Key Changes Health & Social is a monthly drop-in session that addresses physical health inequalities amongst young adults who are using mental health services in North London.

People affected by mental health problems, in particular those with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are at increased risk for a range of physical illnesses and conditions, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, infections, respiratory disease and greater levels of obesity. They are twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease as the general population and four times more likely to die from respiratory disease. In many cases, weight gain is a clear side effect of medication.

Using the mainstream worlds of music and sport as engagement Key Changes Health and Social provides a monthly drop-in session offers accessible and culturally relevant pro-social physical activities including football, table tennis, snooker, gardening and art, social media workshop, complimentary therapies, with a DJ and an Open Mic session, juice bar and information, guidance and talks and presentations around healthy lifestyles with promotion of smoking cessation. A volunteer programme provides vocational training and work experience opportunities.

The programme is based around the following objectives:

  • Improved access to meaningful positive physical and social activities
  • Incentivises participants to take up sports and exercise and promote positive physical and mental health to their peers
  • Improved health education for service users
  • Opportunity to re-engage in a leisure interest
  • Chance to spend time with others who have a common interest in sport and music
  • Develop creative, sporting, technical and social skills, concentration and self expression
  • Develop ability to make choices, take turns, respect views of others
  • Space to foster hope and aspirations for the future Identify physical health needs of service users and signpost to appropriate support

Previous research suggests the reasons for health inequalities among people with mental health conditions are complex and likely to include poverty, lifestyle, access to health assessments and treatments and side effects of anti-psychotic and mood stabiliser medication. The inequalities cannot be explained by the mental health problem alone. Having a mental disorder increases the risk for physical health problems and conversely, many health conditions increase the risk for mental disorder.  Co-morbidity complicates help-seeking, diagnosis, and treatment, and influences prognosis.

There is now a focus on bringing mental health and physical health together to provide holistic care and reduce inequality both in access to and provision of mental and physical healthcare for people with severe and enduring mental illnesses. There is also focus on supporting partnership working to help staff and organisations work together by ensuring patients and service users have greater choice and greater access to information and care.

Key Changes is working closely with London health and social care providers to ensure that the opportunities are made available to the target group and form part of a joined up care plan with outcomes that can be monitored and evaluated by primary care and specialist multi disciplinary mental health services.

Through providing a pro-active culturally-relevant response Key Changes Health and Social aims to establish a cohort of role models from a demographic that is increasingly over-represented in London’s mental health system to raise awareness of positive ways to contribute to recovery from mental illness.