More than 150 people attended today’s World Mental health Day event at County Hall in Maidstone with a number of organisations responding to Kent County Council’s plea to sign the Time to Change pledge.
Among those attending and signing were Healthwatch Kent, Tonbridge and Malling Council, Gravesham Borough Council, Maidstone Borough Council and Swale Borough Council.
Nicky Scott from Healthwatch Kent said: “We are proud to officially sign the Time to Change pledge today. We hear from patients every week about mental health. We help them, as well as our own staff, with information and support. The Time to change pledge is an important part of our work to encourage people to share stories about mental health.”
Diane Marsh, KCC Adult Social Care Deputy Cabinet Member and Mental Health Champion hosted the event. She said: “We are delighted by how many people attended the day and we heard some very moving and inspirational stories. While we welcome the councils and Healthwatch Kent for attending and signing the Time to Change pledge, we know there is a long way to go and we will continue to encourage organisations across Kent – including KCC – to ensure their workforces feel supported. “
KCC Commissioning Manager Sue Scamell was one of those who shared her personal story. She said: “I realise now that my mental health started deteriorating over the last couple of years and a knee injury was the catalyst for tipping me over the edge. Through having a mental illness, this has given me a greater understanding of the issues faced by people who use mental health services. I am stronger and wiser through this.”
She added: “I still have a way to go but I am glad to be back at work as this is a significant milestone for me. I hope that by sharing my story, it will encourage other people to speak out and employers will demonstrate their support by signing the Time to Change pledge.”
The event was also supported by one of HM Lord-Lieutenant of Kent’s Deputy Lieutenants, Mrs Louise Bryant, the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and Helen Greatorex, Chief Executive of KMPT.
Matthew Scott, the Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Research conducted by the mental health charity Mind shows that members of the emergency services are more at risk of experiencing a mental health problem than the general population, but less likely to seek support. I have been working with Kent Police to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and I’m pleased to say more of our police officers and staff are accessing the support available from the force’s dedicated counsellors. Everyone needs to be comfortable to seek help when they need it.”
Also attending the event was Live Well Kent, a network of mental health and wellbeing organisations across the county, run by charities Porchlight and Shaw Trust and jointly commissioned by KCC and the seven clinical commissioning groups for Kent (but not Medway).
When somebody gets in touch, an adviser helps them figure out what kind of support best suits their needs. Live Well Kent’s Sarah Bieniasz said: “A quarter of us will experience a mental health problem this year. We’re here to help people who are living with a mental health condition or struggling to cope with everyday life to get the right support before things escalate.”
She added: “By bringing many of the county’s health and wellbeing services together using the Live Well Kent network, it’s easier for people to see what their options are and what help is available. A mental health issue or other negative feelings can make everyday tasks seem overwhelming – but we’re here to help. Whatever your circumstances, we won’t judge you. What we discuss will remain confidential.”