Community Matters

Community Matters sessions from Talking Matters

Community Matters sessions are weekly community drop-in sessions from Talking Matters Northumberland. Sessions take place at venues across the county where everyone is welcome to come along and meet new people in a safe space. Activities and free tea and coffee are always on offer.


Community Matters Drop-in Sessions

Prudhoe: The Spetchells Centre, Mondays 10.00am -12.00pm

Hexham: Hexham Abbey (Etheldreda room), Tuesdays 10.00am – 2.00pm

Berwick: The William Elder Building, Tuesdays 1.30pm – 4.00pm

Ashington: Hirst Welfare Centre, Wednesdays 9.30am -12.00pm

Cramlington: Welcome Methodist Church, Wednesday 12.00pm – 3.00pm

Morpeth: Morpeth Methodist Church,  Wednesdays 2.00pm – 4.30pm

Blyth: Blyth Community Enterprise Centre, Fridays 9.30am – 12.00pm



Group of people walking outdoors

Funding success for Talking Matters

Talking Matters Northumberland and project partner Active Northumberland (with support from Northumberland Sport) has been given £142,000 of National Lottery funding from Sport England to help volunteers make a positive contribution to mental health outcomes in the county, using sport and physical activity.

Sport England’s ‘Opportunity Fund’ encourages people to volunteer to help tackle challenges their communities face. Projects are being funded in areas that may experience economic disadvantage, ranging from inner-city areas with high levels of crime and social exclusion, to remote rural areas with few services. By getting involved, the volunteers will also benefit by developing their own skills, confidence plus improved wellbeing.

About the project

The three year project will enable Talking Matters, who provide the NHS Talking Therapy service in Northumberland, to recruit volunteers from the local community to help adults with mental health issues take up a sport or physical activity. Talking Matters will employ two Volunteer Coordinators based in Hexham and Alnwick who will recruit and manage the volunteers. The volunteers will support adults of all ages, referred to them by Talking Matters or their GP. The volunteers, who will be fully trained, will provide one to one support to encourage people to participate in a sport or physical activity as a way of improving their mental health.

Steve Patterson of Talking Matters says, “There is a growing body of evidence that being physically active is good for your mental health as it can help recovery, build resilience and sustain good mental wellbeing.  However, that first step is often the hardest, particularly for individuals who may be anxious, lack self confidence, worry about meeting new people or have other worries such as body image or low fitness levels. By supporting individuals on a one to one basis, the volunteers will help them find an activity that is right for them.  Working together the volunteers will help people overcome their concerns and support them on their journey to full and active participation in a sport or physical activity.”

Project partners Active Northumberland will work with the volunteers, sports clubs, leisure centres and other activity providers (yoga, keep fit, walking, cycling groups etc.) to identify suitable opportunities in the local community.

As part of the project Tyneside and Northumberland Mind will provide Sport England approved ‘Mental Health Awareness for Sports and Physical Activity’ training to sports and activity providers to improve their support for individuals with mental health issues. The training will help the sports community achieve the Sport and Recreation Alliance Mental Health Charter.

Northumberland County Council has awarded the project a grant of £30,000 and further financial support has come from Northumberland Sport and Hexham and Alnwick Town Councils. Public Health Northumberland. Northumberland CCG, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear Foundation Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority have all added their support to the project. Local sports clubs and GP practices have also supported the project bid.

Northumberland County Councillor, Veronica Jones, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Adult Wellbeing and Health says, “This funding award from Sport England  is really great news for the county. It provides us with a fantastic opportunity to use volunteering and social action as part of an exciting new approach to supporting adults experiencing mental health issues. Regular exercise has been proven to have a profoundly positive impact on depression and anxiety. In fact, being active is one of the most important things people can do to maintain health and wellbeing. We are looking forward to working with, and supporting all those involved in this new project.”

