Project aims to help those experiencing mental health distress
Robin Kaye, a psychology PhD student at Leeds Beckett, is launching Project SOS, a non-medical, peer-led crisis support team, led by a team of individuals who have personal experiences of mental health problems.
The team is currently laying the foundations for the crisis help service, which will respond rapidly to anyone in Leeds who makes contact with the project group via a phone call, text message, or a tailored smartphone app.
Speaking about his inspiration for setting up the project, Robin explained: “I've worked in mental health for over two years, and have seen how people can fall into crisis, so I know of the need for alternative support services.
“The idea for the project actually came to me on a crowded bus. I face my own battles with psychological distress, and one day, I was on the bus and in difficulty and texted a friend 'SOS'. My friend knew instantly what was wrong and reacted in the right way to get me out of that situation. From there I thought about whether other people would benefit from something similar, and worked out that a crisis could develop if an individual has nowhere to turn in such distress.”
Robin’s current research at Leeds Beckett focuses on masculinity, modernity and mental health, with his PhD exploring issues related to men’s distress and suicide support with online communities. He said: “Men made up 78% of suicides in 2013 (Samaritans, 2015), whilst women attempt suicides around two to three times as frequently as men. A huge contributor to suicidality is mental ill health, particularly mental illness which is unsupported. The project ties into my research because it aims to target specifically vulnerable groups, including men, and aims to help them to get through the immediate crisis they face. Whilst the project has a considerably wider scope than my research, it may help to bridge the gap for those most in need of support.”
Statistics from mental health charity Mind suggest that one in four people suffer from mental illness. Explaining what people should do if they see someone in distress, Robin continued: “Ideally, if someone is confident, they should approach someone in distress and start by asking 'are you alright?' The main thing is to be polite, sensitive and approachable. If you're with your friends this is ideal, but don't approach together. You might feel more comfortable approaching a stranger in distress if you have someone with you yourself.
“If someone answers that they aren't alright, and need your help, be guided by them. Don't try to force something on someone in crisis: they may need someone to sit with them, walk them to their bus stop or they may need more formal intervention. Interestingly, there is a lot of research out there that says most of us know what we should do when we see someone in need of help, but what many do in times of crisis can be quite different. That is part of the reason Project SOS could be so useful.”
Speaking about the current provision available to those experiencing mental health issues, Robin said: “Ranging from a lack of space to house those in need of in-hospital treatment for mental illness, to budget cuts reducing community support, and practically no support for those falling below diagnostic criteria but still experiencing distressing symptoms, simply not enough is being done to sufficiently support those with mental health problems.”
The team are currently setting up a working group to further develop their idea and are looking to hear from people with a range of skills and ideas. The working group will help to generate ideas, identify gaps and build a solid plan on which the project can continue to develop into the future. Robin explained: “There are many roles for people interested in this project, both for people who want to come and contribute ideas without the commitment, to those who want to form a more formal and lasting part of the group. We are looking for anyone with any skills and experience - so whether it’s project management, finance, public speaking, research, IT skills and app development or utilising/working within mental health services, we have a place for you within our working groups and project.”
It is hoped that Project SOS will launch in the early part of 2017. To find out more about the working group contact Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the project’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/projectsosleeds16.