Words by Smiley Team
In Bridgend, a town in Wales 20 miles west of Cardiff, a transformational mental health scheme has been created, aiming to be a part of the puzzle to improve mental health across the community.
Sarah Murphy MS for Bridgend and Porthcawl, alongside Huw Irranca-Davies MS, launched Bridgend Mental Health Pathways on 6 May – a website directory for all things mental health and wellbeing across their borough.
“The idea began at a roundtable for Mental Health Awareness Week last year at Mental Health Matters Bridgend,” Sarah tells Smiley News. “Myself and Huw Irranca-Davies MS for Ogmore were then asked to create a website where all the support available to residents in Bridgend could be in one place.”
The roundtable included specialist support such as Mental Health Matters, as well as community groups like Lads and Dads and Bridgend Youth Council.
“We talked extensively about the wider issues of funding and referrals, and whilst I and Huw continued to work on those issues within our role as Members of the Senedd, the Pathway website was a project we could work on immediately to improve access to services,” says Sarah.
Lots of discussions around mental health often focus on crisis services, says Sarah, and whilst that’s important, they wanted to pay attention to the services providing support in early intervention and prevention.
“Bridgend is the only place in Wales where we have a 24/7 single-point-of-access for mental health support,” she says. “I am proud that we have this service and the Mental Health Team who work so hard. But mental health and well-being services are not just about that.
“It could be about finding a support group for people who are also facing similar issues, being aware of the local food pantries so that people do not have to face food poverty, or allowing LGBTQ+ young people a place where people can support them in a safe place."
Sarah believes that connecting all these organisations in one place highlights a collaborative approach to mental health provision, which will strengthen the ability for residents to find the support that they need.
“At the very start of the project, support groups were telling me how people would confide in them, often with complex issues, and they were unable to provide them with the right support,” she says. “The Pathway makes it easier for support networks to refer to other organisations to ensure people are not falling through the gaps.”
Overall, Sarah is pleased they’re now seeing mental health brought into everyday conversation – both within the Senedd and in her community. “The last 2 years have been so challenging for everyone, but it has been incredibly inspiring to work with many people who want to make a positive difference to other people who may be suffering,” she says.
“Our Youth Mayor for Bridgend, Xander Payne summed it up brilliantly at our youth launch: there has been a cry to prioritise mental health for so long, and whilst the pandemic has caused so much disruption to our lives, it is fantastic to now see the opportunity to reset and prioritise mental health.
“We must ensure that people know that if you are suffering, there is never any shame in reaching out, and support is available if you need it.”
ACCESS SUPPORT: You can access the Bridgend Mental Health Pathways website to find out more.