Sport England’s Director of Sport, Phil Smith, says, “When people volunteer in sport and physical activity there is a dual benefit – volunteers help others in their communities to get active, as well as benefiting themselves. Volunteering can do wonders for job and career prospects, mental health and making friends. That’s why volunteering sits at the heart of Sport England’s new strategy, ‘Towards an Active Nation’. We’re delighted to be helping Talking Matters and Active Northumberland to enable more volunteers to be the catalysts for change in their neighbourhood.”

The project was the brainchild of Gordon Allan who following the loss of his wife Sally in 2015 has become an advocate for improving mental health in the north east. Gordon, who lives in Northumberland, was instrumental in pulling the project together and building the support from the various stakeholders. He says, “The project has been funded by individuals through the National Lottery. We are grateful for their support and look forward to giving something back by improving mental health outcomes in the county. With the support of the local communities we believe that over three years we can help over 1,500 people. I know walking has helped me when I have been struggling to cope with the loss of Sally”.

To find out more about thee project contact Talking Matters.

Young woman talking to counsellor

The State of Care in Mental Health Services

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) recently published its review of mental health services in England, over the period 2104 – 2017. The report found that 68% of core services provided by NHS trusts were good, with 6% rated as outstanding. Among independent services, 76% were rated as good or outstanding (72% good and 4% outstanding).

However, there are a substantial minority of NHS trust and independent services that need to improve the quality of care they provide. 39% of NHS trusts were rated as ‘requires improvement’ as at 31 May 2017, as were 23% of independent services. A very small number were rated as inadequate; one NHS trust and three independent services.

The report identifies several areas of concern:

  • Concerns about ‘locked rehabilitation wards’
  • Great variation between wards in how frequently staff use restrictive practices and physical restraint to deescalate challenging behaviour
  • The impact of staffing shortages
  • Poor quality clinical information systems
  • Commissioning of crisis care services
    See the full report and rating tables at the Care Quality Commission website.

For help and support around mental health issues please see our Mental Health support page.

book titles for young people around mental health

Reading Well for young people

Are you a young person needing help to cope with the pressures of life? Or are you a parent, teacher or health professional supporting young people coping with difficult feelings and experiences that can affect their well-being? Reading Well for young people can provide the books to help.

Reading Well for young people is delivered by The Reading Agency in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians and the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians. It is funded by Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust.

Northumberland libraries are participating in the Reading Well initiative for young people.  We are launching the scheme in Hexham and Berwick libraries with collections of the 35 books on the recommended book list available for loan at these libraries or by free request from any library in Northumberland.

The booklist of 35 titles  provides 13 to 18 year-olds with support and advice on common mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and stress, as well as difficult experiences like bullying and exams. All of the titles, which include self-help, psycho-education, memoirs, graphic novels and fiction, have been chosen by young people and health professionals.

more about mental health

Mental Health Task Group

The mental health task group aims to ensure that users of mental health services and their carers have a voice and can influence mental health service delivery in Northumberland.
The group works in partnership with providers and commissioners of mental health services to bring about improvements for the benefit of all service users.
The main remits of this group are to:
  • Consider mental health issues affecting residents of Northumberland and brought to the attention of Healthwatch Northumberland.
  • Share and receive information from providers and commissioners of mental health services
  • Work in a transparent, inclusive and timely manner.
  • Consider equality and diversity issues in relation to the matters under consideration and any impact current services or future recommendations may have on equalities groups.



Time to Change logo

Time to Change Champions Event

This event is hosted by Cygnus Support and is a chance to find out more about Time to Change, mental health charity, in Northumberland.


Do you want to make a difference?

Do you believe mental health should have the same importance as physical health?

Can you talk about your own experience?

Do you want to live in a Mentally Healthy Community?

If the answer is yes please come along for an informal chat and find out how.



  • Share what you are doing / going to do to challenge stigma
  • Network and meet like-minded people
  • Share campaigning ideas


Please email: if you would like to attend.

For more information on mental health and local support visit our ‘your health‘ page.