Welcome to our very first Valleys Steps Christmas Newsletter! The organisation has seen many developments this year and we thought it was about time we shared some with our valuable audience. I have been incredibly proud to see both the staffing team and our excellent volunteers expand this year, allowing our activities to touch even more people and in a variety of different ways. I hope that you will enjoy reading about this and I look forward to seeing what the New Year Valleys Steps team can bring to you.
Felicity Crump, Valleys Steps CEO
It’s been a busy year at Valleys Steps, here’s what’s been happening:
- Practitioner Team update
- Our achievements over the past year
- There are many ways our courses can help
- What are people saying about our courses?
- Our Volunteers
- What do we have in store for 2018?
Our Stress Control and Mindfulness courses are designed to help people understand more about themselves and learn ways to boost well-being and it has been great to see so many people attending.
News from the Practitioner Team
Valleys Steps practitioners have been very busy this year and our team has seen some significant changes and achievements. The Practitioner team is now five strong consisting of Clinical Manager Alison, Bethan, Josh, Paul & Shelley.
The Steps in our name has been a metaphor for the strides we have made as a service, working with different organisations and agencies to spread the word. Bethan has been involved in recording interviews with GTFM and RhonddaRadio, and has been involved in delivering sign-poster sessions to partner organisations such as Citizens Advice RCT and Women’s Aid RCT.
Shelley has been working hard to develop relationships with rugby clubs in the Cwm Taf University Health Board region. We are now advertising with Pontypridd RFC, Gilfach Goch RFC, Mountain Ash RFC and we are sponsoring Merthyr RFC player Tom Riley.
As well as being an award winning comedian, Josh has created the introduction video on the homepage of our website and is currently producing vlogs which will be released shortly to broaden our audience.
Paul has been recruiting course participants so that they may give feedback on their experience of attending the courses with the aim of appearing on videos which will be used as part of the ‘Tell your Story’ initiative. He has also developed our fortnightly blog which has seen contributions from practitioners and guest bloggers from the world of politics, nutrition and psychology.
Last but not least, Alison has been leading the team, steering the ship, developing and directing and taking us forward in our endeavours. We are looking forward to working closer than ever with our colleagues Primary care health services, our local GPs and Community Pharmacies and the Local Primary Care Mental Health Support Service, You’ll see our new joint resources guide launched on the website in the new year as well as our new blockbuster video featuring the “Stress Monster”.
The list of achievements are many for this year and the above is just a small glimpse of what we have achieved. All of these have been on top of delivering our courses throughout the Valleys. We are always striving to improve our service, being innovative and creative and exploring new ideas and most importantly listening to feedback. We have exciting times ahead with lots of new ideas and projects in the pipeline so keep an eye on what we are doing! You might spot our Valleys Steps Beer Mats if you’re out and about over the next period.
If you want to get involved please get in touch.
We would like to wish the people who have attended our courses, volunteers, partners, fellow agencies, venues and anyone we have missed out a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Without you we would not be able to do what we do. We are extremely grateful to you for this.
Here’s what people are saying
“The course was very clear and delivered well; I would highly recommend it. The relaxation tracks are excellent and the breathing techniques very good. I will attend other courses and advise others to attend.”
“It has made me address stress issues that I have had for years. I am already recommending this course.”
“Better understanding of how stress affects body and how to control it!”
Our Achievements in 2017
In the past year, the initiative has helped to support a wide variety of people across the South Wales Valleys to find new ways of managing and improving their emotional health, seeing over 2,000 people through courses and workshops.
This year Valleys Steps has achieved ambitious outcomes with regards to many people accessing support via our email and telephone information service. People can also receive FAQ’s information from our online video based on our learning from telephone and email enquiries. We have had 35,925 website hits on our front page alone this year, with a large proportion of referrals coming from Facebook and Twitter.
We have been meeting with our local champions which has helped raise the profile of the organisation and raise awareness of our services.
We have also developed excellent relationship with local employers and Job Centres , who refer their customers to our service. We have been really pleased to see the value that employers place on the well-being of their staff and have had many enquiries to work with local employers, options for funding for additional resource in order to meet this demand is currently being explored.
Below is a summary of the people we have reached and how the courses have impacted on well-being.
During the first and last sessions of our courses we invite people to complete a Warwich Edinburgh Mental Well-being Score. This questionnaire takes into account aspects of life such as being able to relax and having positive relationships. It results in a score of well-being which is either Low, Medium or High. The graphs below display the well-being results of attendees before and after attending our course. There is a significant increase in well-being from majority in the low category in session 1 to majority in the medium to high category in session 6.
