On Your Marks: Life is stressful, and we want to make it less so

Ed Cassidy, a senior manager in mental health commissioning for Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex CCGs
Ed Cassidy, a senior manager in mental health commissioning for Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex CCGs

In the first of these columns, I spoke to Dr Minesh Patel from the CCG, and something he said really resonated with me. He said that he had prescribed someone with anxiety and depression to do a parkrun - and it really helped.

And this made me think about how mental health and exercise are connected and how they can go hand in hand.

My first few columns have been about physical fitness - but over the next couple of weeks I will focus on mental health and fitness.

I spoke to Ed Cassidy, a senior manager in mental health commissioning for Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex CCGs.

Ed has been at this CCG for two years, and previously spent two years in the coastal CCG but has spent 20 plus years in social services and adult social care.

Now, as far as I am aware, I have been fortunate enough not to suffer from or to have shown signs of bad mental health.

But I have noticed since I have started this programme of exercise, I am less tired and my mood has picked up - although my wife might not agree!

Ed said: “There’s quite a lot of research done around physical exercise and walking and outdoor activity and good mental health.There are a lot of the mental health services that have got volunteers who go out on walks into the countryside.

“It’s good because it releases certain things in the body that are positive stimulants,” he said.

“Sometimes those positive stimulants aren’t there and you require medication - Dopamines are one of the main ones.”

Within the CCG’s mainstream services for mental health there are what is known as recovery colleges. Rather than going into a group, they go to college. And within those colleges they deal with how you cope with those stresses and strains and build up your own self ability to keep yourself well.

Very much like physical health.

Ed said: “There are lot of links between poor physical health and poor mental health. In our area, if you have a long term mental health disorder or illness, your life expectancy as a man will be 20 years less. And for a woman it’s 15 years. So a lot of it is around your physical health and your mental health. We are working quite a bit with integrating physical and mental health.”

The CCG’s mainstream services are with the Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust. In primary care health we have also got talking therapies.

The next step up from tailored health coaching is Time to Talk which is psychological therapies.

They have two strands of that currently. One is Time to Talk which is about improving your mental health.

Then there’s Time to Talk Health which is about improving your physical and mental health. Time to Talk Health is specific to people who have developed long term physical health conditions - see below.
Ed added: “Life is stressful, and we want to make it less so.”

Case study Time to Talk (patient’s name changed to protect anonymity – permission given by patient to use as case study)

Sarah referred herself to TTT as she was suffering anxiety, stress and irritability. She was struggling to cope with the demands of a busy NHS job and two young children and had been signed off work.

After a few sessions with a psychological therapist she revealed that she was experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) having being exposed to two terrifying incidents involving a deadly accident and a near-miss.

Her symptoms of PTSD included avoiding any reminders of the incidents at all costs, frequent anxiety and anger, flashbacks and dreams about the incidents. Sarah responded well to Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) and through therapy Sarah regained perspective in her life, helping her cope with reminders of the traumas in a less distressing way and the bad dreams and flashbacks have stopped.

Sarah was astonished at how effectively the PTSD symptoms responded to CBT and has recommended the TTT service to many friends and colleagues. Since finishing CBT with TTT Sarah has completed a mindfulness-based stress reduction course which has also helped her cope with the general stress and anxiety of a very busy life.

Jeremy Cripps CPsychol. Senior Psychological Therapist

TIME TO TALK (talking change, making changes)

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

Burgess Hill Clinic, The Brow, Burgess Hill, RH15 9BW, Tel: 01444 251 084, Mobile: 07836703838