The Open Door Centre & Wirral’s Mental Health Crisis

As the team at The Open Door Centre draw close to the end of 2018, they find themselves confronted with a problem. One that isn’t entirely unwelcome. The building they have been housed in on Seaview Road in Liscard is no longer fit for purpose. It isn’t a question of dilapidation, the Centre undertook a needed interior renovation at the start of the year, but a question of space. Four rooms in the Centre hold hourly CBT sessions between mentor and member, each member having access to eight sessions in total. Two regular classes; Thursday’s Origami and Monday’s mindfulness class, workshops on song writing and training sessions for new mentors all take place in the Centre. The Open Door Centre team have also created their own bespoke CBT program, Bazaar: A Marketplace for the Mind, that veers towards MCBT (mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), five minute mindfulness exercises are available at the end of each individual session. The CBT sessions are run by a team of mentors; volunteers who give time to a growing list of locals from the Wirral and Liverpool that are seeking methods to combat anxiety and depression. The charity is National Lottery funded1and receives patronage from public figures such as Shirley Ballas, and was recently honoured with the Community Impact Award at the Merseyside Independent Business Awards. The Open Door doesn’t stay shut before a new member arrives to sign up. In fact, eleven months into the year and the Centre has received 250 signups/engagements from people seeking its services, which works out at 62.5 members per room.

NHS Digital recently published the results of their ‘Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017’, which has been proliferating through mainstream media. One in six of 17-19-year-oldswere found to have a mental disorder and this age group had the highest rate of emotional disorder (14.9%).2These statistics are reflected in the Open Door’s own internal monitoring as 60% of its members belong to the 15-20 age range, far outweighing 21-25-year-olds (20%), and 26-30-year-olds (20%). The NHS Digital study framed its survey into four broad types of mental health issues; emotional disorders (anxiety related disorders, depressive disorders, mania and bipolar affective disorder), behavioural disorders (characterised by repetitive and persistent patterns of disruptive and violent behaviour), hyperactivity disorders (characterised by inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) and other less common disorders (ASD, eating disorders, tic disorders). The Open Door Centre focuses on emotional disorders in this context, choosing wellbeing support over a clinical approach, offering both CBT and Creative Therapeutic Support. The Open Door’s internal monitoring records a 47% reductionin PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire) scores and a 45% reductionin GAD-7 (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) scores. Bazaar: A Marketplace for the Mind, requires members to rate their depression and anxiety weekly on a scale of 1-10, and the internal monitoring records a5.65/10for Week One (depression) and a 6.73/10for Week One (anxiety). The difference in percentage is striking.Depression averages at 2.96/10 and anxiety averages at 3.87/10 by Week Eight, a reduction of 48% and 42%.

In the Wirral, the statistics are unfavourable. In 2015, the estimated prevalence of mental health disorders in children and young people residing in the Wirral, were .4% higher than the national average (9.2%), the recorded incidence of depression at a GP aged 18+ in 2016/2017 were 3.5% higher than the national average (9.1%), and long term mental health problems for those 18+ in 2016/2017 were 1.3% higher than the national average (5.7%).3Healthwatch Wirral undertook a study based on these statistics, using the National Citizens Scheme and Birkenhead Sixth Form College, and listed the organisations known to their survey respondents in the Wirral: Kooth came in first (36%), The Open Door Centre joint second with CAMHS (20%), followed by Mind (16%), My Mind (6%) and Silvercloud (2%).4Kooth, a free online counselling app, is on the rise. As Denis Campbell writes in The Guardian, ‘a generation of young people are attracted by being able to receive fast, personal care and advice using their phone rather than having to wait up to 18 months to be treated by an NHS mental health professional.’5This is where The Open Door Centre plugs a gap in The Wirral, as the website states ‘membership is free, with no waiting lists’. The Centre’s internal monitoring of referral pathways shows the high percentage of young people referring themselves for immediate treatment below.

Peer mentoring is a huge part of the successful impact that The Open Door Centre has had upon the community as 60% of its members make up the Wallasey Ward (including New Brighton, Liscard, Seacombe, Moreton, Leasowe, Saughall Massie) with 30% from the Birkenhead and Tranmere Ward and 10% from Wirral West & South. The environment of the Centre is welcoming, non-clinical, stemming from the presence of the mentoring team. The mentoring role itself is like being an older sibling, a listener, counsellor and a sounding board all rolled up into one. It’s this personal level of contact that allows members to open up about their mental health and individual circumstances in a way that answers that great philosopher of our time, Will Smith’s, assertion that ‘parents just don’t understand’. Ratings of ‘fantastic’ or ‘really helpful’ by 86% of members solidifies the role of the peer mentor.

So, what’s next for The Open Door Centre?

A move to a larger space seems inevitable.

A coffee bar? A gig venue? Maybe, even a rebrand.

What is certain, is the impact that The Open Door Centre has in the Wirral and that can only grow as time moves on.

1NL mentioned for brevity: The OD Centre also receives funding from Steve Morgan, BBC Children in Need, The Liverpool One Foundation, National Lottery Awards For All, The P Holt Foundation, The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, St. James’s Place Wealth Management, The Steve Morgan Foundation, Wirral Council Independent Labour Movement and Wirral New Music Collective.




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