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Mental health forum opens in Beccles

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 December 2008 | UPDATED: 07:49 01 August 2010

A FORUM for mental health service users, run by mental health users, has opened in Beccles.

The forum, which meets on Wednesdays at New Thresholds in Hungate, is the first of a number of Feedback groups set to open locally, with forums planned for Bungay and Halesworth in the near future.

A FORUM for mental health service users, run by mental health users, has opened in Beccles.

The forum, which meets on Wednesdays at New Thresholds in Hungate, is the first of a number of Feedback groups set to open locally, with forums planned for Bungay and Halesworth in the near future.

The project is funded by the NHS, and is based at the Aspire Centre in Lowestoft, where there is currently another group in operation.

The Beccles Feedback forum is run by Malcolm Blowers, of Griffith Close in Kessingland, and Laila Choate, of Kings Dam in Gillingham.

Both are mental health service users themselves, and have set up the group to encourage a discourse between the services and the people that use them.

Mr Blowers, 62, has worked extensively with the Suffolk User Forum (SUF), whilst Miss Choate, 34, was approached by Mental Health Services following various letters she had published on mental health in publications such as the Beccles and Bungay Journal.

“We collect the opinions of the users and take them back to the providers so that there's some feedback system in operation,” explained Miss Choate. “There hasn't been a way of gauging service users feelings in Waveney for the last few years.”

She added that it was important to have a forum run by mental health service users because of the “camaraderie” born from shared experiences, and that it is often difficult to give feedback directly to the service providers.

“When you're a service user you become very reliant on it and so you don't want to criticise it,” she said. “The thing is here it's service users you're talking to. Any form of support we can get to people is more valuable than anything else, it makes such a difference.”

The forum also includes the discussion of possible changes put forward by Mental Health Services, and offers a “buddy system,” where Mr Blowers or Miss Choate will drive out to people in the more remote areas and give them a lift to New Thresholds.

“Supposing you wanted to come to a meeting but you were a bit scared, someone would come round and pick you up,” explained Mr Blowers. “The hardest thing with mental health people is getting them through that door. They will come to the door, wait a few minutes and walk away. Our role is to usher people in.”

“It's for people to get support and realise there are other people in the same position as them,” added Miss Choate.

The Beccles Feedback forum meets from 10.30am to 12pm on Wednesdays at New Thresholds. There will be an official launch of all the Feedback forums at the Aspire Centre, Yarmouth Road, Lowestoft, on December 11 at 10am to 1pm. For more information telephone 01502 533529.

For more information on the Beccles branch telephone Mr Blowers on 07867572757.

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