Battle Scars logo next to cup of coffee and laptop

Self-harm support online event

Self-harm support online event

Join us on Friday 13 October, 1pm-2pm, for our next free online lunchtime event to hear from Jenny Groves, Founder and CEO of Battle Scars.

Battle Scars is a survivor-run charity providing support to those affected by self-harm.

Jenny will talk to us about the myths and realities of self-harm and the services and support available. This session is suitable for people who self-harm and family, friends or professionals supporting those who self-harm.

There will also be a chance to ask questions.

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This event has now passed

Pregnant lady and her partner

Tell us about maternal mental health care

Pregnancy is a major life event for any family. It can be joyful and fulfilling but also challenging. Healthwatch England is launching a national survey to understand if care works for new mothers and birthing parents and what needs improving for people who develop mental health difficulties relating to their maternity experience.

With one in four women experiencing mental health problems during pregnancy and in the first year following the birth of a child, support from maternity services can significantly impact their mental health and wellbeing.

Who do we want to hear from?

  • We want to hear from you if you have been pregnant in the last two years and have experienced mental health difficulties before, during or after giving birth.
  • We are interested in the experiences of women from ethnic minority communities and LGBTQ+ birthing parents.

Everything you share is confidential and will help us and the NHS understand what they need to put in place to better support people using maternity services.

Share your story

Find out more about Healthwatch England’s research

This piece of work has now finished.


Online event – Qwell

Join us on Friday 11 November to hear from Andrew Poinen, Engagement Lead for Kooth and Qwell.

In this free, online public event Andrew will provide an overview of Qwell, the online service available for adults aged 18 and over in Northumberland which provides free, safe and anonymous mental health and wellbeing support.

We will hear what it involves, how to access it and there will be a chance to ask questions.

Register now and we will send you a link to join closer to the event:

This event has now passed

autistic children and mental health services

Mental health services and autistic children

Are NHS mental health services working for autistic children and young people?

We have been hearing from local families that some NHS mental health services aren’t working for them. To understand what is happening, we would like to hear about the experiences of as many autistic children and young people as we can. This includes children with a formal autism diagnosis, currently being assessed, or where there is an indication of autism. We want to know what is working well and what could be better.

Please tell us about your family’s experiences online, or by getting in touch in a way that suits you.

What you tell us will be included in a report to those who pay for and provide these services, along with recommendations of how services could be improved for children and young people. It will be anonymous and we will ensure you cannot be identified.

Read what Sarah, Ellie and Jennifer have to say and then tell us your story…

Parent Sarah says “For both of my children it took several years to get a diagnosis of ADHD and autism. Both have had issues with their mental health alongside their ADHD and autism. The delay in diagnosis impacted negatively on their mental health and both also experienced additional deterioration after Covid-19.

“Many different health and care services have been involved with my children, but these services are unfortunately not all joined up. Often referrals would be accepted for support but then discharged on the basis that other services were already involved or were better suited to provide support, care or treatment. When support has been received this is time-limited or specific to concerns at any one time leading to the process of needing to fight to seek help again later down the line.

“My children’s mental health difficulties have been seen as being ‘part of their autism’ rather than a separate condition that required treatment and help. This has led to difficulties and challenges getting the right support and most appropriate services involved for their mental health. Many people on the autistic spectrum have anxiety and mental health issues. This is not autism but the effect of having to adjust to the world around them and the many challenging situations they face.

“What has been most difficult is that every step of the way I have had to fight to get the right support my children need, challenging what we have previously been told and doing a lot of research ourselves. At times we felt we were not being listened to. It feels like we have had to become specialists in our own right, whilst also caring for children with additional needs that can be very challenging.”

Young person Ellie told us “The mental health professional I saw at the NHS didn’t seem to know very much about autism, so they didn’t realise that the appointments themselves were very stressful for me. I don’t think they always believed me when I said how bad I was feeling because on the surface I appeared to be okay.

“My mental distress at the time was extremely high and I was experiencing some very dark thoughts, but I didn’t feel listened to or understood. I would have liked to have had someone like my dad with me at the appointments but that wasn’t an option because they were held at school.

“My mental health has slowly improved since then but that’s because I started seeing someone privately who has experience of working with autistic people. I feel very lucky about this because I know not everyone would be able to afford it.”

Jennifer, whose child is autistic, says “The initial relief of my child being provided mental health support was quickly replaced by concern, as instead of getting better they got worse. A lack of knowledge and understanding about autistic presentation meant the therapist didn’t connect authentically with my child, who in turn felt invalidated by the whole experience.

