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 Bournemouth and District Samaritans, 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.
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) 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.
Dorset Mental Health Alliance
The Dorset Mental Health Alliance (DMHA) is a consortium of NHS providers, charities and support groups all working together to promote and support mental health campaigns and (together) influence real change. I am currently DMHA Chair. In that role, I intend to bring all of the key stakeholders in mental health together, to work on projects that we might not otherwise be able to do alone. As I am already involved in several groups, and well-known to many more, I hope to use my status to influence action. We have already shown what differences we can make together.
At our first meeting (Dorchester, January 2018) we focused the publication on Dorset's Suicide Prevention Plan (or least the lack of that). Through a series of debates and presentations, we demonstrated why that plan needed to be produced. As a result, and in the ensuing months, some of our members (including Dorset Mind) worked together to exert pressure on local commissioners. A draft plan has now been published. We will be working closely with the steering groups to ensure that this progresses still further.
At our second meeting (Dorchester, May 2018) we focused on young people's mental health. The event was designed and delivered by young people, expressing what they feel needs to be done to support and promote young people's mental health. We hope to have a report about the discussions and forward plans soon. In the meantime, you might like to watch this great video made by three great young champions.
Perinatal mental health
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 Policing
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). 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.
Children and young people
Much of my work includes children and young people, notably through the impact of postnatal depression. 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 am looking at ways in which I can take education and support into schools, working in partnership with Dorset Mind. Education will focus on raising awareness among young people (and about how to look after themselves and their friends); support would look at providing schools with 'tool kits' to deal with mental health problems.
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 will be 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).