In Mind: Chief Executive provides his latest update on fighting stigma

Every so often it is worth taking a step back and taking stock of where we are with mental health and the stigma that surrounds it.

Mental health has enjoyed a good few weeks where it has been high on the news agenda. We’ve had the Royals speaking out about it and the Professional Footballers’ Association getting involved after one of its members was reported to have been detained under the Mental Health Act.

The very fact that mental health is on the national news agenda shows what progress has been made in recent years. Even just five years ago, it was barely getting a mention so, although we have a long way to go, we are definitely moving forward.

The general public are now seeing what happens with mental health and how unacceptable some of the treatment of those with mental health issues really is. The more we talk about these issues, the more we undermine the stigma that surrounds it and the more it becomes socially acceptable to talk about mental illness. I always compare it to Cancer, which was something that was just not talked about 20 years ago, but is now accepted as a completely normal part of health conversation.

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Of course, the more we break down the stigma, the more we will be scrutinised to ensure our standards of care are up to scratch. I call it a double-edged sword, but it is one I look forward to living with if we end the stigma surrounding mental health.

When I go around the Trust, people often say that I am always very keen to show external visitors around our sites, which is very true. I do this for two reasons, firstly because I am very proud of the work we do here at Mersey Care but also because it plays a huge part in breaking down the stigma.

Every visitor that is shown around our sites takes a little bit more knowledge away with them, whether it is about our Big Brew campaign to get people talking about their problems or discovering some of our outstanding members of staff making a real difference on one of our inpatient wards.

The latest of those visitors was Sean Duggan, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, who had a productive day at Mersey Care earlier this week. He was shown around Ashworth High Secure Hospital, Clock View and the Life Rooms in Walton.

We discussed the impact of our ‘No Force First’ initiative, our hopes for our zero suicide policy, the Recovery College and the importance of co-production in everything we do, including the design of Clock View.

Life Rooms Southport

Regular readers of this blog will know that Life Rooms Southport will open officially to the public next Wednesday (10 May). There is an open day between 11.00am and 2.00pm where members of the public, service users and patients can discuss the building with staff.

As we did with the Life Rooms in Walton, we have transformed and refurbished the former Living Well Centre in Southport and it will now become a base for a range of life opportunities for service users, carers and the wider community in a way that challenges stigma and promotes positive mental health and wellbeing.

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Should you want to go along on Wednesday, or in the future, the address of our new Life Rooms is 23 Scarisbrick Avenue, Southport, PR8 1NW. There is no need to book – just drop in.