SHARON COURT: We must support people with poor mental health and dementia

Older persons advocate Jill Phipps (left) helps to lead a dementia-friendly service at a nursing home in Fratton
Older persons advocate Jill Phipps (left) helps to lead a dementia-friendly service at a nursing home in Fratton
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The curator of the annual theme at Portsmouth Cathedral says no one should be ‘trapped inside’

Many of us have experienced that frustrating and embarrassing situation of being locked out of your own house.

An awkward jiggling with letter boxes and window frames usually ensues, or failing that, the ungainly clamber over the neighbour’s fence to try and gain entry from the back.

My husband experienced the opposite effect a while ago, when I accidentally locked him in our house, when I’d gone out to run an errand while he was working at home.

When he realised his predicament, he ended up enlisting the help of an elderly lady who was walking by. He passed his keys through the front window to this kindly stranger, who was then able to release him from his own house.

During May, the cathedral is focussing on wellbeing, with a specific emphasis on mental health and dementia. For many people who struggle with these conditions, it can feel very much like being locked inside your own house – trapped with thoughts or anxieties which you struggle to control, or with a failing memory and limited language which leaves you unable to engage effectively with the outside world.

However, raising awareness and challenging the myths is one way in which we can help open the window from the outside.

The cathedral’s Older Person’s Advocate, Jill Phipps, works in partnership with Dementia Friends to help raise awareness and train people on supporting people with dementia.

She also organises dementia-friendly services at Easter, harvest time and Christmas, which offer a safe but valued opportunity for older people to mark these key seasons of the year.

Jill is hosting a range of events as part of Dementia Awareness week, from May 21-25, and there’s more information via the cathedral website.

Alongside this, the cathedral is also exhibiting artwork I’ve designed in partnership with The Maker’s Guild, entitled Windows of my Mind.

The piece features different picture frames and mirrors which illustrate the effects and challenges faced by people with poor mental health.

There is a lot that we can do to support people with poor mental health and dementia, but perhaps the first step is making the effort to understand life from their point of view so that they may not feel ‘trapped inside’ anymore.

Portsmouth Cathedral is in High Street, Old Portsmouth.

Call (023) 9282 3300 or go to portsmouthcathedral.org.uk.