Agenda item

Focus on Men's Mental Health in East Sussex


39.1     The Board considered a report on Men’s Mental Health in East Sussex, introduced by Darrell Gale, Director of Public Health. The report outlined the work carried out by Public Health on men’s mental health. Work in this area has prioritised middle aged men who are the highest risk age group of men, who overall account for around three quarters of suicides in East Sussex and those with physical and mental health issues where there is a combination of risk factors including financial issues, bereavement and caring responsibilities.


39.2     Members of the Board thanked Darrell for the very positive report and case studies. The Board noted that the issues of physical and mental health are interlinked issues with people’s feelings of worth and purpose being important factors. This makes opportunities to re-train and gain new skills important. Often people face a combination of issues such as losing parents, financial issues, increasing isolation. The Board made a number of comments on the report which are summarised below.


39.3     Councillor Maynard commented on the positive impact of Men’s Sheds project and noted that there are similar services for ex-servicemen in Westfield. He also noted the importance of opportunities to re-train and gain new skills. Councillor Webb commented on the impact of the 2007/8 economic downturn on suicide rates and whether the Covid pandemic and cost of living crisis would have a similar impact on suicide rates.


39.4     Jessica Britton noted the positive impact of community based projects on men’s mental health and asked if links were being explored and made with front line, primary care mental health services so there are two way links with community based support. There may be opportunities for Public Health to encourage and support two way access between community based support and more formal mental health services such as talking therapies.


39.5     Mark Stainton commented that the report illustrates how projects with small pieces of investment can have a significant impact on demand. The projects can also be useful local resources for ICTs where they are available. There is a good offer of support in East Sussex and there may be a need to bring all the services and support available under an over-arching Prevention Strategy, which could be used to signpost people to services.


39.6     Stephen Lightfoot agreed and commented on the importance of suicide prevention. He observed that the beauty of the projects is that they are small scale at around £1,500 each and provide a powerful model of projects and schemes. This prompts the question of how to scale up this type of activity across East Sussex, and how to signpost people to services. There is an opportunity to achieve a marked impact on mental health issues with a small amount of funding, and there may also be a need for a central resource for services and support.


39.7     Darrell Gale commented that in terms of scaling up the projects, the majority of the cost of each project is the infrastructure cost and there was a need to fund an umbrella community organisation to help with setting up the projects. However, compared with other services they are good value. There are other examples through the Making it Happen scheme where other community needs, not just for men, are being addressed. The five year funding for the men’s mental health projects is coming to an end and the Public Health team will have to work creatively to co-produce these projects in the future. This is something that the Integrated Care Board (ICB) may be able to help with to take this work forward in the future.


39.8     Veronica Kirwan outlined that in respect to loneliness and isolation, Healthwatch East Sussex is just starting a project which links to the work the Public Health have been doing. The project will look at what work in this area is already taking place and what more could be done. A reference group for this project is being established and will include someone from the Public Health team. 


39.9     Darrell Gale responded to an earlier point regarding re-training and there has been some success with the Estar scheme in Eastbourne that was run during Covid with street homeless men. This scheme provided support and training opportunities and has led to number of men securing jobs and being able to maintain tenancies. The Public Health team is always looking for opportunities to support this type of work which provides people with purpose and feelings of self-worth.


39.10   Darrell Gale also commented that all the men’s mental health projects and programmes are relatively new, and the groups have been developed from the community up. As such they do not necessarily see themselves as services or as meeting health outcomes, and care will need to be exercised not to impose expectations upon them. However, the Public Health team do want to maximise links to other services.


39.11   It was noted that suicide rates rose after 2007/8 financial crisis. The data in the report on suicide rates is local county data and national data and it is hoped that the work outlined in the Suicide Prevention Strategy will help contain any rise in suicide rates linked to the current cost of living crisis. The work that is being undertaken is definitely making individual impacts and it is hoped that the work will have a positive impact on future suicide rates.


39.12   The Board RESOLVED to note the recent and ongoing work commissioned by Public Health to support men’s mental health in East Sussex.


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