Hundreds of people have been given help to cope with a range of common mental health problems as part of a programme delivered by Mind practitioners via some surgeries in Cwm Taf.

The scheme – known as active monitoring – offers support to those who face anxiety, stress, mild depression, worry, low confidence, anger or grief.

Primary care clusters in Taff Ely and Cynon have agreements in place with Merthyr and the Valleys Mind to provide active monitoring within the GP practices.

The programme involves five face to face sessions of up to 40 minutes with a trained practitioner over eight weeks.

Practitioner Linda Allen, pictured, said: “The roll of the practitioner is to help people to recognise that they have the power to change the way they’re thinking, which enables them to change their thoughts and behaviours.

“Quite often they need someone to listen to them and to validate their experience is really affecting their life. The biggest issues we get through the door is anxiety.”

The sessions teach people proven techniques to cope with their feelings.

In the 12 months until March this year, the service received over 1,000 referrals in Taff Ely alone, with 814 people attending the ‘drop in’ session.

From 173 completed patient questionnaires, some 169 said that active monitoring had helped them in the short term with 153 thinking it would help them in the long term too.

Measurements of wellbeing showed overall improvements in feelings of anxiety, depression and general wellbeing and confidence.

Carrie Francis, from Aberdare, was referred to a Mind practitioner by her GP. The 28-year old secretary at a software company, and mother of a four year old boy, had suffered previously from postnatal depression and was feeling low and unsure what was happening to her.

“It turned me into a totally different person,” she said. “I struggled with it for months. It is a cruel thing.”

The depression returned at the end of 2017 when alongside medication, her GP recommended an active monitoring course.

“I decided to give it a go because nothing was working and I went along for an assessment, spoke about what I was struggling with and my daily routine. I was struggling even to take a shower, I was thinking I can’t do this.”

It had been a relief to meet the practitioner who described her negative thinking patterns and a positive thinking strategy to overcome them during six sessions.

By the second week her mental wellbeing scores were improving and continued to improve.

“Before I was really low and suffering from depression. I wasn’t active at all and I didn’t understand what was wrong with me as such and I needed help.

“I went to active monitoring and she told me what was wrong and said that she could help me. She gave me the techniques and strategy that was required. It was a massive relief.

“I can use the techniques in my day to day life so anytime I felt in a downward spiral I could practise what she had given me.

“Now I feel great. Unrecognisable to the person I was just seven or eight months ago. I feel more like who I was before the whole situation began. It really worked for me.”

Dr Kurt Burkhardt from Parc Canol surgery, in Church Village, said that increased pressures in modern life could be part of the reason for the rise in patients coming into surgeries with low or mild anxiety or depression.

“People can’t cope and they come to us to help. It can be that they don’t need a referral to the mental health service but just some more time to listen to them.

“The practitioners can still refer back to us if necessary and patients can self-refer to the practitioner without the need for a GP appointment.

“The benefits are improved access to service, reduced GP workload, with the right professional seeing the patient who can sign post them to other services that may help.

“The patient gets continuity of service, longer appointment times, and they report more satisfaction with the service because there is more time for them.”