Groundbreaking work on tackling health, education and safety issues

Local representatives and staff with local children at the launch of the Ballymagroarty & Hazelbank Community Partnership's Mental Health Strategy.
Local representatives and staff with local children at the launch of the Ballymagroarty & Hazelbank Community Partnership's Mental Health Strategy.
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Ballymagroarty & Hazelbank Community Partnership is poised to launch the findings of a Health Needs Analysis survey for the Outer West area next week.

The survey of residents is just one of a number of groundbreaking health initiatives developed at grass roots level.

Karen Davidson, manager at Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank Community Partnership.

Karen Davidson, manager at Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank Community Partnership.

These include a pioneering Mental Health Charter, which will be used to help address what few would disagree is a critical issue.

As part of this, BHCP have begun equipping local people, including hairdressers and taxi drivers, with skills to help others experiencing mental health difficulties.

Karen Davidson, BHCP Manager, said that under the Neighbourhood Health Programme, a wide spectrum of programmes have been developed over the years, aligned with the health priorities set by the Western Trust and with funding from the Department for Communities.

Speaking about the Health Needs Analysis survey conducted recently across the Outer West, Karen said: “The main thing that came out of it was concerns about mental health. The other thing was recognising there was a high level of single person homes in the area.”

The Outer North is the first area in the North to have developed a Community Mental Health Charter. Karen said this will focus on realistic opportunities for intervention, such as activity programmes tailored to the needs of people of all ages and will build on current health initiatives.

“Out of that charter we are developing a Mental Health First Aider Programme,” she said. “What we are planning is to have Mental Health First Aiders in each of the services in the Outer West.

“We have people who provide personal services such as hairdressers, taxi drivers who can be trained in Mental Health First Aid.

“They are the ones in constant contact with the public and may be the ones who recognise that someone may not be as well as they could be. They provide a listening ear and provide information on where a person can go for help. There’s been 17 trained to date.”

Karen said that rolling this out at grass roots level would help break down any stigma, and, hopefully, get the message across that experiencing mental illness was as normal as experiencing physical illness.

Health is just one sector the BHCP is responsible for addressing in the Outer West area, with scores of community based educational or training courses available, many of them run in conjunction with the North West Regional College, with plans for new additions.

“We have been looking to bring security industry training in and over 50 people have responded saying they would like to do that training,” Karen added.

BHCP is also responsible for community safety, developing programmes during the summer for children, including alternatives to bonfires.

One project involved transforming a former wasteground which had become a hotspot for anti-social behaviour and illegal dumping at Barr’s Lane.

“It was an eyesore and a danger, and the Housing Executive, working alongside ourselves and Community Restorative Justice, prepared that area for a community garden. That has been done and now there are beds up there and families and individuals issues growing plants.”

BHCP has also partnered with SureStart to develop a Community Library. Karen said the project has been “extremely successful”, with 440 people using it last month alone, on top of local schoolchildren availing of the facility.

Among the other long-standing groups operating in the area, the Ballymagroarty Women’s Group provides a meeting place for local women with opportunities to develop craft and educational skills within their own community.

The Dunluce Family Centre, meanwhile, has expanded its services after moving into a newbuild premises a year ago and now accommodates childcare alongside their hugely successful Lifestart programme.

The Outer West Family Support Hub is also based there.

*Next week we will speak with BHCP’s Kevin Doherty and Christy Daniels on how residents and, in particular, young people have been at the heart of bringing about positive changes in their area.