Category Archives: Health and Wellbeing

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today’s blog is from Councillor Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes.

Friday 10 September marks World Suicide Prevention Day. It is a day close to my heart and dedicated to raising awareness of suicide and getting us all to think about what we can do to prevent it.

The latest statistics showed that in 2018, more than 6,800 people died by suicide in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Approximately three quarters of these were men.

This year’s theme is all about ‘creating hope through action’. So, what does hope mean? It will be unique to each individual. To me, it’s about:

  • The stability of a home you know is secure and of good quality.
  • Being able to have security of your finances and employment.
  • Just knowing there are good people you can call upon in times of need for a coffee or a walk in the park.
  • Knowing there are others who will fight your corner and support you to be the best version of yourself.

My own journey has been complicated. During my formative years at university, three of my friends took their own lives, including my best friend at the time. All very different sets of circumstances, all causing similar devastation for family, friends and wider networks who knew them. For the parents, dealing with the grief that comes with something you never expect to happen – losing your child. For friends and wider networks – losing someone who was cherished and loved, even if they didn’t see that themselves and felt better off not in this world.

Whilst I have been able to move forwards, in some ways what happens never leaves you. It filled me with a fire to not just accept the situation as it is. We can and need to do better. I firmly believe every suicide is preventable, and our aspiration must be to achieve the goal of zero suicide. I am so proud to know that many organisations across the country and the West of England have signed up to the work of the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA). This includes Bristol City Council, and we are calling for 10,000 people to sign up to the zero-suicide training across the area as part of this.

What else are we doing?

Through my own organisation, the Independent Mental Health Network, we launched the Shine On campaign in late 2019. This has focused on bringing more organisations together, to work in partnership to end suicide. We know that by working as a collective we can achieve more together than we can as individuals. This has seen us hold two highly successful regional summits on suicide prevention, both supported by leaders in the health sector and beyond, including Bristol’s Deputy Mayor, Asher Craig.

We work with organisations such as Changes Bristol, who are leading the charge locally on building peer support networks that are genuinely peer-led. We have collaborated with Second Step to support the Hope Project, which supports middle-aged men, the highest risk group when it comes to suicide. We have also funded Suicide Prevention Bristol, who are doing phenomenal work to support people thinking of taking their own life. Their latest campaign, “Not The Last Stop”, will be working with taxi companies to help them better recognise the signs of someone who may be struggling.

There are a range of resources to access if you need support or know someone who does. Here is one starting point: Guide – IMHN – Independent Mental Health Network.

Reach out, be that hope for someone who may be counting on it more than you realise.

Bristol Disability Equality Commission – new chair

Alun Davies, the new chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission, sits, smiling, with a background of grass and daisies.
Today’s guest blog is from Alun Davies, the new chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission

My name is Alun Davies, and I’m the newly appointed first Chair of the new Bristol Disability Equality Commission. The commission is being established in recognition of the inequalities faced by Disabled people in the city, and the negative impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on Disabled people. The Disability Equality Commission will join the Commission on Race Equality and Women’s Commission as Mayoral commissions taking forward equality in the city.

I am just about an adopted Bristolian having moved here in 1991. I’ve lived all over the city, worked for the public and community/voluntary sector, and served on a number of voluntary sector management bodies. I was a city councillor, a non-executive on a health board and chaired the Disability Committee of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. On a personal level I was the parent of a Disabled child who sadly passed away at 11. I love music both listening and playing, and I have a probably slightly unhealthy interest in 1970’s rock music, tv and cricket!

I became totally blind in 1978 and have been active in the Disabled people’s movement since 1986. I understand disability entirely as a political issue. I am an adherent of and firm believer in the social model of disability.

The social model is clear and simple. People with any kind of impairment – learning difficulty, neuro diversity, mental health issue physical or sensory -are disabled not by their impairments but by cultural, economic, political, and social barriers which cause inherent and institutionalised discrimination.

That is why the commission is a Disability Equality Commission. Its role is to work to remove these barriers. My vision for the commission is that it brings together Disabled people from all backgrounds and impairments to work together in collaboration and partnership to make Bristol a city where Disabled people have choice, control, and equality.

I am under no illusions that it won’t be an easy task. Many Disabled people are unemployed, experience disability hate crime and do not have full choice and control over their own live. Housing choices are very limited, much of the pavements and physical environment is still inaccessible and Disabled people are significantly under-represented in decision-making groups and structures. Disabled children and young people often do not get either the support they need in education or the choice of the best education to meet their needs.

