
All staff support, encourage and understand “This was our third funded Me Time project and we have learned through previous delivery to reduce the quantity of The Me Time project as we also deliver training and learning opportunities separately. We have also learned that direct feedback from cared for with mental health problems is challenging because of the nature of their illness.
For example, someone with a paranoid illness would be suspicious of questions from someone they do not know, carers may not inform their loved one that they are attending our project. We have also developed relationships and supported local organisations by holding our wellbeing events in their premises. Such as the Calton Heritage Centre and GCVS.
We always endeavour to find funding for our Me Time project, however, we face additional challenges as we are part of a larger organisation with funding that excludes us from many grants which are available for smaller community groups.
How Glasgow Association for Mental Health has benefitted from the funding
Being awarded this funding from The Short Breaks Fund strengthens the organisations reputation. This also recognises the importance of promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in general within society. It undoubtedly adds value to the service we provide to mental health carers by assisting them with their own recovery and wellbeing. Being part of Shared Care Scotland’s network is also beneficial for us as staff as it enables us to keep up to date with carer legislation and new developments with lots of learning and development opportunities. It has enabled us to develop new relationships with local organisations too.
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.
The feedback that we received from the carers through pre and post questionnaires, our focus group and cared for responses showed that there was a significant improvement in carers’ health and wellbeing with all carers reporting an improvement. This is an important outcome as we are aware of the health inequalities unpaid mental health carers experience. The group of carers we support had reported significant health problems. Feedback includes “I felt very relaxed the treatment took away my pain” “Don’t laugh much so it was really good to laugh” “I feel nice and refreshed now was feeling fed up before I came” “I feel more positive and this will keep me in a good mood and will improve my relationship with my son.” “It was good talking to everyone and I had a lot of fun which I don’t have often” Cared for response “Makes mum more relaxed and less tense. So copes a wee bit better as a carer”
Ms M has very poor physical and mental health and during our assessment she identified that caring for her daughter had a significant negative impact on both. She suffers with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression and Anxiety which impacts negatively on her daily life. We suggested she attend our Health and Wellbeing events to allow her to try new ways of self managing her illnesses and to meet up with other carers in similar situations to boost her mental wellbeing. Ms M attended our Wellbeing event with Arts and Crafts, Tripudeo and Massage and on our wellbeing scale she reported an improvement going from a 1 (very poor) to a 5 (very good). After the event she said “loved it, just doing something for myself, self care" and "helped my sore muscles and headaches relaxed my anxiety, slept better” On our end of year evaluation she reported all 5's in regards to the following questions we asked which included the following statements; State of wellbeing, I had fun, I feel less isolated, I feel rested and recharged, I feel more supported in my caring role and I feel less stressed. Ms M said of the Creative Breaks "If I didn't get a break I wouldn't be able to look after her physically and mentally"
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.
Providing our Me Time project had a positive effect in reducing social isolation and carers enjoyed meeting others who understood their situation. Many carers also became friends and now contact each other out with our service. They have developed a WhatsApp Group to keep in contact. “It was good to have a chat to others in similar situations” From the end of year focus group 17 of the 20 carers reported a significant reduction in social isolation. Some feedback includes “It just really helped me talking to other carers as I feel pretty isolated a lot” “They definitely make you feel less isolated” “ Someone else organising it makes it possible when you’re caring you lose motivation to do anything for yourself” “ Good coffee, good cake and good company. ”I have enjoyed today it was great meeting new people and I enjoyed getting away for a break.” “Feel supported, enjoyed the company, less isolated everyone got on well”. “Feel strengthened and better able to care.”
