One in four people will experience mental health and wellbeing issues at some point in their lives and Kent County Council is joining with partners and providers this World Mental Health Day to raise the importance of workplace support.
Special events are being held at County Hall, Maidstone, and Canterbury Christchurch University on Tuesday 10 October to encourage employers to sign the Time to Change pledge, while a social media campaign is encouraging residents to talk about their mental health at work and help end mental health discrimination and stigma in the workplace.
A drop in event is being held at County Hall, Maidstone, from 9:30am and will be attended 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.
The event is being led by Sue Scamell, KCC Commissioning Manager, who has been supported back to work after experiencing severe mental illness. 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 County Hall event will have stalls, speakers and alternative therapies available alongside workshop sessions and presentations chaired by Diane Marsh, KCC Adult Social Care Deputy Cabinet Member and Mental Health Champion. Mrs Marsh said: “We have an enormous workforce at KCC and I believe that mental wellbeing should be the first thing in all our minds every day when we come to work so that we all feel safe and valued. We all need to reach out to our colleagues and encourage them to come and talk to us when there is something going on in their lives so that they feel supported in the workplace.”
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 will be 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.”