However, I would not have applied for the role if I wasn’t also hopeful and optimistic. The introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 followed by the Equalities Act in 2010, despite neither going as far as I and many other Disabled people would like, have at least given us some legal recourse. This has meant businesses and service providers have had to make adjustments to their services. Public attitudes and awareness is better than it was 40 years ago and Disabled people are more evident and accepted around the city.

Most of all I am positive because of what I believe the Commission will bring to the city. We will be recruiting commissioners during the next three months, and I believe we will put together a team of enthusiastic, experienced, and skilled Disabled people who will bring a vast amount of passion and wisdom to the task.

I also believe there is a genuine commitment amongst everyone involved in the city to use the opportunity coming out of the pandemic to build back better. We must use the situation we have to make equity and social justice the heart of our response, and disability equality must be fully part of this. It is a privilege and honour for me to chair the Disability Equality Commission and I look forward to playing my part with the Mayor and everyone else to make Bristol a city I and other Disabled people are even more proud to live in.

Dementia-friendly allotments in Bristol

To mark the start of National Allotment Week, today’s guest blog is from Isobel Jones, CEO of Alive, a charity working to enrich the lives of older people in Bristol and around the country. I recently visited their dementia-friendly allotment in Brentry with Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care.

Isobel Jones, CEO of Alive, pictured at Brentry's dementia friendly allotment

We all know how being outside can lift our spirits. Working outdoors surrounded by nature, nurturing fruit and vegetables or just sitting in the garden can bring a smile to our faces and help us relax after a difficult day. Allotments are incredible spaces for escaping from the normality and stress of our busy lives. They provide us with a real sense of achievement when we harvest crops we’ve tended from day one (and at times a sense of frustration when the cabbages get eaten again!)   

For those who live with dementia, gardening can be a source of joy and achievement. Maintaining physical activity, cognitive function and social interaction all help someone living with dementia to remain stimulated and to feel valued and helpful.

However, accessing gardens and allotments can become more challenging as dementia progresses. 

So, when the idea of developing and running an allotment for people living with dementia was suggested to us, we jumped at it.  We were already facilitating regular gardening sessions for groups in care settings across the city and through them witnessing the joy and satisfaction they brought to many older people. But we also wanted to provide a space for people living in the community to experience the benefits of horticultural therapy. 

Mayor Marvin Rees visiting Brentry's dementia-friendly allotment, pictured with a volunteer from BRACE Dementia Research

We were handed the keys to plot 18A at Charlton Road allotments in Brentry in March 2019. The  ground hadn’t been cultivated for about four years and was overgrown, unloved and close to being unworkable. However, my incredible team of volunteers and staff have put hours of love and hard work into the plot and have transformed it into the most magical, peaceful and calming space.

We’ve also put in a compost loo, a large social shed, accessible beds and lots of seating so we can meet all needs and garden in all weathers. It has been a real community effort, with support from local funders, businesses, fellow allotment plot holders and a sizeable team of volunteers, who have all supported us in our vision to enable those affected by dementia to have access to the outdoors and feel the sense of achievement and purpose that comes from “growing their own”.  

We are proud to say the Alive allotment is now fully open and is running regular supported sessions for people living with dementia and their carers. Participants can choose what they do there; they can come and potter about on personal projects, work with a volunteer, or just sit and have a cup of tea and chat. We are already seeing the positive outcomes on people’s wellbeing and are looking forward to seeing the groups grow.

We need to ensure there are more opportunities like this for those affected by dementia. In the words of one of our service users,  “Gardening, it’s almost medical. They need things like this to keep people going.” We couldn’t agree more. 

Bristol’s award-winning young carer

Today’s guest blog is from Hanna Sampson, recipient of the Diana Award, who has done some fantastic work raising awareness for young carers.

I’m Hanna Sampson and I am a young carer for my autistic sister. I can’t actually remember when I first started caring for her, but I was first labelled as a young carer back in 2017 after an assessment from Bristol and South Gloucestershire young carers. Since then, I have been an advocate for young carers’ needs.

I attended Young Carers Voice, a monthly group where we would discuss issues that young carers face and tackle them. Through this, I was given amazing opportunities to raise awareness. Together we have created two films: ‘Who cares in school?’ Which focuses on young carers in school and ‘My mental health project’ which focuses on our own mental health needs as young carers.

The ‘Who cares in schools’ film led to a 130% increase in school registering to young carers programmes. I also gave a teacher training assembly and two whole school assemblies about young carers with the hope of setting up a young carers group at my own school but unfortunately received little to no support. Again, this was also a common experience.

