To mark World mental health day, learners at Coleg y Cymoedd were joined by assembly member for Cynon Valley, Vikki Howells AM, and the Welsh Ambulance Service for the launch of a new mental health support leaflet.

Developed in collaboration with Rhonda Cynon Taf’s voluntary council, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s leaflet provides a guide to accessing vital mental health support 24 hours, 365 days a year. For the first time, this seemingly simple leaflet provides all the key helplines and websites for individuals to contact if they are concerned about their own, or a loved one’s, mental health.

The guide offers a list of national helplines for people who experience mental health needs, covering everything from support for anxiety, stress and eating disorders as well as suicide prevention and coping with bereavement.

The Ambulance Service chose to host the launch at Coleg y Cymoedd in recognition of the college’s commitment to pastoral care and supporting its students’ and staff’s wellbeing.

It comes as the college has assisted learners to set up their very own mental health support group, ‘Me in Mind’, which aims to give learners the opportunity to help each other to build resilience and share strategies for improving their mental health. Sessions are held twice a week at the college’s Nantgarw campus and are open to all learners.

Gemma Iveson, 36, is one of the learners involved in setting up the group. The care learner, who is studying access to higher education diploma in healthcare, was inspired to create the group after previously experiencing poor mental health and wanting to help others going through the same.

As part of the launch, Gemma, along with learners Alisha Beckett, 19, and Ashleigh Williams, 21, addressed tutors and learners about their own experiences of mental health and emphasised the importance of making the most out of helplines and support services.

Gemma said: “I have had my own struggles with mental health in the past and even thought about taking my life at one point. I was in a dark place and am so thankful that I made the decision to speak to somebody about it. I called Samaritans and the counselling and advice I received really helped me through a very difficult time. I urge anyone who is struggling with their mental health to contact a support service as I have seen first-hand how much they can help.

“I think this new leaflet is a brilliant idea and will help many people in many situations. A leaflet like this would have really benefited me as, having the information readily available, I would have picked up the phone to someone sooner. It’s a great initiative.”

Joining Coleg y Cymoedd and the Welsh Ambulance service in launching the new scheme, Vikki Howells AM said: “World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on what more we can all do to promote good mental health, but people can need support and advice about their own mental health any day of the year, so information on where to turn must be readily accessible.

“I was pleased to support today’s launch of this important new leaflet produced by the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, which is based on the first-hand input and experiences of Cwm Taf service users.

“I was also impressed to hear about the ways in which Coleg y Cymoedd is supporting its learners to build up resilience and remain in good mental health. These initiatives will make a real difference in Cynon Valley.”

Leanne Hawker, QAM, Head of Patient Experience & Community Involvement, Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust added: “We are delighted to be able to work in partnership with Coleg y Cymoedd, VAMT & Interlink and especially service users in developing the leaflet. We recognise the value of health information and the leaflet has the potential to have a positive impact on anyone experiencing poor mental health, being sign posted to services within their reach”.