A better Medway
Published: Monday, 9th October 2023

Ahead of World Mental Health Day (10th October 2023), Kent and Medway’s Integrated Care System (ICS) has become a signatory of the Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health.

The successful application by NHS Kent and Medway, Kent County Council and Medway Council, who make up the ICS, is a public pledge that they have both a commitment, and an action plan, to tackle preventable poor mental health.

Organisations signed up to the national agreement, overseen by the Office for Health and Improvement Disparities (OHID), recognise factors such as unemployment, debt and drug misuse increase a person’s chances of having poor mental health.

In turn, giving children the best start in life, friendships, exercise, affordable housing, jobs and access to safe and green outdoor space, are among the many factors that can mean suicide, self-harm and depression are prevented.

Given this, signatories to the Concordat pledge to:

  • work across sectors with a wide range of partners to reduce the risks of preventable poor mental health
  • use evidence to target resources where they are needed most
  • share good practice so others can implement successful initiatives, and
  • use regular monitoring and reporting to ensure action plans deliver improvements for communities.

In its review of Kent and Medway’s application, the Prevention Concordat Assessment Panel, said: 

  • Data and intelligence – including the Kent Public Health Observatory, was used effectively to identify where interventions would have most impact
  • A wide range of interventions – from Mental Health Together to the Hope Exhibition were used to create positive change, and
  • The Better Mental Health Network holds the Kent and Medway Action Plan to account – through scrutiny meetings and updates. 

The panel also praised the ICS’s groundbreaking work around the link between domestic abuse and suicide, its ongoing review of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities’ needs, and the scale of Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention (SP) and Better Mental Health Networks.

Examining data from Real Time Suicide Surveillance enabled the Kent and Medway SP team to identify that 30% of all suicides in the county over a three-year period had been impacted by domestic abuse.

During the last year the findings have led to:

  • the creation of a range of local initiatives including a men-only Independent Domestic Violence Adviser service, through Ashford’s Dads Unlimited
  • a mentoring scheme for adolescent boys who are survivors of domestic abuse in Canterbury and East Kent, through Rising Sun, and  
  • Domestic Abuse being written into the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, with a specific reference to the work of the Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Programme.

The Kent and Medway SP Network consists of more than 160 charities, agencies, individuals and academics. The multi-agency Better Mental Health Network has more than 320 members including voluntary and social enterprise organisations and Kent Police. 

Kent & Medway ICS’s move to become a signatory was inspired by the Kent & Medway Listens project, which also shaped the creation of the Better Mental Health Network.    

Have the right mental health support in place

NHS Kent and Medway Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kate Langford, said: said: “In Kent and Medway, NHS, council and voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations are working together to make sure we have the right mental health support in place for people when they need it.

“Signing the Concordat as an integrated care system underlines our commitment that together we can make sure prevention and early intervention services are both available and accessible to all.”

Committed to working with partners

Director of Public Health at Medway Council, James Williams, said: “We know there are a number of issues that individually, or collectively, influence people’s mental health. We are committed to working with partners to address these factors, with a particular focus on prevention– but to do this, we need to take a collaborative, whole-system approach to supporting residents, when they need help the most.

“We will continue to work with all of our partners to address the causes of preventable poor mental health, reduce inequalities caused by the impact of mental illness and support the people in our communities to live happier, healthier lives.”

Improve residents lives 

Kent County Council Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr Ellen Schwartz, said:Mental health and substance misuse are responsible for at least a fifth of all illness in England but given the pandemic and cost of living that figure is expected to rise.

“It means tackling mental health problems and creating resilient communities has never been more important and is, unarguably, everybody’s business.

“Signing the Concordat enables us to join a national community committed to these aims – and through strong prevention and early intervention improve residents lives across Kent and Medway.”

Find out more about the Kent and Medway Integrated Care System

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