I have also had the pleasure of going to Parliament with other young carers across the country to talk to MPs about the needs of young carers. I have given numerous seminars and workshops to health professionals, worked on the 15-step programme at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston, and helped develop the Bristol City Council Young Carers Strategy.

This year was my last year at the young carers service and I was honoured with the Diana Award for all my work with them. It feels so amazing to be recognised in such a prestigious way, especially as this year would have marked her 60th Birthday.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the ceremony was online but it was still fantastic and had special guests celebrating the recipients, including the Duke of Sussex! Princess Diana is a true inspiration to us all, a reminder that anyone has the power to change the world and it is a true honour to be recognised in her legacy.

Changing Futures for vulnerable adults

Today’s blog is from Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood

A fortnight ago we heard that Bristol City Council, working with our partners, has won £3.3 million funding for our ‘Changing Futures’ bid. We were one of only 15 successful bids out of a field of 97.

This is fantastic news. We can further develop the work we have been doing with some of our city’s most vulnerable residents. In particular, this will build on what we have learned from the ‘Everyone In’ project, which focused on supporting homeless people during the pandemic.

Like many cities, we have a high and growing number of people who are affected by a multiplicity of problems; mental ill-health, substance misuse, domestic abuse and family breakdown. We also know that often these people are not well served by the agencies charged with supporting them. So, this extra funding is really welcome in knitting those services together.

Two things really struck me as we worked through our bid. The first is that one of the greatest barriers for people seeking help is constantly having to tell their story. This sometimes increases their trauma as they have to relive difficult periods of their lives. Really listening to people with lived experience allows us to really hear how difficult they have found it accessing the support they need. It’s made the principle of ‘telling it once’ and agencies (appropriately) sharing that information, an important keystone in this work. So has having trusted individuals as named contacts and keyworkers (‘my team around me’) giving a much more holistic and multi-disciplinary approach.

The second was a comment from one of our partners when we sent round the final draft of the bid. They said “this is brilliant, and how we need to work, whether we get the money or not.” That was a great endorsement of the work that had gone in to the bid, co-ordinated by Golden Key Bristol. It also shows that often in public services, we know what needs to happen, but sometimes our staff don’t have the time to lift their heads and make those changes.

I really hope that having this extra funding will drive these changes. This will keep the people we want to serve at the heart of things. I am sure that many of you will have been moved by some of the stories that we have seen on local and national media. Lives have been turned around during the pandemic through this approach, like that of Steve, who recently featured on Channel 4 News.

Re-focussing our services with this extra funding over the next few years must lead to those changes becoming how we do things all the time, across all of our partnerships. 

Only this way will we be able to say that things have improved for hundreds of individuals, and will we be able to show our real commitment to – as it says on the tin – Changing Futures.

Working as One City as the pandemic changes

Today’s blog is from Christina Gray, the Director for Communities and Public Health.

The pandemic has brought about significant changes to all our lives over the last 18 months and even as we move into a new period of eased restrictions nationally, we can’t take our foot completely off the pedal just yet. There are still risks, they remain with us and will do for some time.

We are providing information to help our city safely respond to the lifting of most legal restrictions on Monday 19 July.  To help organisations understand what they can do to reduce the risks in businesses and workplaces, the City Office and Public Health have hosted several online events to offer guidance and information. Over the last few weeks, we have held webinars about the financial support available to local businesses, what can be done to open businesses safely following the easing of restrictions and how to interpret the guidance following the introduction of Step 4.

The latest event took place on Tuesday 27 July. It focused on improving ventilation and air quality in offices, venues, and public spaces. The latest Bristol COVID-19 figures were shared followed by guidance from the Health and Safety Executive around natural and mechanical ventilation as well as the risks around aerosol transmission in enclosed spaces. The Head of Health and Safety at the University of Bristol shared the steps they have taken as a large organisation to keep their staff and students safe.

These events are a small but important part of the road to recovery. We still need to continue working together as one city, as Bristol. That is why we recommend you continue to wear a face covering indoors and in crowded areas, showing respect for public workers and transport workers. Please continue to wash your hands, respect people’s space, ventilate indoor areas, socialise outdoors if possible and choose to leave crowded places if you feel uncomfortable. Please use regular lateral flow (rapid) tests, get your vaccination, get tested if you have symptoms and please continue to self-isolate if asked.

The pandemic continues to take a toll on mental and emotional health. It’s vital that we look after one another as we have done over the past 18 months.