Key: Low, Medium, High.
To celebrate our re-brand early this year and mark the first birthday of Valleys Steps, a special event was held earlier this year at the Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd on 28th April, which was also attended by Cabinet Secretary for Health, Vaughan Gething. The event gave people the chance to learn more about the work of Valleys Steps and take part in some mindfulness taster sessions.It also provided visitors with information on the variety of services and support available across Rhondda Cynon Taf.
How our Courses can help you
Phillip Denscombe was forced to assess his life after a quadruple heart bypass operation. The former mechanic had been 21 and a half stone, worked hard, smoked and drank.
Now down to 17 stone, he has changed his lifestyle and said that he realised that his previous mental health had been part of his problems.
“I suppose it takes something like this to make you take the next step in your life. I was very much the guy who shrugged things off, said there was nothing wrong with me, and just got on with things.”
Six weeks after leaving hospital after his operation, his girlfriend had told him that he wasn’t acting the way he used to and suggested he attended Valleys Steps.
Mindfulness and Nutrition
If you’re under stress or suffer from depression or anxiety one of the most important things you can do is keep your blood sugar levels stable. This makes sense when you think that blood sugar levels are closely tied to our fight or flight response, raising when we think stressful thoughts and crashing when a stressful situation or period of time is over.
We learnt all about this in our recent most blog, you can find the full article here!
Our Volunteer Cheranne’s Story
“I’ve been a volunteer with Valleys Steps for a year now; I chose Valleys Steps because Stress Control and Mindfulness really interested me and I wanted to find out more.
After 37 years working in a stressful environment I took an exit package from work and wanted a volunteer role that would help others and at the same time give me tools and techniques I could use to enjoy my next life stage in a stress free and mindful way.
Rewind several years, I recall feeling very down; I was not enjoying my job; I was facing massive change as the job I had done for 20 plus years had disappeared. I was in a new job and the challenge rather than exciting me was stressing me out, I knew I didn’t like it but I didn’t know what I wanted to do about it; I felt out of control ………… my job was subsuming me and it was making me unhappy. I was over thinking; everyone was against me, I couldn’t do the job to the standards I set myself and I was so anxious, afraid I would make a mistake I wasn’t able to conclude the simplest of tasks.
Cue a visit to the doctor (about something unrelated) where I broke down ………. I was offered medication as a way to make me feel better but that wasn’t a route I wanted to go down, if only I had had Valleys Steps at that time but I didn’t so I struggled until an opportunity for an early exit from work presented itself. I knew this was for me so I started to plan the next stages of my life.
Fast forward to the past year volunteering with Valleys Steps supporting their Stress Control and Mindfulness Courses, not only did this mean I experienced the content once, it meant I was lucky enough to experience on a rolling basis and I was helping people. I really resonate with their vision.
To understand why and how our body responds to stress is enlightening, it explained so much about the way I was feeling when I was unhappy in work. The courses provided me with the tools and techniques to deal with stressful situations.
I was able to fully test the techniques I picked up from Valleys Steps Mindfulness and Stress Control in recent weeks when I faced my own challenges; my mum was admitted to hospital, my dad’s health was deteriorating, he relies heavily on my mum, I had my own health scare and if that wasn’t enough my son also found himself in hospital facing minor surgery!!
I know if I hadn’t approached the situations mindfully, accepting them, not judging them and being aware of how the situations were making me feel and how my body was reacting I would have gone into a total meltdown rendering me helpless.
I’m pleased to say I didn’t, I actively engaged meditative techniques learnt from Valleys Steps which enabled me to live through the stressful weeks and come out unscathed the other side.”
Valleys Steps would like to thank Cheranne for sharing her story which I’m sure you’ll agree is truly inspiring .
What’s in store for 2018
As well as our core courses, we are also offering community information sessions, designed to give people a flavour of what the course are about.
We will be expanding our online resources in the coming year, there will be something for everybody. This method of intervention and promotion of the service is and will further develop into being an important ‘stepping stone’ for people to attend our courses, through them finding out more about us online.
Look out for our beer mats in your local. Valleys Steps will be advertising more widely across the airways and in your local communities.
We are looking forward to developing our volunteer group. We will be starting a Volunteer Forum, also an online chat room so that everyone can keep in touch and share ideas. From January 2018 we will be running a volunteer recruitment event, we will be sending out more details shortly.