Mental Health Awareness is shaped by community

This week sees the 22nd year of Mental Health Awareness Week, home to the Mental Health Foundation, which this year is focusing on anxiety.

The Foundation highlights that while the causes of anxiety are complex, financial worries, social isolation, social pressures and discrimination can all play a part.

It says that local and national politicians “should be looking at measures such as income support to reduce financial stress, provision of good quality housing, strong legislation to prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination, and ensuring communities are equipped with the services and facilities we need to live well and help protect everyone’s mental health”.

Juney Muhammad (on the right in the picture below) who works with SLaM’s (South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust) Mental Health Promotion team sees as crucial to Mental Health Awareness that services are out in the community ensuring that people have a voice and access to knowledge.

Juney sees herself as a “conduit” in her role promoting good mental health and facilitating learning in the wider community as Mental Health First Aid. Her job is building practical skills and knowledge… holding some of the gaps that exist between mental health services, which people can often slip through becoming unwell, particularly since the Covid pandemic.

“I was teaching and we had an incident that had to be dealt with on my arrival at a community centre,” says Juney, a Community Services Development Manager. “Luckily the centre manager had some previous mental health training and has experience of identifying distress. Relaying the context and concern for a black male rough sleeper expressing unusual and distressing experiences attempts were made to access primary care GP and crisis mental health services, of which none could respond in the community. This led to calling emergency services… hours later an ambulance came and he went with them after assurance from those who knew him. The police came and suggestions were made of what they could do to help this homeless man. However, he was back the next day and no one had any idea what was done and it highlighted how the community are assets and the reconnection needed to support population mental health…”

Juney adds what’s needed is vision and flexibility to navigate how citizens have a voice and how support that works for the community is shaped.

“I work as a community development services manager with both the local workforce in public sector and community organisations to understand what mental health is and how to help,” she says.

“Strategically, I am the ‘how-to ’person that gets mental health on the agenda in a meaningful way that is appropriate and culturally sensitive at a range of levels from individual, community and organisation. I specialise in engagement and enable influencing for mental health; where there is
inequalities of health often of hidden suffering, of disadvantaged people and marginalised groups.”

The Mental Health Promotion team is SLaM-based and is core funded by the Public Health local authority.

Some of the other events planned for this week in Lambeth included a Love Your Mind training session. Read about how the training came to fruition here:

and a Healthwatch Lambeth and Art4Space collaboration on Coping with Anxiety Through Art.

Read the Mental Health Foundation report here

And more about the Week here

And link in to local mental health support here

Karen Hooper

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