Realising the benefits of information sharing for improved well-being

This week, as part of #mentalhealthawarenessweek we have showcased some of the work we’ve been privileged to be part of that supports people who are experiencing mental health crisis. These examples, in Bath and North East Somerset, Margate, Cheshire and Surrey, demonstrate the varied ways information sharing can help people and their families during difficult times.

For me, Jovian Smalley’s blog about Bath and North East Somerset, highlights one of the true values of information sharing. It not only helps the person who is experiencing mental health crisis, but also their families. The story Jovian shared about Tom clearly shows that by sharing information between a range of public service providers at a crucial transition point in a person’s life, can totally transform the outcome.

For anyone who has been hospitalised, returning home can be stressful. But for someone who has been hospitalised because of mental health crisis this is doubly so, not only for the individual but also the wider family. This is a time of high anxiety for all, full of expectation and fear of the unknown, so having the right support for all through services working effectively together, at this point, is truly essential.

The other blogs, I feel, not only highlight the direct value of information sharing to people who are in mental health crisis, but also a possible indirect value.

Emma’s blog on Cheshire, exemplified how police and experienced mental health practitioners are working together in support of the Crisis Care Concordat’s objective to ensure people with ill mental health get the right help and support, instead of going through the judicial system. It however concluded with a thought provoking question, which has been bubbling around in my mind for a while: “What about the ‘people’ who are delivering the service themselves? How are we ensuring that they are receiving the correct support and care as a result of conducting the work that they do? Who is safeguarding, those who safeguard?”.

I know that many public service providers invest in providing support for people under stress or experiencing mental health crisis. For example, when I worked at Leicestershire County Council I was trained as a Mental Health First Aider and was a point of contact for staff members to talk to should they be concerned for themselves or a colleague. However, I question if information sharing itself might play a part in providing a mechanism to reduce the stress that is experienced by frontline workers?

Reading Imogen’s account of the work being done by Margate to reduce the number of frequent callers to 999 services made me wonder, if call handlers are now being able to dedicate their time to handling real emergencies, rather than dealing with frequent callers, would that not potentially impact on how they experience their role?
Emma’s account of Cheshire identifies that other public services, such as the highways team at the local authority were experiencing less road closures because of reduced suicides, so much so that they invested in a dedicated vehicle to support the work being done by Operation Emblem. Surely, reducing the number of times a highways worker attends a fatality could also have a positive impact on their well-being?

Looking at the core of our work, we focus on the people aspects of information sharing – improving trust and relationships between service provides to enable more effective information sharing. Stuart’s vlog is a classic example of what we do here at the Centre, and details the work we did with Surrey and other crisis Concordat areas to identify the cultural barriers they experience when trying to share information. Looking at the report’s findings, having a chance to work on areas such as ‘misconceptions around roles and responsibilities’ builds trust, which has a strong impact on how a person can experience their role.

This is supported by The Mental Health Foundation’s publication on relationships, which says that: “As a society and as individuals, we must urgently prioritise investing in building and maintaining good relationships and tackling the barriers to forming them. Failing to do so is equivalent to turning a blind eye to the impact of smoking and obesity on our health and well-being.” The paper also cites a Harvard study into well-being, which found that “happiness and health aren’t a result of wealth, fame or working hard, but come instead from our relationships.”

So, I am not saying that information sharing holds all the answers. But, looking at all the pieces of the jigsaw, by taking a positive approach to building relationships and creating working cultures based on trust to facilitate more joined up working has a double impact: Creating greater job satisfaction through being able to support people and families in a more holistic way, and in turn reducing the stress of interactions with other service providers as there is more trust. Then by coupling these with the impact of potential unintended outcomes, such as the roadworker feeling less stressed as they are dealing with less emotional situations, could it not be suggested that there is the potential that information sharing may play a vital role in “safeguarding, those who safeguard” and protecting the people who deliver frontline services? Maybe this is an area for potential research – I wonder if our academic panel would be interested in this?

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