Wigan man aiming to bridge gaps in mental health services

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Kieran Jones, from Bamfurlong, is teaming up with the Independent Mental Health Network to launch the Wigan and Leigh Mental Health Forum this week.

The new forum aims to give those being treated by the NHS a powerful voice and ensure health bosses are aware of patients’ views.

To work alongside the NHS, Kieran is also rebranding and expanding his grassroots mental health organisation as Bridging The Gap.

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That is providing a range of services, including peer support, groups helping those struggling with their mental health or wellbeing issues and taking crisis calls.

Kieran JonesKieran Jones
Kieran Jones

Kieran says it is important for Bridging The Gap to work with the NHS, as it does not have the resources or the number of people working in it which are required to tackle the scale of the problem.

The 40-year-old, who has had his own battles with mental health issues, said: “The NHS is under-staffed, under-funded and overworked. We aim to bridge that gap and take some of the strain off the NHS.

“We will support people going through the system. We will be with them while they are on the waiting list, which can be 12 or 13 weeks at the moment, and we want workers going to appointments with them so they understand what is happening.

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“We want independent support workers in hospital to guide people through the system.

“We also want to run different things for people once they are discharged from the NHS to ease them back into the community.

“I was in my dark place when I designed a lot of this.

People were coming through the system, sitting on the waiting list with a crisis team number to ring, having a course of sessions of CBT or counselling and thenbeing discharged and ending up isolated again.

“We need to make sure they’re not going back through that revolving door.

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“Things like relapses, which are part and parcel of any recovery process, are not covered enough.”

Bridging The Gap is currently being run as a virtual service but once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted Kieran says activities such as group support sessions will be moving to venues in the borough.

The launch of the new mental health forum on February 17 is also having to be done online.

Kieran is in the process of building up Bridging The Gap’s team and is also using social media to spread messages about mental health, using the likes of TikTok and Instagram as well as Facebook.

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Kieran says the expansion of mental health services is coming at the right time due to the difficulties many people are having at the moment with lockdown and other restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

He said: “I’ve been working on this for two years.

“I didn’t want to rush and I wanted to make sure I was in a good place.

“Mental health is worse than ever. Over the past two weeks we’ve had to get the emergency services out to save lives.

“People who’ve never struggled before are struggling. Anxiety is going through the roof. Domestic violence is going through the roof. I think it will only peak once we come out of lockdown.

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“I’ve been speaking to nurses and just wearing the full PPE at work has a massive impact.

“We will work with anybody.”

Bridging The Gap is also the Wigan and Leigh organisation on the Independental Mental Health Network, which ensures health bosses in Greater Manchester receive feedback from patients.

Project co-ordinator Rob Hemingway said: “We will be working together to ensure service users’ experiences are really listened to and they have a strong voice.

“This is absolutely essential moving forward to improve services and support.”

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Bridging The Gap and the Independent Mental Health Network launched the Wigan and Leigh Mental Health Forum last week.

To find out more visit www.instagram.com/bridginggap4mentalhealth/

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