Fresh start 180People admitted onto adult mental health wards in Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust hospitals will now receive a free box of toiletries, thanks to a new initiative.

The boxes of toiletries, branded Fresh Start, are said to contain "everything a person needs for the first few days in hospital" and have been created by people who have themselves used inpatient or community mental health services and are now in recovery.

Julia Chambers, who has worked closely with Surrey and Borders on the launch of Fresh Start, said: “The Fresh Start boxes will help to promote dignity and hope for people who have been admitted on to the wards and we believe they will benefit from knowing that these boxes have been prepared by others who are further into their recovery.”

Two thousand Fresh Start boxes are set to be handed out this year in the project funded by Surrey and Borders. The idea to give people a small box of toiletries on admission to a mental health ward and involve those with experience of mental illness in producing the boxes came from former service user Chambers and community occupational therapist, Bryonie Walsh.

Alongside Megan Aspel, director of the charity, Let’s Link, the pair piloted the idea in working age adult wards under the name ‘A little box of soap and stuff’ in 2010. Surrey and Borders, Let’s Link and Comic Relief funded the pilot.

Supporting their recovery journey
Evaluation of the project highlighted positive clinical outcomes for the people in the occupational therapy groups preparing the packs and those receiving the gifts on the wards. The success of the pilot has led to the launch of Fresh Start, which has been expanded to include older adult mental health wards.

“The project has provided people with a meaningful and rewarding productive activity which promotes socialisation and achievement,” Walsh said. “This has helped to increase people’s motivation, self-esteem and confidence, supporting their recovery journey well.”

The Fresh Start boxes include a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. They also include a note from those who have prepared the boxes, explaining that it is a gift and has been put together by people who have used mental health services.