The Committee received a presentation from the Health Improvement Officer in relation to an overview into Mental Health.
The presentation provided Members with statistical information in relation to how people’s mental health was a widespread and common issue, affecting individuals from all walks of life yet people remained reluctant to talk about it. Mental health problems could affect a person’s physical health, leading to long term health issues. One in four people experienced problems annually with one in six experiencing common problems in any given week e.g. anxiety or depression. Women were more likely to have suicidal thoughts and make suicide attempts but men were three times more likely to take their own life.
Members were informed that the statistical information was collated prior to the pandemic and only related to individuals over the age of sixteen, living in private housing in England, noting that it excluded a number of groups of people and those currently in hospital, prison, sheltered housing or homeless.
The presentation noted the impact the pandemic had had on children and young people’s mental health and how schools were struggling to cope with the complexities of that. The Charity, Young Minds, had undertook 4 national surveys throughout each part of the pandemic resulting in them recommending to Government that they: make wellbeing a priority in the schools catch-up planning; address the inconsistent mental health support available through schools; ensure that local charities and youth clubs provide vital early mental health help and support; and ensure that all young people know where and how to find support.
Members were provided with information as to what was available for residents locally and the number of referrals each organisation had received. They were also informed as to the work undertaken by the Council in their response to the pandemic and the planned future delivery of services.
In considering the presentation Members agreed that they all recognised the issues surrounding mental health and thanked the Officer for her presentation.
In acknowledging the work done in the community, a Member queried what support was available for members of staff and elected Members. In response, the Health Improvement Officer advised that there had been a programme of training within the Council and that each Business Unit had the support of a Mental Health Champion. This was due to be rolled out to include elected Members, adding that she worked closely with Human Resources to identify and help members of staff when necessary. She noted that bereavement was a particular issue during the pandemic, explaining that working remotely at home had removed the support network of colleagues in the workplace.
A Member queried whether the issue in schools was being addressed at both secondary and primary schools. The Health Improvement Officer advised that there was financial support in secondary schools and that all the Head Teachers in the district were supportive and prepared to pilot initiatives to help their students. Primary schools were provided with a great deal of information and resources and also physical activities to undertake with their students. She confirmed that there were networks for both secondary and primary schools.
In raising the issue of self-harming in schools, a Member queried whether data was collated and if so, what was done with it. The Health Improvement Officer advised that due to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) schools were reluctant to share the information they gathered.
In relation to the number of counselling sessions provided free of charge to staff, a Member queried why the Council provided six sessions but Active4Today (A4T) staff were limited to three. The Director – Communities & Environment advised that after A4T staff had received three sessions, managers reviewed the issues to see whether they could assist the individual. If they could not the individual was then entitled to a further three sessions.
In considering the presentation a Member noted his own experiences and the help and assistance he had received. He stated that there was more to do and that the multiple lockdowns, due to the pandemic, had exacerbated the situation.
A Member queried whether there had been any partnership working with Nottingham University who had undertaken a large piece of work on mental health a few years previously. The Health Improvement Officer advised that there had been no direct work with them on mental health but would welcome contact details if available.
In concluding the debate, the Chairman thanked the Officer for her presentation, adding that Members were now better informed on what signs to look out for should a person be suffering mental health issues.