Psychologists from Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust (C&I) are trialling a new approach to supporting mental health wellbeing with Problem Solving Booths where strangers can discuss issues with each other.
The informal booths, set up in public areas, aim to get people to be more open about mental health by talking through problems with someone who has a completely unbiased perspective.
Whilst they are not intended as a substitute for professional mental health consultations, it is hoped they will get Londoners talking about mental health, as well as providing a signpost to other help.
They are part of a new capital-wide campaign, Thrive LDN, to get people talking openly about mental health and wellbeing, making London the happiest, healthiest city in the world. A key is to encourage mutual support in communities.
The Problem Solving Booths reverse the traditional arrangement in which a mental health professional (traditionally “the helper”) offers mental health support to an individual (“the helped”).
This means, for example, someone who may be homeless offering advice to a psychiatrist about a personal problem, with the result that the homeless person leaves the booth feeling valued and knowledgeable and the professional is given an alternative perspective.
The booths were first tested in Camden and have since been run across the borough, including on housing estates, at youth centres and University College London.
Dr Jeff Halperin, C&I’s Head of Psychology and Psychotherapy Services, put together a team of clinical colleagues to explore whether the concept, developed by Camden Council and Owls, a social enterprise organisation, provided effective support.
The booths are now being rolled out across the capital, including at City Hall, where Dr Halperin discussed the stigma towards mental health with Amanda Coyle, Head of Health and Wellbeing, Greater London Authority (Pic).
They consist of two chairs facing each other - one for the “helper” and the other for the “helped”. The concept is flexible so that individuals can swap roles if necessary.
Dr Halperin said: “Going to a traditional healthcare setting to get an appointment for psychological support can feel daunting.
“Problem Solving Booths are a creative way of changing the usual consultation format entirely, changing the traditional roles, potentially breaking down perceived barriers and helping communities build mutual support for each other.”
Clinical Psychologist Dr Charlie Howard, Owls director and a social entrepreneur, said: “We want to try multiple variations of the concept to find out what works best and why.
“Our initial testing found that people who wouldn’t usually be asked to help others said they felt empowered for the first time in years – they got in the booth because they wanted to help someone, but then swapped seats and ended up asking for help too.”
Notes to Editors
Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust – Strategic Priorities
Our three strategic priorities are:
Early and effective intervention
Helping people to live well
Research and innovation
About Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust
We provide mental health and substance misuse services to people living in Camden and Islington, and a substance misuse and psychological therapies service to residents in Kingston.
We have two inpatient facilities, at Highgate Mental Health Centre and St Pancras Hospital, as well as community based services throughout the London boroughs of Camden and Islington. Our Trust is also a member of University College London Partners (UCLP), one of the world’s leading academic health science partnerships.
We provide services for adults of working age, adults with learning difficulties, and older people in the London area either in a community or inpatient setting.
Our income for 2016/17 was £138million and we have approximately 2,000 staff. Our staff work in multi-disciplinary teams providing a holistic approach to recovery. This means that we often work with partner agencies and the voluntary sector. Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust was established in 2002. In March 2008 we became the first Care Trust to achieve Foundation Trust status and are licensed by NHS Improvement.
Problem Solving Booths
Problem Solving Booths (PSBs) enable wellbeing conversations. Booths consist of two chairs; one for the ‘helped’ who may have a problem or need advice, and one for the ‘helper’ who assists them; people are often asked to then swap roles. PSBs show that everyone can ask for help without being in mental health crisis.
We all have problems and, more importantly, we all have the potential to offer help. PSBs were an idea suggested by a young person who was asked what would help the “stresses in his head”, and replied, “a problem solving booth right here.” The social enterprise Owls has led the development of this idea with a range of partners across London. Find out more at www.thriveldn.co.uk
Thrive LDN aims to:
Enable a citywide movement to encourage Londoners to think, talk and act more about mental health and wellbeing
Create a shared sense of purpose of what London wants for mental health
Lead a citywide campaign to reduce mental health stigma and discrimination
Galvanise political leadership and system leaders around focused action across the six thematic areas
Build on the foundations laid by the London Health Commission
Thrive LDN was established in 2016 by the Mayor of London, who chairs the London Health Board, which includes the NHS, Public Health England and London Councils.
The London Health Board (LHB) is a non-statutory group comprising elected leaders and key London professional health leads.
It aims to:
To drive improvements in London’s health and care and reduce health inequalities
Encourage the ambition to make London the healthiest global city
Make the case for investment, power and freedoms to enable the improvement of health and care services and wider issues that affect health in London
Consider ways of supporting and accelerating the transformation of health and care services in the capital
Champion public participation in health and support more choice and accountability in health and care services
C&I has moved the service we normally offer in emergency departments to our 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Assessment Service, at St Pancras Hospital. The service will see people in need of urgent care so that they do not have to go to a hospital emergency department unless they have an urgent medical need. Emergency departments are under unprecedented pressure due to COVID-19 – the illness caused by coronavirus. We are urging people in mental health crisis to telephone our 24/7 crisis line on 0800 917 3333 or contact their usual community mental health team. If service users attend the 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Assessment Service in person we will see you but we urge you to contact the crisis line in advance for advice to ensure you are only leaving home when absolutely necessary.