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Connecting with the community

Mind Your Mate and Yourself (MYMY) was set up in 2008 by bereaved family members and volunteers as a direct consequence of the increased suicides within Newcastle and District area. The organisation supports individuals who are suicidal, in distress or self-harming by providing advice, information and appropriate services.

MYMY partnered with Anna McLaughlin, Pharmacist in Medicare Pharmacy, Newcastle and was successfully awarded BCPP funding to run a 14-week project for local women aged 45 plus who were volunteers in MYMY. The aims of the project were to reduce health inequalities for women whilst increasing their knowledge and raising awareness around the issues that affect their health.

The BCPP project also aimed to help the women reconnect with their community after the lockdown and isolation caused by the pandemic. The group met weekly and held many of their sessions at the local picturesque park in Castlewellan. The Pharmacist, Anna, shared her knowledge and experience with the women addressing the topics of choice such as poor mental health, family support, nutrition and heart health. Anna also attended the sessions co-delivered by other groups. These included Age UK, the Ark Community Gardens and the Lions. Anna was able to share her experience and knowledge with these external groups while building her network of support to enable her to signpost others not involved in the project.

The women were delighted to hear the many benefits of walking including reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, improved mental wellbeing and better quality of life. They set themselves a steps target and practised some strength training to help osteoporosis, improve their hormone profile and reduce muscle loss – all of the moves expertly demonstrated by Anna! Other sessions focused on managing medication, diabetes, the nervous system regulation and the benefits of nature. The group visited Marian and Frank Mc Greevy’s Dundrum home where they marvelled at their gardens, discussed all things food and learnt how to recognise Type 2 diabetes.

The BCPP sessions enabled the women to be better equipped to self-manage their health whilst improving health literacy. The sessions educated women on how wider social factors (housing, employment, family life etc) impact on their health and empowered them with the skills to tackle these issues. Anna, the Pharmacist, integrated the ‘5 steps to wellbeing’ into the BCPP project and created a safe relational space where participants shared their vulnerabilities. Meeting Anna and working with her over the months created an accessible link for members of the community to a medical professional.

The women openly discussed that they were burnt out, mainly due to Covid-19, and struggled with many issues. Some of the women had not realised that the local Pharmacist played a huge role in the community, providing health advice with no appointment required. There was real bonding as a group and the members openly discussed their health agreeing prevention was so much better than cure. The ladies expressed an interest in getting their fasting blood sugars measured and this was offered at the pharmacy. Through this BCPP project, the women were able to identify the assets in their community and bring their own assets and skillsets to the group. The women were also catalysts to improve people’s health in their community by bringing this learning to their friends and families making a significant contribution to tackling health inequalities for the wider community.

At the end of the project, the women had improved selfmanagement of their health, more social relationships and social support. Trusting relationships were nurtured within the project and new connections and friendships made. The local Pharmacist is an advocate of social prescribing and has the skills and capabilities to facilitate the women to reconnect to their personal health and resources as well as educating them on the important role of their local pharmacy – a one stop health place with no appointment needed. Both the Pharmacist and MYMY are more aware of women’s health issues in the community after the project. They have a better understanding of the context and conditions of women’s lives and factors that influence health and improved health literacy understanding and skills.

I really looked forward to our Wednesday afternoon meetings. As the weeks progressed, we emerged from the isolation of lockdown, gained confidence and formed friendships. We explored different topics each week including gut health, diabetes and arthritis. I was able to encourage the group to go to their pharmacies and get health advice there. I would like to thank BCPP for giving me the opportunity to work outside the pharmacy building and connect with the community, find out about the ladies in my group and help them in any way I could.”

Anna, Pharmacist, Medicare Pharmacy

Many thanks to Anna for all her advice, for listening and arranging our visits and to all the speakers for guiding us through many areas of our health and wellbeing. It has been a relaxing and enjoyable time spent with a lovely group of people.’’

Project participant