Together we can limit the spread of the virus, by looking after ourselves and looking out for everyone around us.

We are Bristol.

We are Kind.

We are Safe.

Love Parks Week

Today’s blog comes from Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Communities, Equalities and Public Health, Councillor Asher Craig.

Parks have been more important than ever for many people in the past year.

During the pandemic, parks were some of the only spaces where people were able to socialise safely. Access to parks is also good for our mental and physical health, with Natural England finding that 9 in 10 people agree that visiting natural spaces is good for their wellbeing.

That’s why we were determined to keep parks open during the pandemic and why we’re working on a new strategy to ensure the sustainability of our parks for years to come.

Royal Fort Gardens, Bristol.

We’re fortunate to have access to so many great parks and green spaces in Bristol, with studies finding Bristol has the largest amount of green space of any English city. In addition, we are proud to say that in 2015, Bristol became the UK’s first ever European Green Capital.

We’re committed to protecting these spaces and supporting sustainable environments for both people and wildlife. Bristol’s One City Plan includes an ambitious target of doubling the tree canopy by 2045 and supporting the return of species such as pine marten, red kite, and beavers to our natural environments by 2033.

We recognise the role parks play in responding to the ecological emergency. As a result, the One City Environment Board have developed a working group of over 30 organisations across Bristol, with an aim of taking action to restore the natural systems that we all depend on.

Parks are not only vital for nature; our city’s green spaces are used to support events, food growing and organised sport.

We understand as the weather gets hotter and the summer holidays are fast approaching, many of our parks will see a rise in footfall.

If you’re out using our parks, make sure you’re being respectful of others and tidying up after yourself. This is a simple way of helping our staff, other park users and the environment. Keep Britain Tidy have more great information on how we can all take steps to look after our parks.

There are lots of ways you can get involved with improving our parks and green spaces and we always welcome ideas – you can find out more and have your say here on our website. 

Crucially, as restriction lift, we are asking everyone to continue to follow the hands, face, space, fresh air guidance. Many more people will continue to use our parks to see family and friends, or to exercise. Therefore, it is important to reduce our risk of catching or passing on the virus by using green spaces safely.

Covid rates in Bristol are the highest we’ve seen, so let’s do our bit to keep each other safe.

Bedminster Lantern Parade

Today’s guest blog is from Ade Williams, chair of the Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade and Superintendent Pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy.

There is great power in togetherness, celebrating each other’s contribution to a joint endeavour. Yet as a society, we are faced with ever-present reminders that our communities are unfairly divided. Sadly the age at which we first experience this only continues to get younger, shattering something that is forever lost.

Over the last 18 months, many of us have discovered an awakened desire to see positive changes in our society. Sadly life with all its demands will start to rob us of the chance to pursue those changes. Do you remember saying, “When this is over, I will not go back to the old ways?”

Ade Williams, Chair of the Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade

Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade has launched a fundraising appeal to raise the £15,000 needed to deliver the tenth anniversary extravaganza, South Bristol’s biggest Winter event. As Chair of the organising steering group, I know a lot about the dedication and work of delivering this event. All the volunteers, artists, teachers, and sponsors that support children across our community express themselves, showcase, and celebrate their work together.

One of the core values of the Parade is that it is proactively inclusive. Children from the nine schools involved represent the ever-increasing rich diversity of our South Bristol communities. Some even over-representing the racial diversity and socio-economic profiles across our shared City.

One of the event’s ambitions is to tackle why some children create lanterns in school but do not participate in the Parade. We feel this is very important. Working with friends and peers to create something exciting must be matched with the joy and thrill of showcasing it. Suppose many more young people can see how much the community loves and appreciates them; the potential fruits of such life experiences can be transformational.

The Parade’s link to better health and wellbeing is an added bonus. Art and creativity are positive health and wellbeing influencers. Collective effort and volunteering increase self-worth while walking the length of the Parade will reduce your blood pressure, burn calories and increase your heart rate — likewise for dancing. As for dancing to the rhythm of the music, you have an expressive licence.

The Bedminster Lantern Parade is a transformational event. Your much needed financial support and contributions enrich our community, sowing seeds to produce a healthier, inclusive, equitable society. Building that better future is the collective effort linking us all together.

Join us here: https://www.lanternparade.org/

Levelling up

The Prime Minister has today set out his ambitions for ‘levelling up’, with the stated aims of improving services and boosting community pride across the UK, seeking to create a more balanced economy. We agree with the ambition to give everyone the chance of a good job on decent pay, and are determined to make Bristol a true Living Wage City – where poverty pay is a thing of the past. Increasing access to opportunity no matter where you live is at the heart of our approach in Bristol and something we should all be working towards as a country.

