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People with mental health issues have joined leaders from the NHS, county and district councils, housing and the voluntary sector from across North Yorkshire for the first-ever Mental Health Summit.

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The summit, Mental Health: Moving in the Right Direction, was called to raise awareness of mental health issues and to begin to address concerns about levels of mental health support in the county.

Hosted by the North Yorkshire Health and Well-being Board in Harrogate, the summit attracted participants with a wide range of experiences and disciplines to debate key issues, best practice and set out future actions.

“We decided to bring people with first-hand experience of accessing mental health services together with people from a wide range of health, social care and public, private and community sector organisations,” said  County Councillor Michael Harrison, Chair of the Board and Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health Integration.

“This day has given us an insight into how we better understand mental ill-health and best provide and improve mental health services.

“The summit provided invaluable feedback that will help us to move in the right direction”.

Over 100 delegates made pledges on a range of actions.  Richard Webb, county council corporate director for Health and Adult Services pledged to push ahead with the agenda to improve mental health services across the county and to share personal insights and experiences where they helped to raise awareness and tackle stigma.

Cllr Harrison pledged that all county council managers would have further training to understand mental health condition better.

Amanda Bloor, Chief Officer for the NHS Harrogate and Rural District CCG said mental health and wellbeing should be regarded as equally important as physical health and wellbeing: “There should be no difference in the quality and breadth of provision and our task now is to work with the people and services in North Yorkshire to ensure this is the case”.

Gareth Atkinson, a county council telecommunications technician shared his personal experience at the Summit of living with mental health issues, his daily battle with anxiety and historically depression and how he uses his interest in wildlife photography to help him manage that. He also encouraged delegates to acknowledge that “It’s OK not to be OK” and talked about steps that employers can take to help people with mental health issues in the workplace.

Rob Webster, Chief Executive for the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Integrated Care System (which brings together all NHS bodies in that area) shared personal and professional experiences and set out his ambitions for better services.

Speakers from North Yorkshire Youth Voice talked about their experiences of growing up with mental health issues and how problems needed to be tackled at an earlier stage.

Already in North Yorkshire, clinical commissioning groups, NHS Trusts, councils and voluntary organisations are working to develop community mental health services and there have also been a number of recent targeted initiatives:

  • New funding to roll out NHS perinatal mental health services across North Yorkshire, led by Harrogate and Rural Area CCG;
  • The Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys Mental Health Trust has upgraded a number of mental health facilities across the county
  • Plans are being developed to extend community mental health services
  • Public Health is leading work in North Yorkshire on suicide prevention, targeting high risk groups such as men in their 30s and 40s
  • The County Council has protected social care mental health spending during austerity and has invested in additional specialist staff, as well wider mental ill-health prevention through the Stronger Communities and Living Well services
  • A new partnership approach across mental health and learning disability between clinical commissioning groups, North Yorkshire County Council and the Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys Mental Health Trust to innovate services and improve outcomes across North Yorkshire

“The urgent need for better mental health services has become a national priority” said Cllr Harrison, “We called this summit to bring the issue to the top of the agenda in North Yorkshire. Good work is already happening across the county through our existing mental health strategy and we are determined to carry on working together to develop mental health support further.”