Having a mental health problem has an impact on your physical health too, for many reasons. In 2004 Ceredigion Local Health Board, in partnership with other local organisations including West Wales Action for Mental Health and the Ceredigion Public Health Team, was allocated finances from the Welsh Assembly Government to pursue a new initiative to address this. Their aim was to make sure people with ongoing mental health problems have access to the support they need to live healthier lives and improve their physical health. The result was the Mind Your Heart programme.
The benefits of looking after our bodies better have been a mainstay of newspapers and magazines for a number of years now. Less well known, but with an increasing evidence base, is that exercise, eating healthily and taking mood-altering substances only in moderation is also good for our mental and emotional health.
Whilst there are many factors that affect people’s health, Mind Your Heart takes the view that everyone is entitled to information about them, especially the ones they have some control over, and the skills to put changes into practice. Our belief is that these adjustments in health behaviour can be empowering and a step on the path towards hope and recovery. Alongside the principle of the whole person approach, this is the message we aim to promote.
We back this up with practical support. Through training for staff in healthy lifestyles, small grants and advice and support, Mind Your Heart has successfully supported voluntary and statutory organisations in mental health services in Ceredigion to offer more opportunities for healthy living to their clients. Giving mental health workers skills and knowledge in the benefits of eating well, keeping active and the impact on health of alcohol and drugs, has boosted their confidence in supporting their clients in these areas and in looking after themselves too.
Mind Your Heart has produced the ‘Healthier Lifestyles Toolkit for Workers in Mental Health’ written for staff and volunteers and also an evaluation of the first three years of the programme. Both these documents are available on this website. We have published this year ‘The Ceredigion Recovery Book’ – a self-help guide for anyone experiencing mental or emotional distress.
Continued funding has enabled us to consolidate and extend our work. Mind Your Heart has started training with primary care to address obstacles that may exist in accessing GP services for people with mental health problems. And we continue to support voluntary and statutory mental health services in Ceredigion to help people improve their overall health and wellbeing.
For more information about the Mind Your Heart programme please contact us.