Digital Accelerator

Improving quality of life for people living with a severe mental illness

There are approximately 1,800 people in Bexley Borough that have a severe mental illness. These are mums, dads, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. Anyone can have a severe mental illness and everyone should get the care and support they need to live well and be safe. The Digital Accelerator project aims to do just that.

What is a severe mental illness (SMI)?

A severe mental illness is a psychological problem that can prevent a person from doing the things they would normally do: like work, socialise and live independently.

The term SMI includes diagnoses like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other conditions where psychosis might be present and severely impacting quality of life. Patients on medication like lithium might also be considered to have a severe mental illness.

Unfortunately for people living with SMI, their mental health diagnosis isn’t the only challenge.

Many people with an SMI diagnosis often have other long-term health conditions. These commonly include heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. People with SMI also often have poor health behaviours, like smoking, bad diet, a lack of exercise and substance misuse.

This combination of poor mental health, physical and behavioural factors means people with an SMI have shorter life spans then the general population and die on average 15 to 20 years earlier*.

This gap in life expectancy, between the general population and those with SMI, is known as an example of health inequality – and it’s an unfair and avoidable difference.

How is health inequality being addressed in Bexley?

Mind in Bexley applied for and won a small bid from the NHS Digital First team early 2021. This funding will be used to identify gaps and better meet the needs of locals with SMI, through digital (online) and other activities.

The Digital Accelerator project works in partnership with South East London Clinical Commissioning Group and will run to end March 2022.

Digital Accelerator Project Aims And Activities

1- Improve access to support and advice for people with SMI and their carers

Activities include:

  • A quarterly webinar for GPs and their staff, SMI patients and their carers to discuss physical and mental wellbeing, prevention and self-care.
  • A monthly peer-led forum for people with SMI and their carers to come together and share their experiences and learnings.
  • A dedicated focus group for service users and carers designed to capture their experience of mental health diagnosis and treatment, the results of which will be used to influence local policy makers.

2- Provide additional support for GP practices

Activities include:

  • Establish a network of local Digital Champions to guide patients on how to access health services and better manage their conditions online.
  • Promote awareness of and provide new opportunities for patients to get their annual personal health check.
  • Work with GPs to create a network of Mental Health Champions who will drive the mental health agenda forward within their practices and more broadly.

3- Improve local mental health training and tools.

Activities include:

  • Mental Health First Aid training offered to all Bexley Social Prescribers and GP staff.
  • Train a team of Digital Champions to support locals with SMI and their carers to manage their health needs better, using digital tools.
  • Produce supporting literature to help social prescribers signpost clients more efficiently.

We’re also lucky to be joint bid winners, good partners and old friends with Mencap Visit their website to find out how they’re tackling digital exclusion in the Learning Disability sector.

How can you help with Digital Accelerator Bexley?

If you are a person with a severe mental illness or carer

If you are a professional

  • Sign up for MHFA training 
  • Tell your patients about our Digital Accelerator project and activities
  • Encourage your patients to get their annual personal health check

If you are someone who is passionate about mental health and wants to get involved

  • Volunteer as a Digital Champion
  • Become a Mental Health First Aider
  • Join your GP’s Patient Participation Group and voice your opinion on mental health matters

For more information on the Digital Accelerator project please email bpietersma@mindinbexley.org.uk

*Chesney E and others. ‘Risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders: a meta-review’ World Psychiatry 2014: volume 13, issue 2, pages 153 to 160 (viewed on 2 July 2018).