Wendy Thompson is Senior Practitioner at BCHA’s new Community Front Room (CFR) in Weymouth. In her blog, Wendy shares her passion for supporting people with their mental health issues and the positive strategies she uses.
Community Front Rooms are a new service, which form part of Dorset HealthCare’s Access Mental Health initiative, which provides drop-in support to anyone over the age of 18 requiring support with their mental health. CFRs are open Thursday to Sunday, from 3.15 pm – 10.45 pm.
“My role involves engaging with the customers who attend our sessions, as well as working closely with other agencies in the community, working together to help deliver the message that help is available and no referral is required – people can call us or just drop in (from Thursday 17 June 2021).
“We have a team of peer specialists and mental health recovery workers, who are all kind and compassionate people, willing to go the extra mile to support people.
“We recognise that while mental health illness can be complex, we are committed to normalising it in the same way that our physical health is regarded. We need to acknowledge and recognise that at times we may all require support and there is no shame in that.
“Sometimes it can be difficult talking to those closest to us as we feel we are burdening them, so talking to someone neutral really helps. We are able to give people a safe space to visit and talk or just be in the company of others to engage in activities that can offer distraction and connection.
“My favourite part of this role is having the autonomy to be creative in the delivery of the service and being able to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Fundamentally, I can be myself and draw upon my own previous work and life experience to make a difference in my own local community.
“I started my working life over 20 years ago as a very anxious single mum. But by being given the opportunity to volunteer at a local drug and alcohol agency I was able build my confidence and gain employment as a Substance Misuse Recovery worker and to work within the community and the criminal justice system.
“More recently I moved over to working within mental health. If someone had told me years ago that I would be doing what I’m doing now I honestly would never have believed them. What I love about my job, is that now I can support people in the same way I was supported and share with people strategies that can support their wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem.
“I have contact every day with customers and other agencies. Throughout the pandemic, we made use of virtual support through the attend anywhere provision.
“COVID has been hard for us all in different ways, leaving us with feelings of isolation, as well as with financial issues, while juggling home working and childcare. We’ve had to work through relationship breakdowns and bereavement, so having the opportunity to talk is so valuable as otherwise we can just be left with our own thoughts, which can be a very lonely place to be.
“Through a genuine desire to help, as well as the ability to listen with kindness and friendliness, I can help people see things from a different perspective and find a way forward. This may include referral to connect with activities within the local community and/or referral to more specialised support.
“What excites me most about my job is connecting with a vast array of people in the community. I give people hope when they or their loved ones are struggling.
“I am passionate about breaking down the stigma and shame surrounding mental health issues and helping people to understand that we all have mental health worries.
“I hope to be able to promote a better understanding of what the symptoms are that people are struggling with and to ensure that they have a safe place to visit, whether it’s to request support for their own wellbeing or to seek advice about how to support a colleague, loved one or friend.”
Further information about the Community Front Rooms is available on the Dorset HealthCare Access Mental Health website: https://www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/access-mental-health