worker with brown wavy hair sits at computer with headset on

As a Navigator, I assist people to understand what support is available for their specific needs and situation. It’s a personalised service that goes beyond an information and signposting service because we can do a lot of the leg-work for people. 

“When I was in need I needed something like the Central Access Point”

My name is Lee and I’m a Central Access Point Navigator for UOK Brighton & Hove. I started this role in October 2019 when the network was launched.

UOK Brighton & Hove is a partnership of non-clinical mental health services in Brighton and Hove. Its main aim is to make mental health services more accessible to people.

As a Navigator, I assist people to understand what support is available for their specific needs and situation. It’s a personalised service that goes beyond an information and signposting service because we can do a lot of the leg-work for people. We can refer them to services, specifically our partners. That takes the pressure off the person on the other end of the phone.

We take enquiries over the phone and through the website from people looking for support and from professionals wanting to find what’s out there for people they are working with. Having an online enquiry option means people who don’t feel comfortable communicating on the phone can still access UOK Brighton & Hove.

What makes UOK Brighton & Hove special is its ‘No Wrong Door’ approach. If I pick up the phone and someone’s looking for something we don’t offer or I don’t know about, that doesn’t mean the call ends there. I can tell them that I’ll find out who can offer the support they need.

We have information about all of our partners who provide a wide range of non-clinical mental health services and we can also direct people to the most suitable service if somebody’s in crisis.

When someone calls us, we ask them to explain what they’re experiencing so that we can recognise their needs. I get consent to share some of their details with a partner organisation so that we can get them referred to the service they need.

A typical day for me involves being available to take calls and answer enquiries online from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. When talking to people over the phone, I listen to what they’re experiencing and find which services are available to them by reading and researching about what is available in the city. When I get an online enquiry through our website, I have a little more time to respond so I can research even more into their situation or condition before getting back to them.

We work really closely with Mental Health Support Coordinators, reflecting on and discussing client cases with them. Our role requires this because we are often referring clients to the Mental Health Support Coordinator Service.

Developing relationships with our partner organisations in UOK Brighton & Hove has been a really interesting and joyful experience. Going into the organisations’ venues, understanding where they are, what they look like, and meeting the people we’re working with has been really important and has strengthened relationships. Having a face to the name really helps as does understanding their experience of the world and them knowing what we do too. It improves communication.

We really want GPs and healthcare professionals to use this service. We’re here to help them understand what’s out there for people. Having our service in their toolbox is going to prove very very helpful. The UOK Brighton & Hove network with its access to services and Navigators makes mental health services work more holistically.

We’ve received a really wide range of calls so far. Calls from professionals wanting information to pass onto someone they’re seeing and calls from family and friends concerned about loved ones. We’ve received calls from people not knowing where to go next and calls from people looking for services that have shut down. Many people call feeling distressed but by the end they feel a lot calmer and heard. No call has ended without an outcome and something to go onto.

I’m trained as a Counsellor so it’s in my remit to help people feel comfortable talking. I really enjoy listening to people, helping them feel heard, and showing them that they can be supported and feel like recovery is possible. Mental health comes with a lot of stigma, that’s something that isn’t present within our service. There isn’t any judgement or pressure. We’re not scared of what people tell us.

I’ve been really impressed by the amount of training we get and have access to. I had an intensive induction with a full week of training for this role. It’s made me feel really invested in and valued from the start. When you first start a job you can feel de-skilled and I felt like they were equipping me to fulfil my role above and beyond.

We’ve had introductions to Southdown, UOK Brighton & Hove, Safeguarding, and Crisis training. It’s been incredible. And since starting we’ve had other training from separate organisations, for example, training on Awareness of Personality Disorder, Working with Sexualised Trauma, and a day of Suicide Awareness training.

I enjoy creating myself into a knowledgeable person with all of the learning and all of the training and I’ve got a whole range of things booked in for the future.

There were quite a few things that led me to this role and to working in mental health services. I used to volunteer at an abuse and rape counselling organisation where I received a lot of incredible training and I went onto counselling which developed my listening skills and non-judgemental approach. I’m finishing my Level 3 next year.

I have personal experience of being in a mental health crisis and understand how it feels knowing you need mental health support and in that moment finding it extremely difficult to find services which you are eligible for, offer the right level of support, and are affordable. Being met with a plethora of services was overwhelming and confusing for me and it wasn’t possible to navigate on my own.

When I was in need I needed something like the Central Access Point which helps people to navigate all of that information and access the relevant services and support. I can pinpoint the exact moments in my life when this service would have been so helpful. If it had been available I’d have got support a lot sooner than I did.

The UOK Brighton & Hove Central Access Point is operated by a team of workers who guide people through mental health support available in Brighton and Hove and who can provide professional advice. They are a friendly, caring bunch who understand that taking that first step to contact support for mental health can be hard.