Harlow continues to take up the challenge of Mental Health

Politics / Wed 19th Oct 2016 am31 11:09am

By Trudy Harper

MENTAL Health Day is an international initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health. This year it was held on October 10th and Harlow demonstrated commitment to mental health awareness and education by embracing the day.

The theme this year was ‘psychological first aid’ with the emphasis being on strategies to give basic pragmatic psychological support which could be offered by anyone who finds themselves in a helping role. There is a great awareness that immediate first aid can save lives in the case of general illness and the idea is to raise awareness so anyone in acute distress can receive basic support until advanced care can be sought from mental health experts.

West Essex branch of MIND, a charity which provides access to advice and support for people with mental health issues, welcomed the theme and handed out mental first aid packs in Asda in The Water Gardens.

Included in the packs were a notepad and pen for journaling, dark chocolate as small doses can be good for our mental health, Jasmine spray as a stress buster and a stress ball to let out any tension. Sarah Huggett, a coordinator from the charity which is based in Bush Fair said she was delighted at the feedback they had received and hoped their presence on World Mental Health Day would encourage people to talk about mental health and well-being,

MIND offers a variety of mental first aid courses on which people learn how to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, provide help on a first aid basis and effectively guide someone towards the right support services. Developed in Australia and now internationally recognised in 23 countries, the MHFA course teaches Mental ill health can affect every single one of us. There is widespread ignorance of mental ill health in the general population and there is the associated stigma too. For some the stigma can lead to delays in people seeking help and support. There is also a lack of confidence in what to do if someone is stressed or in a crisis situation. By learning to recognise the signs that someone may be unwell, you may be able to provide initial help, to guide a person towards appropriate professional help, and in its most powerful form, save a life.

In any one year, approximately 1 in 4 British adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem.

Local councillor Ian Beckett bravely told an audience at a conference of Wellbeing held at Sawbridgeworth memorial Hall on Mental Health Day ‘I have overcome and managed depressive illness sufficiently to remain in full-time employment all my working life, save for a few months’ demonstrating that with the right support it is possible to live a successful and fulfilling life whilst dealing with the challenges of mental health.

Recognising that local authorities have a key role in implementing the mental health strategy and improving mental health in their communities a passionate Mr Beckett has recently become a Mental Health Champion for Harlow. This is a nationwide initiative for people with influence to make a difference in raising awareness and coordinating resources.

Stewards Academy in Harlow is fortunate to have a well-established Place2Be team to help pupils deal positively with the challenges they face.

In his capacity as a mental health champion cllr Beckett takes part in the parkrun in the Town Park. He says this is one of many initiatives in his role to raise awareness and engage with local providers and users of mental health support services in Harlow He aims to lose three stone in six months and raise £500 for Young Concern Trust (YCT) in the process.

One of the Nationwide Mental Health Challenge aims which cllr Beckett supports is to support positive mental health in our community, including in local schools, neighborhoods’ and workplaces.

Place2Be is a national charity providing emotional support to children in schools. The Academy was delighted to be awarded the charities school community award, a national recognition, on World Mental Health Day.

Although there is a need for more resources and even greater recognition, October 10th was a very positive day for mental health in the Harlow area. Mr. Beckett feels that by sharing experiences and celebrating survival more people will discuss the issue and help remove the stigma. He hopes to be able to make the best use of available services and for resources to be targeted to areas of greatest need. This sentiment was echoed by Saran Huggett at MIND who would like to see immediate
access for everyone at the point of crisis.

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