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New drop-in centre for mental health plan

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A DROP-in centre to help people with early-stage mental health issues could open in St Helier by the end of the year, the Assistant Health Minister has said.

Senator Steve Pallett Picture: ROB CURRIE. (25796146)

Few details have been made public about Jersey’s first so-called ‘listening lounge’, but Senator Steve Pallett, who has political responsibility for mental health, said it could help tackle issues before they grew into serious problems.

Mr Pallett said the first lounge would be a ‘pilot’ and hopefully, if successful, one of many.

The proposed Government Plan, which is due to be debated in November, said listening lounges could provide an alternative to the police, paramedics or the Emergency Department as a place where people could go when they needed mental-health support.

The announcement comes as the Jersey Recovery College is due to begin a nine-week series of free ‘positive psychology’ classes at the end of the month to support over-65s’ mental health.

Acting clinical psychologist for the Health Department Dr Emily Tonkin-Gage, who is helping to set up the courses, said mental health issues among over-65s – fuelled by loneliness and loss – are sometimes overlooked.

A mental-health report released last year predicted that by 2030 the number of older adults suffering with depression in Jersey is predicted to rise from 1,224 people in 2011 to 2,119 – with the greatest rise among those aged 85 or older (110%). All other age groups were predicted to decline by 3.5%.

However, the report is based on net inward migration of about 200 people per year and estimates the population to be 106,200 by 2030. Earlier this year, the Island’s population had already surpassed 106,800.

Based on net inward migration of 1,000 people a year, the Island’s population would reach 128,800 by 2030.

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Senator Pallett said that a growing and ageing population would require more services.

‘This can be a difficult Island to live in because of financial and housing issues, especially if you are elderly. We know more needs to be done to support that age group and more services need to be made available,’ he said. ‘The listening lounge could help.’

The Senator also recognised that the current wait to see someone from Jersey Talking Therapies was too long.

Dr Tonkin-Gage, who specialises in older adult mental health, said the fact her role was created three years ago showed there had been a paradigm shift in addressing mental-health issues among the over-65s.

‘There are a number of things that come into play in later life that can affect mental health. One of the main ones is loss; bereavement, loss of purpose because they no longer work, or loss of ability to do the things they used to,’ she said.

The Health Department has already run similar courses with about 20 people, but Dr Tonkin-Gage said the beauty of running it through the Recovery College was that participants did not have to be referred by their GP.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
author

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