“The number of sessions offered was limited and at the end of the programme I was shocked to find my child didn’t reach the threshold for further support. Instead, we were provided with a list of community-based support organisations and left to fend for ourselves. As a parent I now have a complete lack of confidence and trust in the NHS mental health system.”

Tell us YOUR story

Whether your child may be autistic, is currently being assessed or has a formal autism diagnosis, we’d like to hear their experiences of mental health services. We’d like to know what went well and what could have been better. Tell us your story online, or if you’d prefer to speak to one of our friendly team in confidence, please get in touch.

This piece of work has now closed.

Tips on how to reduce loneliness in later life

Loneliness can affect people of all ages. As we get older, we can be presented with many challenges in our lives that can lead to loneliness. A loss of a partner, family, or friends, retirement, illness or moving into different accommodation.

Whatever the challenge, it can be difficult to find a solution, make new meaningful connections and cope with the loneliness you are experiencing.

Mental Health Foundation has created the following tips to help reduce loneliness in later life.

Read Tips on how to reduce loneliness in later life

Blyth Women's Centre

Spotlight on…Anxious Minds

As part of our information and signposting service, we’re shining a spotlight on organisations offering all kinds of support to people in Northumberland.

Anxious Minds is a charity which provides mental health support to people across the North East. Services on offer include support for children and adults, support for veterans and their families, women-only support, addiction support, help into employment or training, outdoor therapy and suicide prevention.

Their Blyth Women’s Centre (The Liberty Centre) is there to support local women and girls and empower them to achieve their full potential. The Centre provides a wide range of services to help women to overcome the challenges they are facing. This could be domestic abuse, the need to develop new skills, lack of self-esteem or self-confidence and isolation.

There are free support groups on offer for anxiety, grief and loss, drop-in friendship groups, SMART Recovery (for addiction) and arts & crafts.

Watch this short video about Blyth Women’s Centre.

To find out more email: or call: 01670 946 188.

More information about all Anxious Minds services can be found at their website.

Young People and Mental Health

Young people and mental health

Healthwatch Northumberland is the independent champion for people who use health and social care services. We are a listening organisation working across Northumberland, interested in what people like about services and what can be improved. We act on what people are saying, sharing their views with those who have the power to make change happen. We also help people find the information they need about services in their area and record this as ‘signposting’.

Between January and March 2021 we ran an online survey to gauge the access and support received by young people (aged between 13 – 25 years) from mental health services in Northumberland.

We promoted the survey through our own social media channels and website as well as contacting all secondary and high schools in Northumberland. We also contacted all the local youth groups across the county and other relevant partners such as Northumberland CVA, the Aging Well Network and town and parish councils. The survey had 51 responses. Read our findings at the link below:

Young People and Mental Health: Experiences of access and support in Northumberland

Find mental health services and support

What should I expect after being referred for mental health support?

What should I expect after being referred for mental health support?

Your mental wellness is as important as your physical health but seeking help can be daunting. Healthwatch England has put together a guide about what to expect when you seek support for your mental health.

Mental health matters. One in four of us can experience poor mental health each year. However, only one in eight adults with ill-mental health is getting treatment.

If you have been struggling with your mental health and are referred for support or are thinking about seeking help, here’s what you should expect from your care.

What should I expect when being referred to a mental health service?

If your GP thinks mental health services can help you, they will write to them to ask for an appointment. Your GP should discuss with you the different types of mental health support available – both within the NHS and provided within the community. You should be involved in deciding what kind of service you think would best suit your needs.

NICE guidance recommends that the mental health services should do their best to offer you an appointment within three weeks of your GP writing to them. New NHS standards set to be implemented later this year state that you should be offered an appointment within four weeks after being referred for community-based mental health services.

Your appointment letter should include information about getting there and a number to call if you have problems. It should also clearly state who you will see and what will happen during an assessment.

The letter should also ask if you need any additional support to help communicate or if you would like to bring a family member, carer or advocate with you.

Questions to ask during your assessment

After being referred to a mental health service, you’ll need to attend an assessment. You might feel nervous about this, but it’s important to think about some of the questions you can ask to make sure you get the most out of your appointment. Here are some examples:

  • Why am I being offered an assessment?
  • Will you tell anyone about my mental health problem?
  • Who can provide my treatment and care?
  • Are there any support organisations in my local area?
  • Have you got any information for my family or carer?
  • How can I manage my own condition?
  • Who can I contact if I need help quickly between appointments (in a crisis)?

