Mogadishu visit: Chief Executive Joe Rafferty's blog

International Calling

It is not often we are involved in an international event from our V7 offices, but Mersey Care were very proud to be guests at the closing ceremony for the mental health awareness course at the Habeeb Hospital in Mogadishu, Somali yesterday.

Through modern technology we were able to join in a prestigious ceremony including Government officials and the 48 clinicians who have completed our online distance learning programme.


Mersey Care’s Somalia ceremony team, pictured left to right: Michelle McNulty (administrator), Umbero Ibrahim (staff nurse and volunteer tutor), Joe Rafferty (chief executive), Elaine Darbyshire (executive director of communications and corporate governance), Lefteris Zabatis (business development manager), Dr Yasir Abassi (clinical director addiction services), Terhemen Adamu (health care assistant and volunteer tutor), Tracey Hampton-Smith (high intensity therapist and volunteer tutor), Abdi Ahmed (project manager).

The aim of the programme has been to improve the quality and diagnosis of mental health patients in the Mogadishu area of Somalia, through improving knowledge and expertise of local staff.

At Mersey Care we must keep sharing our expertise, our passion, good practice and innovation to other areas of this country and beyond. This initiative also illustrates the value of having local links with the seed of the idea for this coming through Abdi Ahmed, a Project Manager at Mersey Care, and his close links with the local Somali community.


Through that we have been able to share our expertise abroad and there are now 48 clinicians who are now better informed about mental health and can share that knowledge locally. It was a real pleasure to interact with everyone at the ceremony yesterday and I have issued an open invitation to any of them to visit us here on Merseyside should they want to see how we work.

Life Rooms Walton

Yesterday’s international conference call starts an exciting week for Mersey Care, with a series of events at Life Rooms Walton that signal the completion of our renovation and restoration project at the former Walton Library. I will talk next week in more detail about how important this building will be for our service users and the local community, but for now I’d like to discuss the significance of this building in helping to break down stigma.

Fighting stigma is one of our biggest obstacles to overcome as a mental health trust and that can manifest itself in many ways. Stigma can be everything from people not wanting to admit they have a mental health issue for fear of the reaction, to the old fashioned and often run down buildings that often house mental health wards.

This organisation has worked hard through campaigns like the Big Brew to encourage people to talk openly about their problems and break down stigma that way. The more people talk about this, the more it will be acceptable and less stigmatised.

Of course, there is more than one approach to breaking down stigma, like all big problems. Some people will find that when they are seriously ill, that is the moment that stigma is at its most profound when it should be a time when talking openly about problems and receiving help is easily accessible.

That was highlighted this week by a report by the Depression Alliance, which states that the number of working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety since 2009 has increased by 24% while the unemployment rate for people with common mental health conditions is double that found among the general population. 

We are trying to address that at the Life Rooms Walton, by providing an employment and enterprise hub to help service users return to work through volunteering and further education and literacy, numeracy and IT skills taught in a safe environment, which are just a number of the services we will provide.

Providing guidance like that in a bright and friendly atmosphere like the Life Rooms is another example of how we can tackle stigma by enhancing surroundings. Our partnerships with organisations like the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic allow us to support service users in a sensitive manner and I would hope the environment at Life Rooms will prove similarly supportive.

Darkness Into Light

One good way to tackle stigma is by mass participation events like the Big Brew Talk Walk event at Aintree that was so well attended last year.

Those of you that took part in that may also like to support the Darkness Into Light 5km walk or run that takes place at 4.15am on Saturday, 7 May. The aim is to raise funds for Pieta House, the self-harm or suicide crisis centre in Dublin.

The event started eight years ago in Dublin and obviously has similar aims and objectives to what we are trying to do with our zero suicide policy and the Big Brew campaign. Those of you who wish to attend the Liverpool walk, which starts at St Michael’s Irish Centre on West Derby Road, can do so here.

Smoke Free Services

Mersey Care is continuing its move towards becoming a smoke free trust. Secure Services were the first of our divisions to successfully implement the policy, while I would also like to congratulate Rathbone Hospital for following suit on 4 April.

We are aiming for Local Services to continue implementation across services towards smoke free on 1 August, 2016 and further information on the transition will be provided via leaflets. All staff are also required to complete level one training, titled ‘very brief advice on smoking’ by that date, while further training will be provided to clinical staff depending on their role. 

Service users will continue to be supported to manage their nicotine dependence with access to nicotine replacement therapy, supported by local smoke free services and a range of activities.


Joe Rafferty

Chief Executive