In 2016, a small mental health charity was launched to offer free, open access, self help courses for those around RCT, Merthyr Tydfil and Bridgend. Today, they have helped almost 20,000 individuals from these areas and beyond.
Valleys Steps was established during a time where the area had the highest rates of mental health illness in Wales, and with the number of anti-depressants being prescribed at an all-time high, the charity aimed to reduce the pressures on local primary services and act as an alternative to medication.
“We all have mental health, and it may be good, it may be bad, but we all know that life has huge challenges. We provide people with a tool kit which helps them to learn to manage their feelings and address their problems” said Richard Bundy, Chief Executive of Valleys Steps.
They offer two core programmes which are delivered in weekly sessions; a six-week Mindfulness For Everyday course, and a six-week Stress Control programme. Based around the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the sessions are run by a team of paid practitioners from a range of counselling, therapeutic and psychological backgrounds.
Richard acknowledges the courage taken to reach out for help, saying: “If you have taken the brave decision to seek help for your mental health, you do not want to be stuck on a waiting list for support that is, unfortunately, far too long. By the time this support comes along, the situation has either gotten worse, or it has resolved itself. These sessions are entirely free, and there are no barriers. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to access mental health support.”
Where the charity was once running up to 13 courses each week, Covid-19 changed how the support was offered to those who needed it. Sessions began to run online, and Valleys Steps saw a huge increase in attendance following the introduction of a new programme.
Richard explains: “Due to Covid-19, we developed a new programme called Steps To Wellbeing which looks at managing stress, anxiety and fear. Largely, we saw that some individuals felt that a six-week course was a barrier, perhaps because of the commitment or how they were feeling, so this course can now be attended as standalone sessions or as a whole programme. It is so important that we remove the barriers to receiving support, and we have truly seen the results of doing so with such an increase in numbers.”
Volunteers are crucial to the day-to-day running of the sessions that are offered, from moderating online sessions to welcoming people to face-to-face sessions. Volunteer Support Officer Jane Thomas expresses how vital the volunteers are to the charity: “This is such an important front-facing role, and we really appreciate those who have risen to the challenge and got stuck in. Our volunteers are a friendly face for service users, and they are invaluable to us.”
Valleys Steps are currently on the lookout for new volunteers to get involved. All new recruits will be given extensive support and training before starting in the role, as well as the skills needed to volunteer online. To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org
In-person sessions will be back from July, but the programmes will continue to run online. To find dates and details about the programmes, visit www.valleyssteps.org
This story is from the Summer 2022 issue of our Trivallis Valleys Magazine. To read the full issue, visit our Valleys Magazine page.