Fathers' mental health in the news:
I am passionate about promoting mental health and challenging stigma, prejudice and discrimination in all areas of society. Although public perception of mental health has improved, there is a long way to go. Mental health should be on a parity with physical health. Mental health accounts for 28% of disability, and yet spending on mental health services in the UK only accounts for 13% of NHS expenditure. Also, we should be able to talk about mental health problems, without fear of negative judgement.
I have the great honour of working with some highly influential national groups and charities, such as Mind and Time to Change. Locally (in Dorset), I am Patron for Dorset Mind (the Dorset-based mental health charity), Chair of Trustees for Acts Fast (a Dorset charity supporting children who have been sexually abused, and their non-abusive family), and Trustee for DorPIP (a Dorset charity providing therapeutic intervention for parent-infant relationships). I am a Governor of Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, who provide mental health and community health services across Dorset. Nationally, I am an Advisory Board member for Peppy Health (a new-start company providing access to perinatal support through employers) and a member of the PMH Families Expert Reference Group (providing evidence to NHS England, developing proposals to improve support for fathers' mental health, as part of the NHS Long-Term Plan).
When it comes to mental health, we need to change attitudes in the media, the workplace, at school and university, and across society. In this modern age, a great way to raise awareness about mental health is through the use of blogs, written by inspirational people with powerful lived-experience stories. Check out the mental health bloggers page for more information about some of the bloggers I admire. We can also use social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to raise awareness, tackle stigma, share news, and support service users and carers. You will find me on Twitter (@DrAndyMayers), Instagram (@drandymayers) and LinkedIn.
I am frequently being asked to attend (or in some cases, lead) mental health campaigns, conferences, and fundraising events. If you would like me to be involved in your event, please contact me via e-mail or Twitter.
Perinatal mental health
A great deal of my work focuses on perinatal mental health (including fathers' mental health). Check those pages for more details about campaigns, education, media appearances, research and latest news on changing NHS policy.
Changing how the media portrays mental health
One of the biggest challenges faced by mental health services users (and campaigners) is the media portrayal of mental health. Although this has improved, there are still too many stereotypical views of those who experience mental health problems. To find out more about that work, and other topical issues, please go to the mental health and the media page. Related to that, the Mental Health Media Charter was launched in October 2017, by Natasha Devon. I very much see this as the blueprint for media to follow when reporting mental health stories.
Mental Health and criminal justice
The Police are often called to public incidents where someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, such as a severe panic attack, a psychotic breakdown, or perhaps where there is potential suicidal behaviour. Recently, a number of regions across England have been piloting mental health street triages, which seek to provide alternative options to unnecessary detainment in police cells or inappropriate sectioning to psychiatric inpatient facilities. Dorset is one such region, and I am honoured to be working with the local triage, in collaboration with Dorset Police, Dorset HealthCare, and the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). This work is part of the Dorset Criminal Justice Liaison and Diversion (CJLD) programme. You can discover more about that work on the Mental Health and policing page. On that page, you can also discover more about the mental health training we are providing to police officers and support staff. The programme deservedly won a national award from the Health Service Journal. We have just produced a new report (2019), which will be available to view soon. A new PhD programme is due to start in Autumn 2019, focusing on the benefits of the Dorset CJLD, in comparison to other models of intervention In the UK and across Europe).
Children and young people
Much of my work includes children and young people, notably through the impact of postnatal depression. This is also relevant to the work I undertake with DorPIP. However, some of this work also focuses specifically on young people's mental health, including behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. I have the pleasure of working with the inspiring people at Future Roots, a project in north Dorset that uses the therapeutic value of farming and the countryside to re-engage young people with learning through vocational training in agriculture and rural skills. We have recently completed a PhD project at the farm, which explored the potential benefits of this unique 'care farm'. You can find out more about this work on the Child and Family mental health research page.
Young people's mental health is a top priority for me, which is why I support the work that my colleagues do at Dorset Mind. In October 2018, Dorset Mind launched a new website for Dorset Mind Your Head, providing information, resources and support for young people's mental health. Working with Dorset Mind, in partnership with Nerve Radio (the student radio station at Bournemouth University), we produced a series of podcasts aimed at raising awareness about student mental health. The first podcast aired in October 2018.
Mental health and nature
The use of our green and coastal environment to enhance mental health and well-being is beginning get more attention. I am working with local partners, including Dorset Mind, Dorset HealthCare, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Bournemouth Borough Council (Parks Foundation) and Public Health Dorset on projects that will develop and evaluate this growing field of intervention. Some details can be found on the Natural Choices website.
It is essential that we continually expand our knowledge about mental health. We can do that by designing, implementing and reporting high quality research. Check out the Research pages for more details. Some of that work has specifically focused on perinatal mental health (so check out those pages).