Levelling up will only be successful if it targets those living in deprivation –  it is vital that ‘levelling up’ policy impacts the communities and groups that need it most.

We encourage Government to focus on the challenges of poverty, social mobility, inequalities, and on the groups most affected by these challenges, that the pandemic has further entrenched. If Government takes too much of a blunt, North versus South approach, those poorer communities, often hidden and invisible across our country and in our major cities, will continue to miss out and get left even further behind.

Bristol is an example of this complexity. We have a fantastic story to tell – a £15 billion economy with sectors of high growth and opportunity. And yet we are one of the most unequal cities in England with six areas in the top 1% most deprived in the UK and 20% of our children at risk of hunger every day. Writing off deprivation in Bristol just because we live further south than, say, Birmingham, would only see more Bristolians fall further south of the poverty line.

The last thing we need is for regions or areas to be set against each other, dictated by competitive funding pots from Whitehall, which inevitably will result in the very people who stand to benefit the most missing out. In recent years, that Bingo-style approach has set hungry children in Bristol against hungry children in Plymouth, and pitted homeless people in Bristol against homeless people in Manchester: for the Prime Minister’s pledge for ‘levelling up’ to be ‘win-win’, we need fundamental change.

What is required is a national approach that recognises that our focus is addressing the big challenges of the day – including the climate and ecological emergencies – in a way which takes all communities forward and provides ample opportunities for everyone.

The Prime Minister  emphasised the role of local leadership as part of ‘levelling up’ places. What local leaders need the most is predictable funding that best enables ourselves and city partners, like our local NHS, charities, and businesses, to come together around long-term plans. The UK is one of the most heavily centralised countries in Europe – that has been known for far longer than I have been Mayor, and even before Boris Johnson was one. For ‘levelling up’ to be truly effective, I would urge Government to release more funding to local places, then step back and help create the space for us to take the opportunities we know we can deliver.

Jiu Jitsu for everyone!

Today’s guest blog is from Luke Chamberlain, who I met at Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu during a recent visit to Southmead.

Gracie Barra is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and self defence martial arts club for children and adults in the heart of the community. Gracie Barra Westbury is the embodiment of the “Jiu Jitsu for everyone” motto, with over 200 members ranging from 3 to 60 years old.

Men, women, boys and girls from all walks of life come together to enjoy this incredible martial art, developed to enable the smaller, weaker practitioner to overcome the bigger, stronger individual. Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the perfect way to empower yourself, gain confidence and get in shape amongst a community of positive and supportive teammates. 

With over 30 classes per week spread across 7 days, including kids, adults, beginners, advanced, competition training and open mat sessions, there is something for everyone regardless of your age or experience.

The club is run by me and my brother, Clayton, both lifelong martial artists and students of world champion and head of the Gracie Barra organisation in Europe, Professor Victor Estima. Training since 2009 and having competed on the international stage, we have developed a strong reputation in the Jiu Jitsu community, which has lead to us receiving the honour of being promoted to their current ranks of black belt (Luke) and brown belt (Clayton) by their renowned Professor. 

After opening in May 2017 starting in David Lloyd Westbury on Trym, the club fast outgrew it’s training space and relocated until finding a home in its current venue, The Youth Centre on Greystoke Avenue, a fully renovated space large enough to sustain the club’s ever expanding member base and timetable. 

Amongst our many successes on the competition scene through the efforts of both kids and adult students: from local level, securing best academy at the Bristol Open to national level, winning gold at the British Championships, and all the way to an array of medals at the European Championships. What the club regards as it’s biggest achievement is its community of members and families that have supported the club during the challenging times of the last year. Without this commitment to each other and the common goal of sharing the benefits of Jiu Jitsu with as many people as possible, Gracie Barra Westbury would not have become such a success. 

One of the club’s main goals has always been to make roots in the local community spreading its message of Jiu Jitsu for everyone. This goal has recently been further realised with coaches taking women’s self defence sessions at both Redmaids’ High school and also girls groups within the youth centre itself, helping to empower young women to navigate the world with confidence. 

Moving forward and working closely with local charity, Southmead Development Trust, plans are in place to take the club into a purpose-built academy. There, we can continue to provide the best possible service for our members and further serve the community by offering sessions to more local groups that could improve their quality of life and enjoy the many benefits of training Jiu Jitsu and learning self defence.

Get in touch now for your own two-week free trial.