City GPs recommend wellbeing college to patients struggling with their mental health

Bristol Wellbeing College, run by charity Second Step, offers free psycho-educational workshops to help people learn new ways and skills to improve their mental health. 

Stuart, from St George in Bristol, was diagnosed with depression early last year and had to have four months off work.  

I’d hit rock bottom. I was paranoid and my mind was full of conspiracy theories. Looking back, I can see I had become unpredictable and I couldn’t turn off from work, in the end I couldn’t work at all. 

After a few weeks I looked around for ways to help my recovery and saw an article about the Wellbeing College on BBC Online. I found out I could self-refer because I was a patient at one of the practices involved with the College.  

I can honestly say it was the best thing I have ever done for my health and wellbeing. Going on the courses helped me to change the way I think and also made me realise there were new ways I could help myself – like writing poetry and drawing cartoons! I never thought I was creative, I’m an engineer by trade, but thanks to the College, I realise I am and that it helps me a lot.

GPs in Bristol, like the rest of the NHS, are under immense pressure as they deal with the onslaught of the highly infectious Omicron variant. Alongside Covid, doctors are also dealing with a significant increase in mental health problems as a result of illness, isolation and uncertainty caused by the pandemic. 

Dr Will Klinkenberg, a GP at Wellspring Surgery in central Bristol, explained that GP practices and frontline NHS counselling services are at full stretch. He said: 

The Wellbeing College provides a rolling wide range of courses, workshops and activities that are available, free and well received by those individuals who choose to engage. I actively signpost my patients to consider the Wellbeing College as a first line service for them on the road to recovery.

Aileen Edwards, Second Step’s Chief Executive, said:  

The Wellbeing College is doing wonderful work with people who could otherwise be waiting months for support. Our approach helps them build resilience and confidence and it’s fantastic to see the positive difference we are making to the overstretched primary care system.

Online support for learners includes interactive wellbeing workshops, a closed Facebook group, recorded YouTube videos, as well as a virtual wellbeing café. When Covid restrictions permit, the College provides face-to-face classroom learning too.  

Find Bristol Wellbeing College’s online sessions calendar here.

Notes to Editors 

  • Bristol Wellbeing College runs a range of workshops and courses. Introductory green workshops encourage self-expression and self-care and are accessible to all. Blue workshops are more detailed, focusing on making positive changes to habits, behaviour and lifestyle. Finally, there are in-depth pink courses which encourage self-reflection, long-term planning and progression. To find out more, please follow this link 
  • You can enrol as a Bristol Wellbeing College learner if you’re a patient at one of the GP practices we are working with, or if you use one of Bristol Mental Health services. Please follow this link to find out more about eligibility and our current workshops and courses. 
  • The BMA reported in December 2021 that the NHS was experiencing some of the most severe pressures in its 70-year history. As a result, GP surgeries across the country are experiencing significant and growing strain with declining GP numbers, rising demand, struggles to recruit and retain staff and knock-on effects for patients. Read more here. 
  • Second Step is a mental health charity providing support, housing and hope to people in Bristol and across the South-West. We run a wide range of services from suicide prevention to supporting patients back into the community after a spell in hospital. Our particular expertise is in working with people experiencing multiple disadvantage whom the system fails or finds difficult to support. We work with thousands of clients every year.  
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