Opening Up to Mental Health

MH
L-R Stephen Noakes, Alastair Campbell. Baroness Fritchie, Brian Dow, Neil Layborn, Johnny Benjamin.

Clare Rance, Grant Manager for the South West Region attended ‘Opening Up to Mental Health’ – an event hosted by Lloyds Banking Group and their Charity Partner Mental Health UK in Bristol

Breaking the stigma of mental health

Last week I was lucky enough to attend Opening Up to Mental Health – where Lloyds Banking Group had invited former Downing Street Communications Director and mental health campaigner Alastair Campbell to share his experiences of mental health issues and highlight how important it is to talk about them openly, in the workplace as well as in a personal context. Alongside Alastair and other speakers our Chair, Baroness Rennie Fritchie talked about some of the 200 charities supported by the bank’s four foundations around mental health issues in 2017 with grants totalling £8 million.

For me the most powerful moments of the night were hearing about real people who have overcome mental health issues and had the courage to share their stories.

The evening was informative and inspiring. Alastair Campbell emphasised the need to accept that just as we all need to look after our physical health, we all to remember our mental health too.  As a communications expert, he talked about the need to for people to, “break down the stigma and taboo around mental health – a lot of it is about communication.” He also stressed the importance of employers in supporting good mental health among staff as they do with physical health: “I think employers in their own way are just as important as government in this” he added.

Gettheinsideout
Click here to watch the #GetTheInsideOut film

It’s clear that this is something that Lloyds Banking Group have been working hard to do; to change attitudes towards mental health within the bank itself. They’ve delivered mental health awareness training to nearly 30,000 staff, fostering an understanding work environment for all colleagues around mental health issues. Stephen Noakes (LBG’s Regional Ambassador for the South West) shared the bank’s ambitions to go further with this, breaking the stigma of mental health for good through their #gettheinsideout campaign.

Real Life Experiences

For me the most powerful moments of the night were hearing about real people who have overcome mental health issues and had the courage to share their stories.

With the help of a stranger who stopped, talked and found a connection with Johnny, he stepped away from the edge

Brian Dow, CEO of Mental Health UK led a conversation with Johnny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn, two people who had first-hand experience of mental health issues. Johnny described how ‘his world suddenly ended’ after receiving a schizoaffective disorder diagnosis, he left hospital and found himself on Waterloo Bridge contemplating taking his own life.  With the help of Neil, a stranger who stopped, talked and found a connection with Johnny, he stepped away from the edge.  They now work together to raise awareness about mental health and launch Rethink UK – a new initiative to support people in financial crisis because of mental health issues.

SteppingOut
Stepping Out Theatre Company

Our Chair, Baroness Fritchie shared the story of Emma – who turned to Stepping Out, a charity that received £73,500 from Lloyds Bank Foundation, who use theatre to support people with mental health issues. Emma’s history of self-harming and deteriorating mental health led to her admission to a psychiatric unit, but with the help of Stepping Out she has been able to grow more confident and express her feelings through writing and performing. Since being part of Stepping Out she has written a play which was performed in the Edinburgh Festival – which she describes as a “dream come true”.

As I reflected on Stepping Out, just one of over 150 charities we fund around mental health issues, I felt proud to be playing a part in the movement to get people to ‘open up’ through my work as a Grant Manager. But it shouldn’t just be part of my day job. The event allowed me to take time to reflect on experiences of enduring mental health issues within my own family, and the tireless work of family members to campaign for better local services. It’s made me think about what I can do to campaign for positive change in the way we view mental health, and to take inspiration from the tireless efforts of small and local charities across England and Wales who are a lifeline for so many.

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