The ground-breaking multi-agency scheme, led by community interest company MensCraft, has seen the appointment of a “prevention and positive activities co-ordinator” to bridge the gap before vulnerable men can be assessed by Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s community mental health team.
“I will also do what I can to alleviate his stress in the short term to make him safer”
Working alongside a mental health nurse, newly appointed co-ordinator Ed Roberts receives referrals via a single point of access system from GPs or the trust’s escalation and avoidance team.
He will then offer initial support within 48 hours until the patient is seen by the community health team, which must take place within 120 hours for emergency cases.
The project gives men the chance to talk about how they are feeling, as well as opportunities to take part in groups or social activities.
Where appropriate, they will also be signposted to other sources of support, such as organisations which can help with debt, homelessness or drug or alcohol problems.
Source: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
“The job gives me a great opportunity to support hard-to-reach people and those who are vulnerable and in need,” said Mr Roberts, who has supported 12 men to date and has previously worked as a youth worker, teacher and prison librarian.
“Men can find it really hard to communicate. I’m not a clinician so am not there to help them find solutions, but instead offer them the space to talk about how they are feeling so that they can feel understood and heard. Just being there can be massive and can make a real difference, especially to someone who is feeling isolated and alone,” he added.
The scheme has been made possible thanks to a successful bid for national suicide prevention funding made by Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability Transformation Partnership and managed by Norfolk County Council Public Health.
“He can show them that they are not alone while offering vital reassurance”
Mr Roberts said one of his key roles was to ensure the men he worked with stayed safe.
“When I first meet the patient, I’ll ask him to tell me his story and we work together to develop a safety plan. I will also do what I can to alleviate his stress in the short term to make him safer while opening up other sources of support which could benefit him,” he explained.
“If I have any additional concerns, I can also raise these with the appropriate NSFT team so that he can get the right help to keep him safe and begin his recovery.”
Liz Howlett, suicide reduction plan implementation lead at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, said the role provided vital reassurance and support.
“Our teams have a duty to see emergency referrals within 120 hours and, on many occasions, are able to arrange an appointment more quickly. However, men can feel very vulnerable while they wait to receive that support, which is why Ed’s role is so important,” she said.
“By offering them a listening ear and signposting them to other services, he can show them that they are not alone while offering vital reassurance that there are people out there who can help.”
Cllr Bill Borrett, from Norfolk County Council, said it was an “important post”.
“I hope that it will make a difference to the lives of men who find it difficult to open up and talk about the things that are worrying them, and by having access to a range of activities specifically for men it can make all the difference as it encourages them to talk openly,” he said.
“Ed will also be able to support those men with other identified needs to access appropriate and timely support more quickly.”