Stamford’s first mental health forum has been launched by a GP who hopes to break down stigma on the issue.
Dr Dan Petrie has a keen interest in mental health, and when he took on the role of partner at St Mary’s Medical Centre in Wharf Road, Stamford, last year, it was on a part-time basis so he could dedicate his free time to this issue.
One in four people suffer from mental health issues. Dr Petrie says this means most people are affected in some way, either directly or indirectly.
Although people may not realise it, mental health issues are prevalent in Stamford, according to Dr Petrie.
He said: “There are issues in this town.
“Of course, deprivation increases the chances of mental health issues and in some ways, we are protected from that in Stamford. But there are pockets of deprivation and the disparity can make it worse.
“I live here, my kids go to school here and I want to see this town thrive.”
Dr Petrie said as a result of increasing pressures within the NHS, doctors are becoming “more inwardly focused and operating in a bubble”.
As his way to make a difference, Dr Petrie launched the Stamford Mental Health Forum - the first of its kind in the town.
The aim is to increase awareness of mental health issues to get people talking openly about them, and to improve the lives of sufferers.
So far, the forum has had three meetings with specialist speakers that have attracted a range of people, from healthcare professionals and representatives of mental health charities such as Mind and Rethink to teachers, as well as carers and sufferers themselves, who have been able to open up about their own experiences.
Dr Petrie said the meetings had been positive so far, with the last attracting about 40 people.
He said: “It shows there’s a kind of pent-up frustration with the services that are around and a real willingness to engage.”
Dr Petrie, 34 and a father of three, hopes the forum will develop and take on a life of its own. At the moment it runs on a monthly basis but he would like to see it run at least weekly in the future.
He has already been able to put on a mental health first aid course, which was fully subscribed.
There are also plans for a mental health drop-in cafe, which will launch at 7.30pm on February 25 at The Fine Food Store in St Mary’s Street. Although Dr Petrie will be present himself and there will be aspects of medical input, he sees it more as a safe place for carers or sufferers to come for social support.
Looking to the future, Dr Petrie also hopes to develop a crisis cafe for sufferers to use as an alternative - and often better solution - to accident and emergency departments in hospitals, which may not always be able to offer the right kind of support.
Additionally, the Stamford Mental Health Forum has signed up to the Stop Suicide Pledge - a prevention campaign to help stop suicides by being alert to the warning signs.
He is also in the early stages of talking to New College Stamford about launching a recovery college. A similar one running in Lincoln provides a range of educational courses and workshops that are available to people who access mental health and social care services and their carers, as well as healthcare staff.
Dr Petrie is also talking to the team behind the Rutland Mental Health Forum to explore how the two groups can work together.
He added: “As a GP I can help my own patients but there’s only so much I can do and this is about taking it to the next step.
“No one person or organisation can do it alone. We need to be working together as a community for the benefit of the whole town.”
The next forum meeting will be held on March 17 at 1pm at St George’s Church in Stamford. Everyone is welcome.
You can also find out more at www.stamfordmhforum.org or by following @StamfordMHForum on Twitter.