Cwm Taf University Health Board is working with S4C to help reduce stigma around mental health.
People with mental health problems say that the social stigma and the discrimination they experience can make their difficulties worse and make it harder to recover.
A lack of understanding can also leave sufferers feeling isolated and hopeless.
Dr Huw Griffiths, consultant psychiatrist at Cwm Taf University Health Board is working to reduce this stigma.
For the past eighteen months he has been advising the producers of S4Cs Pobol Y Cwm on the programme’s mental health story lines, such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and personality disorder. The Pobol Y Cwm OCD storyline has been nominated in the national MIND Media Awards 2015 alongside Emmerdale, Holby City, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks for its representation of mental disorder, the results of which will be announced in November.
“This has been a great opportunity to reach a wider audience to increase understanding of mental disorders including reducing people’s fears about accessing treatment and improving understanding that recovery happens” said Dr Griffiths.
Mental illness is common and affects one in four of people in the UK. Most people who experience mental health problems recover, or are able to live with and manage their difficulties, especially if they get help early on.
As well as providing advice to the producers of Pobol Y Cwm, Dr Griffiths has arranged meetings between actors and patients with the relevant disorders so that the actors portrayal of the disorder is as accurate as possible and a recent visit to the mental health unit at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital enabled the production team to design a set representative of a modern day mental health unit.
Talking about the future of mental health, Dr Griffiths said: “I think the direction in which Mental Health services are travelling is very exciting.”
“Over the last few years we have moved away from a largely inpatient model to a community focussed model and have been able to manage the vast majority of patients with mental health problems in the community rather than in hospital, which in the past had sometimes been outside Cwm Taf at a distance from their home, friends and family.”
Cwm Taf currently prescribes more antidepressants per head of population than any other health board in Wales and is one of the highest prescribing areas in the UK.
Dr Griffiths is a Trustee of a new charitable organisation in Cwm Taf, the first of its kind in Wales – Valley Steps – which will provide open access to mindfulness training and stress management as an alternative to medication for stress, anxiety and depression. As an additional consequence to equipping people to develop skills to improve their own mental health it is anticipated that the organisation will help to decrease demand on primary care health services, by offering GPs an alternative to prescribing and in supporting those who no longer need antidepressants to discontinue them.
The service will be anonymous and non-stigmatising, will be accessible without need for referral and will be widely promoted through social and other media.
Courses will be held in community resources such as sports centres and other venues and will focus on developing the individual’s innate skills and abilities to deal with stress and the symptoms of stress.
Those who attend will be encouraged to bring friends and family with them to improve understanding of the nature of stress and of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety and to build confidence that there is effective help available without necessarily having to take medication.