First Step support service among country’s best

A valuable service which helps people overcome anxiety and mental health issues has become one of the most successful in the country.

The dedicated Barrow and Furness First Step team now boasts one of the highest national recovery rates, despite seeing more patients than ever before.

The service, which provides therapy for people experiencing symptoms of a range of mental health issues, now has no waiting list for those needing help - while previously the wait for an appointment could be as long as two years.

Those at the helm of First Step, based in Barrow, say they are delighted with improvements and the positive impact it is having with those who benefit from the expertise and help on offer.

Richard Thwaites, consultant clinical psychologist and Clinical Director of First Step, explained Barrow's service beats all national targets to ensure people are offered the right help as quickly as possible:

“Barrow is showing an amazing and huge recovery rate compared to other areas across the country, particularly compared to the rate of depression and anxiety that exists.

“There are parts of the Home Counties where instances of mental illnesses might be lower that can't get the results that we are seeing in Barrow.

“We are seeing people earlier, there are more ways to access the service now and there's also less stigma about seeking help. All of these factors are improving how quickly people here are able to make a full recovery from their illness,” Dr Thwaites added.

Between 200 and 240 referrals a month are made to Barrow's First Step team for help with conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

People can be referred to the service by their GP as well as referring themselves by telephone or using a simple online form.

Some 98 per cent of those referred to the Barrow team will begin treatment within 42 days - with the remaining two per cent opting to delay the start of therapy to better fit with pre-planned holidays or other events.

The national target is 75 per cent.

And Barrow's rate of full recovery based on the number of people who begin treatment has soared above the national target of 50 per cent for the past year - peaking at 62 per cent, one of the best in the country.

Treatment can involve a number of weekly or fortnightly sessions with a therapist, with group-based sessions also available to anyone considered to benefit from the approach.

A range of times are now also available - including evenings - to ensure everyone can attend.

First Step Barrow's senior psychotherapist, David Sandford, said seeing people recover was an incredibly rewarding experience.

He said:

“It's a huge step for people to take to decide to access the service. But there is less stigma attached to it now which is actually helping as people are more likely to reach out at an earlier stage. People in Barrow also tend to have a strong support network in terms of family and friends which helps with their recovery.

“People are also very resilient here, they amaze me.But they are right to seek help - they deserve access to the right help. No-one has to struggle on alone.”

Find more information on First Step here