Talkback Autumn 2019

Dear supporter...

Over the last 70 years, we have not lost sight of our values, which have become firmly embedded in our way of working. In this edition, we place an emphasis on prevention – understanding the causes and development of mental ill-health.

This edition of Talkback covers:

World Mental Health Day: this year the theme is suicide prevention and we are proud to share that our suicide prevention work in Scotland has taken a crucial step forward. 

Mental health in the workplace: Over the last year, we have trained more than a thousand corporate managers with our PRESUME training – our mental health training programme focused on equipping managers to support good mental health in the workplace.

Two new projects!: We are delighted to announce that we have launched two new projects in England. We have included updates on how our projects in Wales and Northern Ireland are progressing.

Tea & Talk: This year, our biggest community fundraising initiative, Tea & Talk, celebrates its 10th anniversary. One of our supporters shares her reasons for hosting it for the past 9 years!

Prevention is at the heart of our work, and aims to ensure people are equipped to lead mentally healthy lives. Thank you for your continued support.

Kind regards,

Kalina Peresterova, Individual Giving Officer

Help us continue to campaign for change and make the case for the prevention of poor mental health.

Donate today

A letter to my younger self

Justyn is a third-degree burn survivor, having suffered an accident at 18 months old which left him with burn scars all over his body. At age 22, he began a journey of acceptance, which led him to win a vlogging competition which resulted in him sharing his story. This created opportunities to represent the Mental Health Foundation as an ambassador for our Body Image campaign and speaking about this in Parliament.

Hey, Little Justyn (age 10),

You are perfect in every shape and form and one day you will realise that all the hiding won’t do you any good! Shrinking yourself is:

  1. going to make you shorter than you already are HAHA!
  2. not serving the wonderful and beautiful life that’s waiting for you.

Sometimes, you are going to feel like you are unworthy of love, because when you look around and see no one else who looks like you with scars or a different body, you’ll be scared of being different.

You don’t know this but – being happy, proud and open and most importantly your reflection in the mirror doesn’t show that either. But I promise, you are all those things – loved, worthy, happy and proud – but it’s going  to take you telling your own story and giving yourself a new name: BRAVESCAR to reveal that.

You are going to feel and experience such mixed emotions that you have never felt before. Like fear of judgement when you share your biggest secret, your story.

  1. Take steps every day to be brave. Embrace who you are and practice speaking up.
  2. You can change yourself on the outside but remember who you are inside is the most important and requires the most attention and work.
  3. You are powerful and worthy! Everything will work out for you in the end! Trust me.

My choice to get an ‘angel wing’ tattoo on my neck scar and on others parts of my body is part of my mission to reclaim my own narrative and what these scars mean to me. I see my body as a canvas and a chance to tell my story and allow it to speak for itself. Each of my tattoos means something different to me and they all symbolise the stages in my journey which will ultimately make a full complete story.

The tattoos have made me feel strong and empowered. I am learning to embrace this and use this philosophy to change my life and that of so many others. 

Find out more about how we pushed body image and mental health to the forefront of national conversation during Mental Health Awareness Week.

Body image - how we think and feel about our bodies

Embracing the challenge of prevention

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Director of England and Wales: Research, Programmes & Policy

Mental health should be valued and understood as a key that allows us to unlock a wide range of health and social benefits. When this asset is damaged it leaves us unable to reach our collective potential.

Mental health problems exist in our lives, families, workplaces and communities, impacting everyone. Every week 1 in 6 of us is facing a common mental health problem. Half of all issues have already developed by the age of 14 and  three quarters by the age of 24. And suicide continues to be the leading cause of death for men and women younger  than 45.

To achieve a meaningful change in these overwhelming facts, we need to all join the mission that makes most sense: preventing mental health problems.

Today we know that mental health problems are caused by a combination of factors. We know that we are not just victims of our genes, but there is a big range of social, economic, family and emotional factors that interact with our genes. These factors can make us more or less likely to develop a problem.

Hence, prevention is about stopping such problems before they emerge, but it’s also about addressing those social circumstances in our environments that make many of us more vulnerable. And it’s about improving the quality of life for those of us already experiencing problems or symptoms of distress. At the Foundation, a lot of our innovative work is about empowering vulnerable people in such high risk communities and increasing everyone’s confidence in managing their mental health while lobbying for positive policy changes as well.

A lot has changed in recent decades on how we view and treat mental illness. And it seems that the times have never been more demanding of and welcoming to positive change. We’ve already learned to ask to be vaccinated to prevent infectious diseases, got talking about contraception to protect our personal health, and got used not to smoke indoors to prevent cancer. With your support and public interest at its highest point, we have a window of opportunity to embrace the challenge of prevention. And when together we achieve the promised progress, we will look back and see that this was our time’s greatest contribution to human flourishing.

How does prevention work when it comes to mental health?

Prevention and mental health

Suicide prevention work in Scotland

Susan Solomon, Research Manager

Our Suicide Prevention Work has taken a crucial step forward with the start of a new important piece of research exploring services currently available to support bereaved families by suicide, to help us inform future provision across Scotland.

