13 October 2016

Taking stigma by storm!

World mental health day 16World Mental Health Day provides an important opportunity to encourage more people to think about mental health more of the time - and a flash mob in Bath has done just that!

Taking the city by storm last Saturday, the group of volunteers - many of whom have lived experience - put on a fantastic, thought-provoking performance tackling mental health stigma, which is also now available on Youtube  

Joining forces with local partners, AWP staff across the Trust have thrown themselves into awareness-raising events this week, based around this year's theme of psychological first aid, to help our local communities explore mental health and learn what they can do to look after their own and their families', friends', colleagues' and neighbours' mental health.

In Bath, the stigma-busting flash mob formed part of Saturday's very successful Eat, Talk, Think event: the first of a series of workshops and events in Bath and North East Somerset. Forty volunteers came together with staff from AWP, St Mungo's, Creativity Works, Bath Mind and other organisations, to get people talking about mental health. As well as the flash mob the event featured 600 wellbeing cakes, baked and given out by volunteers, which were dark inside and bright outside: people took a bite and discussed how the cake could represent a person's mental health. Hundreds of people shared their thoughts and feelings about mental health through a range of activities including the 'Lower Your Guard' interactive art wall, the Mindapples Tree and 'Glass Half Full, Glass Half Empty'.   In Swindon, Sandalwood Court played host to a day-long celebration, blessed by fine weather and featuring a range of activities. Organised by the Adult Therapies Team, the event featured live on BBC Radio Wiltshire with interviews with occupational therapist Rachel Jones and volunteer Steve Humphries. Accordion music filled the air in the morning courtesy of Frank Jones, accordionist from Baileys Bead Band and asteady flow of visitors participated in mindfulness, pilates, gardening, willow weaving and cake decorating. In the afternoon a jamming session including Bob Marley numbers was facilitated by Mike Beckley from SWADS, and refreshments throughout the day included cakes donated by Serco. The day was a huge success and the team would like to thank all those involved and all who donated.

Over in South Gloucestershire, World Mental Health Day got off to a fine start with fantastic weather and great spirits. The Great Minds event at Kingswood Civic Centre, organised in conjunction with South Gloucestershire Council and AWP, was hosted by the Service User and Carer Engagement Forum. Great Minds showcased the Wellbeing College and the Forum itself. Stall holders such as Wellaware, The Wellbeing College, Library Services, Community Ignite, Kingsmeadow Community Flat, Battle Against Tranquilisers and The Community Mental Health Team for Later Life joined the forum members in showcasing and providing information about the different services available to those living in South Gloucestershire. Taster sessions on assertiveness and ways to wellbeing took the lead on attendees, with peer mentoring and mindfulness also pulling in the crowds. With 60 members of the public coming through the doors, the room was buzzing with information sharing, advice, networking and general good humour. The most visited stall was that of the Forum itself. Manned by involvees, they were able to talk about the group, the exciting new dynamic of the new members and the direction and focus of it.

Nicola Scott, involvement co-ordinator for South Gloucestershire, said, "The event has been a huge success; we have great stalls, great chatter and fantastic information sharing! We can't wait to start planning next year's event already." Thanks go to: Kingswood Sainsbury's for donating biscuits and cakes; South Gloucestershire Council's participation team for the tea, coffee and chocolate biscuit assortment; and to Rob Boardman, Gerald Bishop and David Webb for their involvement in planning and running the event.

In Bristol, Cabot Circus experienced the phenomenon of Talkaoke on Saturday, described as a 'dynamic mobile chat show', with mental health as the topic of public discussion. The event was organised by Bristol Mental Health organisations with other local partners.

James Eldred, AWP's clinical director for Bristol, appeared live on BBC Radio Bristol's John Darvall show on Monday morning, discussing a range of mental health topics with John and a series of very articulate callers. James emphasised the importance of thinking and talking about mental health not just when things go seriously wrong, but instead looking out for the emotional wellbeing of colleagues, neighbours, family and friends as part of everyday life. James suggested five things that we can all do every day to support one another's mental health: looking after one another; being available; being compassionate; providing people with safety, security and space to talk about how they're feeling and what they're going through; and taking care of the physical things by giving people some warmth and shelter and creating a space where you can look after them for a while.

One caller to the show, Mary, who talked about her long experiences and the things that eventually helped in her recovery, concluded with the important message that, "A broken mind can heal just as well as a broken arm or leg with the right help."

If you're quick you can still listen to James via the BBC website: his discussion and phone-in starts 10 minutes into the show.

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