What should I expect from mental health professionals?

The first mental health professionals you might speak to at your GP surgery might be a Mental Health Practitioner, who can advise you on access to services, or your GP who can refer you to a mental health service.

When referred to a mental health service, you might speak to a qualified Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP), a qualified high-intensity therapist, another healthcare professional or your consultant (this could be a nurse, a psychiatrist or another clinician).

The health and social care professionals supporting you should be easy to identify, friendly and welcoming. They should understand that you may feel nervous and do their best to make your feel comfortable.

How should I be involved in my treatment?

Doctors, nurses and other health and social care professionals should support you to make decisions about your treatment and care.

They should encourage you to manage your condition, including recognising warning sides of your situation worsening.

Professionals should provide you with resources to support you in a format you can understand and information of where you can go to get further support. Your mental health team should explain your treatment and also work with you to develop a care plan, including:

  • Activities, such as education, work, volunteering, caring for family members or leisure activities
  • What you can do to keep well
  • How to cope with and reduce any risks to yourself or others
  • Who to contact in a crisis

If there’s a risk you may have a crisis, there should also be a crisis plan.

What should I do in a crisis?

There should be a local 24-hour helpline you can call in a crisis. Your GP or mental health team should be able to give you this number.

If the crisis team thinks you need an assessment or treatment from mental health services, you should:

  • be seen within four hours and be given clear information about what’s involved
  • asked whether you would prefer a male or female professional to assess you
  • be asked where you’d like the assessment to take place

The crisis team should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and should support you to stay at home rather than going into hospital if possible.

Can my family, carer or advocate be involved in my treatment?

Professionals should make sure you can make decisions about your treatment – this is called ‘capacity’. This can change over time if your mental health condition is severe, and your doctor might ask you if you want to make an advance statement or advance decision about your future care.

Mental health professionals should also ask you if you would like a family member, carer or trained advocate involved in your care and, if you agree, what information you’d like to share with them.

Find out more about what you should expect from mental health care in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines.

Read the guidelines

Find mental health services and support

Have your say – let us know what you think of mental health services you or a family member have used.


Young woman talking to counsellor

£2million investment in Northumberland’s mental health services

Community mental health services for people with serious mental illness in Northumberland are to receive £2million of additional funding over the next three years.

The national funding from NHS England/Improvement is to support more ‘joined up’ mental health care across a variety of organisations, including hospitals, community organisations, GP practices and charity and voluntary organisations, improving access to care closer to home.

As a result, people with serious mental illness, accessing mental health services and support across Northumberland will receive more holistic and tailored care depending on their need – just telling their story once.

Watch the launch video for the programme

Over the next three years, funding will be invested in transforming care for specific mental health conditions.

For example, this year the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is employing mental health practitioners to work in primary care in a joint initiative with six Primary Care Networks (groups of GP practices that work together) to ensure that mental health support and interventions are more accessible.

The community adult eating disorder service will be developed across Northumberland to respond to a range of eating disorders at a much earlier stage. This will enable opportunities for early detection and care being given at an earlier stage, improving the outcome for patients.

Patients who have complex emotional needs, and who may have suffered trauma, will receive support from staff who work closely with their GPs and other healthcare partners to provide greater emotional support.

More will be done to help prevent hospital admission, to seek alternative care and to prevent escalation of symptoms by enhancing the crisis pathways with staff who understand the social aspects of poor mental health, like fuel poverty, loneliness, and lack of employment.

Kate O’Brien, Senior Head of Commissioning, Child Health, Learning Disabilities and Mental Health, for NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This is such a welcome and needed programme of work and I am extremely proud to be involved in it. We know it is going to improve the support and care for those that need mental health care across Northumberland. And after the last year and a half, this has never been more important. People have been through a very difficult period and I’m sure many are dealing with some very tough personal challenges and circumstances.

“Working in partnership across the wide range of organisations that provide mental health care and support is absolutely crucial to improve access and for this transformation to be a success and I know all involved are committed to improving the mental wellbeing of those that live in Northumberland. The integrated working across organisations will ensure that there is ‘no wrong door’ to access services and individuals should only need to tell their story once.”

GP practices, hospital mental health services and the voluntary sector across Northumberland will also work together to encourage the uptake of physical health checks for those with serious mental illness. These health checks will be available in GP practices and other community settings.