Mrs O identified during the assessment process her loneliness and disclosed to us that her and her son have had very little contact with other people outside services, this had led to her being very isolated and she was prioritised for the next social opportunity. The next opportunity that we organised was a trip on the Waverley and this coincided with Mrs O’s birthday which we felt would be a wonderful experience for her and she was very excited about being able to get away for the day as she has always wanted to go on the Waverley. Mrs O’s son cannot be left alone and receives support from GAMH Self Directed Support team. We arranged with the SDS team to provide support for her son on the day of the trip to allow Mrs O to attend. Mrs O had a great birthday and really enjoyed meeting with other carers during the boat trip and the lunch in Dunoon. Mrs O completed our individual activity evaluation and said “First time I have had this opportunity, I have dreamed about this and I am glad it has come true”. The evaluations included a scale about the state of your wellbeing numbered 1-5. Mrs O reported a jump from 2 to 5 from before and after the trip. Mrs O also reported all 5’s for having fun, feeling less isolated, feeling recharged and rested, feeling more supported in her caring role and feeling less stressed. At our end of year evaluation on the project as a whole Mrs O told us “I waited almost 30 years to go on the Waverley! Great, amazing experience, very grateful.”
Carers will have fun, rest and relaxation by participating in wellbeing events, taster sessions and social outings and opportunities.
It was pleasing for us to see through our returned questionnaires and focus group consultations that carers reported that they had fun. At the end of year evaluation 100% of carers reported that they had fun. 100% of carers also reported that the breaks enabled them to feel recharged and rested. “really relaxing, massage therapy and coffee afternoon to meet with friends and have time to myself”, “stress buster and coffee and chat after very connecting” “it cheered me up being with other carers was good” “ literally took us out of this world! Inspiring!” “The Creative Breaks are great. They help us be ourselves. Here’s hoping they continue” “If I feel well mentally and physically I’m better able to support those I care for. Feeling part of a community of carers puts the difficulties I face into perspective which helps those I care for”
For one of our health and Wellbeing events we held a Pamper Day at Pure Spa with coffee and cake afterwards held in Cup in Glasgow. Ms R was identified during her review for this break as things had been particularly tough in her caring role recently as her son’s mental health had taken a dip and this had impacted her own health and wellbeing. Ms R was asked to pick what treatment she would like and she opted for a massage to ease her aching joints. In the evaluation of the day Ms R said of the massage “I felt very relaxed, treatment took away my pain”, she said of the coffee morning in Cup “lovely venue, lovely cake, nice to have the time to talk to other carers in such a nice venue. I felt very special and cared for.” On our evaluation scale from 1-5 Ms R reported a jump from a 2 to a 5 for the state of her wellbeing saying “This was a special treat from start to finish, the pain has gone from my shoulders”. In our end of year evaluation for the whole project Ms R said “ I feel grateful for the Creative Breaks funding and the care that goes into making them happen, they have been enjoyable and believe me you need enjoyment when you are a carer!”
Additional project outcome
Hardly reached carers have access to short breaks and respite activities outcome. We ensured carers participated by providing transport and holding events in accessible venues. Individual needs were identified through our assessment and review processes.”
One of our health and wellbeing events was held in the Calton Heritage and Learning Centre close to our office in the city centre, this event focused on Arts and Crafts, Tripudeo and Massage with lunch being provided. Mr S is from the BME community and is Sikh and despite being a young man he is very isolated within his community due to his wife’s mental health problems as there is a lack of understanding and huge stigma still surrounding mental health. Mr S came to us and initially was reluctant to join in any group activities we offer but during his assessment he told us about his love of art, we told him about the Wellbeing Event and he agreed it could be positive for him. Mr S attended our event and using the same scale we use from 1-5 he reported his enjoyment of the day as a 5 saying “Enjoyed playing with crayons and paint, got engrossed in what I was doing. Gave me a push to do art stuff at home” “! I really enjoyed the day, enjoyed meeting the other carers too. Thank You” he also rated his wellbeing going from a 3 to a 5 on the day. Mr S went onto access other opportunities available to him including learning and training opportunities including Scottish Mental Health First Aid Training after meeting other carers at the event as they gave him the confidence to open up to other people about his caring role.