Lancashire to bid to become a mental health hub to help reduce public prejudice

The county will be judged by the mental health campaign Time to Change.
The county will be judged by the mental health campaign Time to Change.

Lancashire is to apply to host a mental health ‘hub’ as part of a campaign to reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by people experiencing their own mental health problems.

The county’s Health and Wellbeing Board (LHWB) will submit its bid to the Time to Change campaign later this year.

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If successful, the hub would create a partnership of local organisations which collectively attempt to change attitudes to mental health across communities and employers. At the heart of the project are local ‘champions’ who draw on their own stories to influence how others react to those with mental health issues.

“The most powerful thing is for someone with a lived experience of mental health problems to talk to somebody who may not have experienced [such a] problem,” Darren Bee, from Time to Change, told members of the LHWB.

“Through that conversation, they start to see the person and not the mental health. And that’s key, because it starts to drive change about how people think and act around people with mental health problems,” he added.

Providing support and training to employers is one of the main planks of a hub’s work. The health and local authority organisations on the LWHB - which does not cover the standalone council areas of Blackpool and Blackburn - would also be required to sign up to a Time to Change pledge about their own organisations’ policies on mental health.

“If you woke up on a Monday morning and weren’t feeling well with your mental health, would you ring your manager and be able to talk about it openly - or would you [tell them] it was something physical, because it may be more accepted?” Mr. Bee asked.

He also told board members that it is those people who appear well who are sometimes most in need of help.

“People that don’t talk about the way they’re feeling or say that they are fine and can spin all of these plates - maybe they are the ones who are most vulnerable,” he added.

Lancashire’s bid will involve identifying potential champions across various communities. There will also be a focus on schools in an attempt to prevent mental health problems going unchecked.

The hub would “build resilience” amongst pupils, develop peer-to-peer support and bridge the gap in mental health awareness between the transition from primary to secondary school.

Existing suicide prevention programmes will also be built in to the bid.

Successful hub applicants receive £15,000 to cover the cost of staff time to co-ordinate the project - and a £10,000 champions fund. Time to Change also provides training in how best to deliver the programme.

Providing basic criteria have been met, the organisation will still offer the training even if the funding bid is unsuccessful.