Northumberland Recovery College, which was launched in May 2021, is also part of this transformation work. The college is open to any adult living in Northumberland who would like to improve their mental health and wellbeing. It is not a physical building, but instead provides learning experiences, mutual support, and activities in local communities to improve wellbeing. The activities are often led by people with lived experience of mental ill-health. To find out more visit the website.

Partners working together on this transformation programme include Northumberland County Council, Northumberland NHS Commissioning Group, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Primary Care Networks across Northumberland, Healthwatch Northumberland, Mental Health Matters, Mental Health Concern, Carers Northumberland, the voluntary sector and service users themselves.

Find mental health services and support

older lady with dementia looking at the camera

Dementia diagnosis: what next?

Getting a dementia diagnosis can be a big shock, and it can be hard to know what to do next. Take a look at this guide to find out what support you should receive.
The essential information you should get after a dementia diagnosis
  • Your type of dementia and how it will affect you.
  • Any further tests, treatment, activities or therapies that might help you.
  • Who will provide your care and how to contact them, including the professional who will coordinate your care.
  • Support groups and charities that can help you.
  • How dementia can affect your driving and what you need to do.
  • How your employer should support you if you work (or are looking for work).
  • Any research studies you could take part in.

This information should be explained to you and given to you in writing. You can also ask for it in a format you understand. If you don’t need this information straight away, you can ask for it later on.

What else should you talk about with your GP?

  • Consent – Do you agree to services sharing information about you? Who can they share information with, and what are you willing for them to share?
  • Information – Do you know who to contact for more advice if your needs change?
  • Future contact – You may not need any help or further appointments now. If that is the case, would you like to be contacted again and if so, when?

Next step checklist

It’s not just health and care support you need to think about when diagnosed with dementia. To help you, Dementia UK has created a checklist to follow, which includes information on benefits and discussing plans and wishes with your family.

Dementia UK checklist

What support have you received? 

Have you or loved one had a dementia diagnosis? We want to hear your experience of dementia care and support – good and bad. We have the power to make sure NHS leaders and other decision makers listen to and act on your feedback. So, if you’ve got a story to share, tell us!

Planning your care


After your dementia diagnosis, your GP should direct you to services that can give you more information and support. You should also be given the name of a professional who will coordinate any care and support you might need.

The future

Thinking ahead can feel overwhelming, but planning care can help make sure people know your wishes for the future. When you’re ready for this, you should be offered support and information to discuss your options.

Support for carers

Anyone with caring responsibilities for a person with dementia is entitled to a Carers’ Assessment. Their local Authority will carry this out. The Assessment will look at the impact of caring for a person with dementia and what support is needed. Take a look at Dementia UK’s guidance on Carers’ Assessments for more information.

As a carer, it is essential to think about your health and wellbeing. It is a significant adjustment, so you should take a look at the options available to you. These can include:

  • Training
  • Support
  • Advice

More information

The information on this page is from The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guide for people with dementia and their family and carers. Take some time to read the guide in full to understand better the support available to people with dementia and their carers.

Read full guidance

Visit our dementia health page for information on local services



Online event – Qwell mental health support

Join us on Friday 11 November to hear from Andrew Poinen, Engagement Lead for Kooth and Qwell.

In this free, online public event Andrew will provide an overview of Qwell, the online service available for adults aged 18 and over in Northumberland which provides free, safe and anonymous mental health and wellbeing support. We will hear what it involves, how to access it and there will be a chance to ask questions.

Register now and we will send you a link to join closer to the event:

Kooth Parent and Carer Session

If you are a parent or carer in Northumberland looking to find out more about Kooth and how it can help young people with their wellbeing, you can learn more at an online awareness session this month.
The session with Malcolm Connelly, Senior Engagement Lead with Kooth, will provide a brief overview of what the service can offer.
There are two sessions available:
  • Wednesday 24 November, 1.30pm-2.30pm
  • Tuesday 30 November, 10.30am-11.30am
Book your place here:

Kooth Parent and Carer Session

If you are a parent or carer in Northumberland looking to find out more about Kooth and how it can help young people with their wellbeing, you can learn more at an online awareness session this month.
The session with Malcolm Connelly, Senior Engagement Lead with Kooth, will provide a brief overview of what the service can offer.
There are two sessions available:
  • Wednesday 24 November, 1.30pm-2.30pm
  • Tuesday 30 November, 10.30am-11.30am
Book your place here:

Kooth information session for parents and carers

This online session will give a brief overview of the Kooth platform for parents and carers.

Kooth is a free online mental health support service for young people aged 11-25 years, commissioned by NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Find out more about the platform on the Kooth website or take a look at our Kooth Q&A.

