An Abergavenny man has urged people in rural areas to be more open in the conversation about mental health. 

Dyfed Bowen, 49, said he suffered “crushing isolation” when the country locked down and expressed his frustration with the inefficient mental health support in Aneurin Bevan Health Board.  

It comes as latest figures show Aneurin Bevan Health Board has had the lowest proportion of patients treated for their mental health in Wales. 

The Health Board says it’s trying to improve the access time for interventions. 

Dyfed said the isolation he felt during lockdown led to the decline in his mental health. 

“The actual Covid disease didn’t worry me,” he shares, “but the fact that the country was being isolated made me feel so claustrophobic. 

“The lockdown definitely brought my mental health issues to the surface and that took a massive toll on me.  

“The first conversations post lockdown were so difficult because I thought I was alone in my suffering.  

“The health service just weren’t helping me. They just don’t have enough of a budget.  

“The GPs in Monmouthshire need to have bit of a wakeup call. 

Dyfed ended up going to Abergavenny’s ‘Andy’s Man Club’ – with organisers saying there was an urgent need to create a space for conversations to happen after lockdown. 

“Some of the men who turn up at Andy’s Man Club are in a really bad place and often they have been mistreated, misdiagnosed and dismissed by their doctors.  

“I’ll never understand why there aren’t government set up groups all over Wales, like Andy’s Man Club. Why has it been left up to us to do it?” 

This comes as statistics show Aneurin Bevan Health Board has the lowest proportion of mental health patients who receive treatment within the target 28 days. 

(Lauren Meredith)

In March 2023- Only 27.8 per cent of patients received therapeutic intervention within 28 days of their mental health assessment, below of Welsh average of 68.9 per cent.

The Welsh target is to see 80 per cent of patients who’ve received an assessment within 28 days.

The numbers began to significantly decline a few months following the start of the pandemic.

Between October 2021 and March 2023, the percentage of people receiving treatment within 28 days hasn’t reached more than 28 per cent- with March 2022 being the lowest recorded percentage at 10.7 per cent.

It hasn’t been above the Welsh Average since August 2020.

Also in March, 190 people had been waiting more than 52 days in the health board area for treatment- which makes up almost 50 per cent of patients who’ve been waiting that long in Wales.

That’s despite the health board representing 19 per cent of the Welsh population. 

Alarming statistics also show men in Wales are 3.3 times more likely to die by suicide than females and 265 of the 347 suicides in Wales in 2021 were male.  

People who experienced isolation and other mental health problems, like Dyfed, are now encouraging men to open up.  

“Talking to your family and friends does help but it is so beneficial sometimes to talk to strangers and toast have a moan.  

“In rural areas like Monmouthshire, I feel like everyone still has an old fashioned mindset on men’s mental health and often men feel like they can’t open up, but this just isn’t the case.   

“It’s something I couldn’t do during lockdown as I just felt so alone in my feelings. It made my anxiety and depression go from manageable to unbearable.  

“Before going to Andy’s Man Club, I found it impossible to talk about how I felt because I never saw any men around me feeling the same and so I thought it was just me.”

Simon Jones, Head of Policy & Campaigns at Mind Cymru, said: “Accessing effective support at the point of need is crucial for someone with a mental health problem, and early intervention is an important part of the pathway to recovery. 

“The pandemic had a marked impact of the mental health of the nation and, while the immediate impact may have passed, many people are still processing their experiences and coming to terms with its impact on their lives. 

“Practitioners are facing increasingly complex mental health issues, so it’s more important than ever that professional support is available as quickly as possible for people who need it.” 

A spokesman for Aneurin Bevan Health Board said it’s Local Primary Care Mental Health Support Service is continuously being developed.  

“We hope that the gentleman mentioned has received the professional help that he sought. We would ask that he contacts us directly so we can discuss his care and support. 

“We have introduced Psychological Health Practitioners into GP Practices across Gwent, which provides mental health support at a community level. The Local Primary Care Mental Health Support Service is also offering courses and groups, both in person and online, alongside the development of new therapeutic pathways for patients to include mindfulness, trauma and cognitive behavioural therapy.

“Through this range of services, we are aiming to improve the access time for interventions.”