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Networks and mental health

1.     What is this research?

We are working with partners on two projects that build on our NIHR funded study Community Health Networks, which we carried out between 2011 and 2013. This study developed an innovative approach to mapping people’s social worlds, including connections to people, places, and activities, looking at how they interlink and how they impact wellbeing.

 

We are taking forward this methodology in two new contexts:

 

1)   The Hounslow Wellbeing network has been set up in West London, funded by the Whole Systems Integrated Care programme from the Department of Health. It is a network which anyone can join to connect to the community and improve wellbeing. As part of this network, people can complete our network mapping tool with a peer support worker to help identify wellbeing needs, goals and barriers.

2)   South London network mapping for physical health: We’re working with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London to use the mapping approach on a new pilot study that aims to support people diagnosed with a severe mental illness to improve their physical health, using social connections. The study is based in Sutton and Southwark, with Peer Support Workers (PSWs) trained to support people over six sessions, using network mapping to identify goals and barriers to physical health.

mental health map rough 4

Example of a wellbeing network by Darryl Cunningham.

2.     Why is this research important?

Social factors are important in understanding the experience of and recovery from mental health problems.  Many people benefit from strong supportive social networks and from engagement in meaningful activities as well as physical exercise, connections through meaningful places and support from community health services. Yet people with mental health problems remain less likely to be employed, more socially isolated and with poorer physical health than the general population.

At a time when health services are reconfiguring it is important to understand what resources and assets people have in their networks and the balance of formal and informal support that people with mental health problems need and can access.

 

3.     What did we do?

In the Hounslow Wellbeing Network we worked using a co-production methodology to co-design the network, working with service users, carers, practitioners, health and social care managers and commissioners to develop a wellbeing and connections network based in primary care supporting people with long term mental health needs.

 

South London network mapping for physical health: We are training Peer Support Workers (PSWs) to use this tool with peers, who will have six sessions with their PSW to develop and work towards physical health goals. Working with the PSWs, we are refining our Wellbeing Mapping approach to develop it from a research tool into one which can be used flexibly as part of an intervention.

 

4.     What is the current status of the project?

Hounslow Wellbeing Network: This network is now up and running, you can visit their website here.

South London network mapping for physical health: This project started in 2017 and PSWs are currently being trained, to start working with people referred to the service in late 2017.

5.     What next?

We are continuing to build on this work and hope to develop ways for wellbeing mapping to find its way into mental health services – used by GPs, support workers, care coordinators and by individuals themselves to manage mental health.

 

6.     Who do I contact for more information?

You can contact the team via contact@mcpin.org

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