Register here

online events

Choices4Growth Parents Forum

Join Choices4Growth for their first Parents Forum, an opportunity to take some time out, speak to other parents and find support in a friendly virtual group.

The forum will take place on Monday 10 May from 1.30pm to 2.30pm via Zoom.

For more information, please email Michael at:

Online event – mental wellbeing support for young people

Are you a parent, carer or someone who is looking for initial support for a child or young person’s mental wellbeing? Perhaps you work with young people and want ideas about what mental health support is available in Northumberland? Come along to our online event on Wednesday 10 March from 10.30am to 11.30am and find out more about Kooth, an online counselling and support service available to all young people aged 11-25 across Northumberland.

Kooth is a safe, confidential and anonymous way for young people to access wellbeing and mental health support through self-help resources and articles, peer support and discussion, and access to fully trained and qualified counsellors until 10pm each night, 365 days per year.

This event is an opportunity to hear more about Kooth from Northumberland’s Kooth Engagement Lead Malcolm Connelly who will give a short presentation and introduction to Kooth, what it involves, how to access it and what you can expect. There will be a Q&A session following the presentation.

Find out more about Kooth here.

If you would like to come along to the event please contact Helen Brown at:, or call 03332 408468 to register.

We would also like to hear from young people who are using or have used children’s mental health services in Northumberland so we can understand what is working well and what could be improved. You can share your views here.

Parents, carers and relatives of young people who have used services can also share feedback on our website.

Mental health and wellbeing support for the farming community – webinar

An evening of talks about mental health and wellbeing support for the farming community.

Speakers from Campaign Against Living Miserable (CALM), Gay Farmer Helpline, an Accredited CBT Therapist, Market Chaplin, Farming Community Network (FCN) and Kingsbridge Young Farmers will share with you ways you can support your own mental health and wellbeing as well as that of your family and friends in the rural community.

In addition to the speakers there will be an opportunity to ask questions to the speakers as well as Trading Standards Officers. You will be able to join this event anonymously if you wish.

This event is being run by the Trading Standards Farming Partnership / Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service.

A link to the webinar will be sent out nearer the time. Book your place here.

Care homes – keeping in touch with loved ones (online forum)

As we enter a further period where visiting relatives in care homes is restricted, we want to hear how this is affecting you and your loved ones. What information have you had about keeping in touch and maintaining communications about care and wellbeing?

We are particularly keen to hear if you managed to be tested and have an ‘in person’ visit during December.

We would like to know your experience of:

  • Using video calls (FaceTime, Zoom etc) or telephone calls. Does the home support these?  How many times a week and how long?  Does a member of staff help your loved one with the call?
  • Socially distanced visits. Does the home support ‘window’ visits.  How many times a week and how long?
  • How does the home keep you informed about how your loved one is getting on (apart from necessary issues about their care or health). Eg manager updates, photographs, videos
  • Does the home have a programme of group and 1 to 1 activities? Has your loved one taken part?
  • Has the home asked you what, within the current restrictions, would make this time easier?
  • What, within the current restrictions, would make it better for you and your love one?
  • When restrictions are eventually eased (not totally lifted) what would help you and your loved one?

The forum will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

If you would like to take part please contact Laura Haugh:, or call 03332 408468.

If you can’t make the forum and would like to tell us your story, or would rather speak to one of our team in confidence please get in touch.


Our Review of the Year and AGM

Our Review of the year and AGM will take place online on Wednesday 21 October, from 2.00pm and 4.00pm. Find out about our work and how we made a difference to people in Northumberland over the last 12 months.

As the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care says ‘People should have phone or video consultations with their doctors unless there is a clinical reason not to’, and that there had been a ‘hugely positive’ response to virtual appointments during the coronavirus pandemic, we will also have guest presenters talking about technology in NHS and social care services. We’ll explore how the coronavirus crisis has accelerated the move to online appointments and consultations, what has worked well and not so well, and what we can expect in the future.

You can ask a question in advance or at the Q&A session in our webinar.

Register for the Healthwatch Northumberland Review of the Year

Diabetes and Moving More

The North of England Diabetes UK team presents a webinar for people living with diabetes or those at risk of diabetes, taking an informal and relaxed look at the basics of getting more active. You will hear from Neil Gibson (Physical Activity Insight Advisor at Diabetes UK) and George West (Diabetes UK volunteer living with type 1 diabetes).

This webinar is free and registration is simple.  If you have any queries, Email