In my October blog for the Partnership I mentioned that one of the priorities of the Humber, Coast and Vale Suicide Prevention Programme is working with men to develop a service that they feel able to reach out to. I am pleased to announce that on 1st January 2021 we launched a new, free of charge, online mental health support service across Humber, Coast and Vale called Qwell for Men, providing vital one to one counselling, peer support and a safe and confidential space for round the clock support.
Over 100 men have so far signed up to Qwell, which, aims to provide emotional wellbeing services for men, some of whom find it difficult to approach their GP and prefer the immediate and anonymous service provided by online, professional and highly trained specialist counsellors.
The service, which is also commissioned in other areas of the country, was developed for Humber, Coast and Vale following a series of in-depth focus groups with local men who have lived experience of mental health issues. It was important to engage with people with direct experience, to ensure the landing page, imagery and wording used on the Humber, Coast and Vale Qwell website was tailored and sensitive to local peoples’ needs.
Qwell provides support for men with a wide range of mental health concerns. One to one counselling sessions, which typically last around 50 minutes, are available from 12pm to 10pm on weekdays and from 6pm to 10pm on weekends. The articles section, which features case studies and accounts from those who are living with mental health issues, and online forums, are both available around the clock. Mental health practitioners moderate content to ensure the safety of all users.
Qwell for Men has been commissioned for a one year period initially, and though still very new, initial data suggests that almost half of registered users are accessing the service outside of office hours. The youngest of the current 100+ registered users is 18 years old and the oldest is 65. In time, and as registrations increase, we will be able to monitor the top presenting mental health issues in our region, and we can use this to consider what further support may be required.
As the Suicide Prevention Lead I am mindful that Yorkshire and the Humber has the highest rate of suicides in England and Wales, according to the Office of National Statistics. Talking Therapies, available through General Practice, continues to provide vital support, however some men are concerned about waiting lists and the thresholds associated with traditional counselling services. Qwell offers another route to vital mental health support, which is particularly beneficial during the winter months when demand is higher, and never more so than during the Covid pandemic.
All men over the age of 18 living in North Yorkshire, York, Hull, East Riding, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire can now register to use Qwell. It is free of charge, very quick to sign up to, completely anonymous and there is no waiting list. It can be accessed on any device such as a phone, tablet or laptop. Qwell already has the support of a number of local companies, such as support networks, sports clubs and football teams, which are helping to spread the message.
Thank you to all colleagues who over the past six months have been involved in developing and implementing the service and particular thanks to those that participated in the focus groups in November and December. It’s fantastic to see so many people both registering for support and promoting the service to people across the region.