Cygnet Carer event – Maidstone Hospital

Welcome back to another blog by carer activist Matthew McKenzie. I often blog about raising awareness for those caring for someone with mental illness. If I am not raising awareness, then I am more likely speaking at events or conferences.

I am helping to promote a carer’s network with Cygnet Healthcare who are taking on the challenge of applying Triangle of Care into their services. So far I have opened several carer events at some of the Cynet hospitals around the country along with other speakers who are invested in raising the profile of unpaid carers.

For this event, I attended Cygnet Hospital over in Maidstone for another regional carer event. This was an opportunity to engage with carers from the area of Kent, especially since I am involved with Kent and Medway NHS Partnership Trust. So I was keen to travel to Maidstone and talk to carers.

We had a packed room of carers and professionals interested to hear talks about the importance of supporting carers.

There were certain things I was looking for at the hospital, especially the effort staff had put into promoting the carer event. I noticed lots of leaflets introducing what Cygnet can do for unpaid carers. Other information was on Cygnet’s carers strategy, carers passport and a chance for people to feedback about services.

I even managed to view the carer’s board.

We had some excellent speakers at the event. Plus it was great to see David Wilmott who is Cgynet’s Director of Nursing open the event. We also had a powerful talk from Lesley Mellor who told her story as a carer and the importance of carer empowerment.

Other speakers were Stephen Firn OBE who is Cygnet’s CEO for Healthcare division. Stephen spoke about his mission to make sure cygnet hospitals have a high focus of carer awareness. During my talk, I reminded attendees that when senior staff attend such events, it shows how the organisation values unpaid carers.

For my talk, I read poem number 28 on the importance of a carer’s network. Often carers do their role in isolation and behind closed doors.

The nature of the illness makes it difficult for mental health carers to connect due to stigma of caring,, being unsure of their role and also the stigma of mental illness.

I asked both professionals and carers their thoughts on the importance of providing care and the importance of connecting to a network.

I was proud that the healthcare professionals were knowledgable about the importance of including carers when providing services. This is done within the spirit of the Triangle of care.

We also had talks and presentations from Dr Erica De Lange who is Cygnet’s Regional director of Psychology. Plus Caroline Harris-Birtles who is Head of Nurse Education at Cygnet Healthcare. She educated carers about the importance of the nursing profession and how nurses can help unpaid carers.

Lastly we had a talk from Jennifer Vincent who works at Involve Kent. Jennifer is the team Lead in the Community for Carers. Involve is an organisation that focuses on Healthy, connected people and communities. Jennifer talked about how Involve empowers and support Carers, enabling them to care well for others and improve their own health and wellbeing.

I again have to thank Laura Sheridan who looked after both Lesley, myself and attendees at the carer event. I look forward to more events in future.