Who are we and what do we do?
We are the Assertive Outreach Team. We are made up of staff from different caring professions including Social Workers, Psychiatric Nurses and Occupational Therapists. We have two Consultant Psychiatrists and a Clinical Psychologist.
Who is our service for?
We work with people who have used mental health services before, but perhaps have found the support offered unhelpful, or not flexible enough to meet their needs. As a result they may find themselves admitted to psychiatric hospital more frequently.
Each person we support is allocated a lead practitioner who works with them in partnership to create a care plan that allows them to feel supported in their community.
We work with people to help them improve all aspects of their life as we know that good mental health relies on all parts of our life being in order.
We promise to ...
Enable you to make choices about your care
Promote recovery and independence
Be flexible in where and how often we meet
To offer practical support and work with you to help you get to where you want to be
Information for carers
If you are a carer your are entitled to have a carers assessment where your needs are considered and you may be entitled to resources yourself. It is well worth having a carers assessment, and there are several ways to arrange this. If you can access the Brighton and Hove website www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/ and write “carers assessment” in the search box you will be able to fill in an assessment on line. One of our team members will complete a carers assessment with you, so please contact us if you need this.
Family Support: We can provide support for service users and their families and carers together. This is called Family Work; it is where everyone is encouraged to communicate together, problem solve and build on the coping strategies you already have to support the service user. We will be offering this to some of our service users, and if this sounds like it may be helpful please contact us.
A note from our Team Leader, Emma Barnard: Please contact us if you need any support, advice or someone to talk to. A lot of the carers I speak to apologise for taking up our time, and often think they are repeating the same problems over and over again. This is just natural - it is a pleasure to hear from you, so please ring if you need any support or advice. Our office number is 0300 304 0093.
It can be very stressful caring for someone with a mental health issue. Brighton has a well-resourced Carers Centre which provides support for friend and family carers, and they organise regular support groups where people can share their experiences and support each other. Their website is www.thecarerscentre.org and their phone number is 01273 746222.
For carers in East Sussex there is support available via Care for the Carers:
01323 738390 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
For carers in West Sussex there is support available via Carers Support West Sussex:
0300 028 8888 /email@example.com.
What can you expect when you come to us?
Our team includes Consultant Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Support Time and Recovery Workers, Social Workers and Administrators. We work together to provide the best level of care for you.
We will work with you and your lead practitioner to agree a care plan that meets your needs.
For some people who have used mental health services for a long time or experienced multiple hospital stays, support can seem inflexible and not able to meet their needs. The Assertive Outreach Team (AOT) in Brighton and Hove work with people who have had this experience, to address areas of their life where they would like to see improvement. The team work alongside the person they are supporting and are led by what their client, the person using their service, wants and needs.
For Steve, who lives in Hove, the Assertive Outreach Team has had a life changing impact.
Steve says: ‘I have been admitted to a hospital for my mental health six times. Since working with the AOT for the last 3 years I have not had to go into hospital at all. I have been critical of the medical model in the past, feeling that it is too medication heavy but the care I have received from AOT has supplemented my medication and enabled me to access other therapies.”
The AOT work in the community visiting people in their homes, in café’s or at community or hobby groups.
“I work with three members of the team on a regular basis, a nurse, a support worker and an Occupational Therapist. They are all brilliant and all work in such different ways. With Ben, he is such a lovely man, really kind. With Sharon I know we will get things done, she’s so good and very efficient and always has time to listen, it’s very therapeutic. I see Frank regularly and it’s really good to be able to sit with him and have a natter, he’s also very encouraging and tries to get me to try new things.
One of my main anxieties is around benefits as they can be a minefield and it is hugely reassuring to know that I can phone the team at any time to ask questions and clarify things.”
The AOT work with people for however long they need whether this is a few weeks, a few months or for many years.
Steve explains: ‘I have been told that I can have support for as long as I want it. I’ve learned throughout my life how to access support and you do have to humble yourself a bit to ask for help so it is a really big thing to know help is there to be taken and I don’t have to keep asking.
Medication does work for me but it is the combination of face to face support, and ‘encouragement to keep taking my medication that makes a difference. For some people having this kind of support might feel like a barrier to independence but for me it’s been the opposite. I now feel more able to be content with my own company, attend to household chores and to think about food and cook for myself which is something I couldn’t do before. I attend an art and yoga groups. I’ve even accessed a specific therapy that has helped greatly, which I wasn’t well enough to engage with three years ago.
When you have a mental illness it can feel like it is hard to exist sometimes. You can feel really isolated, there are so many expectation, rules and standards placed on you by society and it can feel overwhelming. The AOT provides valuable emotional support as well as excellent practical help with most aspects of life, be it applying for benefits or seeking employment. When I first started using the service and living on my own in the community I used the telephone support a lot but as time has gone on I haven’t needed this as much. I know I can call if I need to and I value this support.
I have been under mental health services for 16 years and it has been a very slow process of moving from denial to acceptance about my condition. It took me seven years to admit I suffered from a psychotic illness. Before that I thought I was just having spiritual experiences. We all need something different but for me this continued, low level support and regular contact with the kind people at AOT who want to help me has helped immensely. I know the AOT are on my side and are there to help me achieve my goals. They are a vital component in this regard”
For patients using AOT their support plans, the written documents that shape what their support will look like are written jointly between the support worker or nurse and the client.
Sharon, Community Psychiatric Nurse working within the AOT, says:
‘We work together with our patients with an awareness of what could happen if they did become ill. One thing Steve and I have done together is write what we call an advanced directive; this is a document that tells their GP and any hospital staff what the patient wants if a crisis happens. It lays out what medication works, what Steven likes and what he doesn’t like. Sometimes when people become very unwell they can’t articulate their likes and dislikes which can be distressing so working in this way prevents that.
For Steven the support he is receiving now has kept him well and out of hospital so we will hopefully never need to use this document but it is there with his consent and input if we do. This keeps people in control of their own care.