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Community Conversations: Making every contact count & helping to improve mental health for local people

Last modified: 14 April 2021 at 12:21pm

A pilot scheme to equip local businesses and organisations with the knowledge to identify isolation, loneliness and mental ill health has been launched in the north of York.

Community Conversations is a multi-agency scheme involving North Yorkshire Police, the City of York Council Public Health, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, The Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group, York St John University, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, York Explore Libraries and the Communi-tea mental health charity.

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The project will provide free training for businesses and their staff in The Groves and Clifton areas of the city. It is designed to help them spot the signs that someone may be at risk of mental ill health and how to have positive health and well-being conversations, including where to signpost people for help and support.

It aims to benefit both local communities by improving the wellbeing of local people and help local businesses by developing their employees’ skills and in turn, help them feel supported, which can help to increase job satisfaction.

Natasha Almond, Citizens in Policing Manager at North Yorkshire Police, said: “We know that many of the shops and local organisations are the fabric of their communities, and have been key in supporting people throughout the pandemic. And research also shows that convenience stores, coffee shops and pubs have the most impact when it comes to reducing isolation.

“The aim of Community Conversations is to help to build on that by providing staff with formal training to help them spot the signs of isolation or potential mental ill health and to open up a conversation that can ultimately help that person whether that’s simply providing a listening ear, or getting help from other agencies.  Many people are not aware of the help that is out there.

“In many cases, a visit to the shops or library could be the only contact someone has with another person and we know that simply talking to a friendly face can help improve wellbeing. This scheme takes that conversation a step further.”

The project is part of the Northern Quarter Community Mental Health Project and the wider York Mental Health Partnership.

David Kerr, community mental health transformation programme and delivery lead at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said: “It’s really important that if someone is feeling isolated or experiencing ill mental health, that they know where to turn and access help before their situation worsens. It’s been recognised nationally that there needs to be a wider societal and community approach to mental health care and support. By working with partners and local organisations and businesses we can make sure that there’s a wider understanding and that more people who need mental health support can be identified and signposted to relevant services as early as possible.”

Cllr Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care at City of York Council, said: “Starting a conversation with someone and listening to them is a really good way to look after each other’s mental wellbeing. This excellent initiative offers community members such as shopkeepers or hairdressers or officers training to help them have conversations which count with people who may be experiencing difficult emotion. It is very much in keeping with our #FeelRealYork campaign and our work to normalise not being OK, and it helps support this city of neighbourly and caring people.”

The training will be delivered by Public Health England the Communi-tea mental health charity based in Selby and will take place in April and May. It comprises:

Mental Health 1st Aid: This half-day workshop delivered online looks at how to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health issue such as anxiety and depression.

Making Every Contact Count (MECC): Making Every Contact Count is an approach to behaviour change that utilises the millions of day to day interactions that organisations and individuals have with other people to support them in making positive changes to their physical and mental health and wellbeing.  MECC enables the opportunistic delivery of consistent and concise healthy lifestyle information and enables people to engage in conversations about their health. The courses are delivered through online webinars lasting an hour and a half.

Zero Suicide Everyone who registers will have the option to take this short course that can be completed online at any time you choose.

Training timetable 

Click here to book your place 

Training Online/Face-to-face Time Date
Mental Health 1st Aid Webinar 9:00-13:00 Mon 26 April
Webinar 13:00 – 17:00 Wed 5 May
Webinar (over 2 evenings) 17:30 – 19:30 Thu 13 & 20 May
Making Every Contact Count Training Webinar

(1.5 hrs)

10:00 – 11:30 Tues 4 May
13:00 – 14:30 Wed 12 May
17:30 – 19:00 Thu 27 May


Zero Suicide Online
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