Each and every suicide is a tragedy which can be devastating and life-changing for those left behind. Recent figures highlighted that in 2018, there were 784 deaths by suicide in Scotland.

Research also highlights that those bereaved by suicide are at an increased risk of suicide, psychiatric admission and depression. Although evidence promotes the positive impact that getting the right support can have, it’s estimated that two thirds of people in the UK who are bereaved by suicide receive no formal support.

Jointly funded by the Mental Health Foundation and the Scottish Government’s Suicide Prevention Team, our research will assist in the development of robust, evidence-based interventions to support those people bereaved by suicide across
Scotland. Exploring existing models and current best practice the study should  be completed by October and will allow us to provide guidance to the National Suicide Prevention Action Group  (NSPAG) on what future models of support should look like, as well as providing an invaluable insight into people’s experiences of support.

Lee Knifton, our Director for Scotland and Northern Ireland: “As members of the Scottish Government’s National Suicide Prevention Action Group, we are committed to working with the other group members to make Scotland a world-leader in suicide prevention. This includes ensuring that we focus on the needs of those bereaved by suicide. It is crucial we work together to provide the trauma-informed approach they need and prevent further tragedies.”

Help us ensure that no family experiencing suicide goes through it unsupported.

I would like to support families bereaved by suicide

Flourishing corporate partnerships

Chris O’Sullivan, Head of Business Development and Engagement

We are in a world where mental health awareness is increasing in all walks of life – and over the past two years our programme of work with businesses and employers has flourished.

At the Foundation we work with businesses with three main objectives. Naturally, we want to raise money through fundraising initiatives and professional services like training. Alongside this we also want to make an impact with our partners, reaching more people with good quality information on mental health. Finally, we want to gain insight – working with partners to research and innovate – developing new tools and better understanding of workplace mental health in a range of sectors.

This year we’re working with over twenty corporate partners in a range different sectors including financial services, fashion, media, recruitment and services. As we are a small team we can work in a personal way with our partners – tailoring partnerships to meet the needs of small and large businesses. The support of our corporate partners is a key factor in allowing us to grow our work.

We have also delivered our PRESUME manager training to around 150 managers in the XPS Administration business, with further developments planned for later this year.

Over the last year more than a thousand corporate managers have engaged with our PRESUME training programme. The programme describes the keys steps for managing good mental health in the workplace, following the PRESUME cycle: Prevention – Recognise – Engage – Support – Understand – Manage – Evaluate.

This course uses scenarios designed to get managers talking – learning from peers and the training team how to approach mental health in their work.

We’ve developed the course in full day and half day versions, and robust evaluations are showing that the course is making a significant difference.

Manolo Blahnik

During Mental Health Awareness Week, Manolo Blahnik donated through a number of promotions and from sales of green shoes close to £13k to the Foundation. This was the start of a wider partnership which has been developing over the summer and autumn.

XPS Pensions Group

XPS Pensions Group selected the Foundation as its charity partner in January 2019. With 1200 staff in 15 locations across the UK, the partnership has hit the ground running – literally in the case of the Leeds office who entered a team in the Leeds 10k in July.
The business marked Mental Health Awareness Week in offices across  the UK by selling green ribbons, wearing green to work, and by  hosting Curry & Chaat and Tea & Talk events. Alongside the fundraising events, we have also been supporting the business in developing its mental health programme.

XPS sent a customised version of our guide ‘How to Look After Your Mental Health at Work’ to all their staff, and we are running a series of blogs for staff on aspects of mental health and wellbeing.

Would you like to support our life-changing work in your business?

Find out more about corporate partnerships here

Body Image Advisory Group

Julie Cameron, Head of Programmes for Scotland

We were delighted to be asked by the Scottish Government to co-chair a new Advisory Group to help young people achieve a healthy body image.

The group was announced during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which focused on ‘Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies’.

Our report highlighted how young people across Scotland feel about their bodies, and how they feel their body image affects their wellbeing.

In response to our report, and their  own recent findings around young women and mental health, Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey detailed the remit of the new group, which  will focus on identifying specific actions to help young people achieve a healthy body image.

The first meeting took place in August 2019, and members will report directly to Ministers with their recommendations for next steps in early 2020.

We’re delighted that the Scottish Government has responded promptly to our report, and that we are playing a key role in this important new piece of work.

We hope that the new group will lead to the creation of useful resources for teachers and other frontline professionals and help to raise awareness about the impact of body image on mental health.

Key tasks over its six-month lifespan will include:

  • Delivering a Charter/ Pledge on Healthy Body Image for young people;
  • Developing a Scotland-wide definition of what ‘body image’ means;
  • Providing options for how relevant professionals can support healthy body image, including in schools.
Our work reducing the impact of negative body image on mental health is making a real difference.

Help us continue to make a difference

Comhar Men’s Groups

Ben Plimpton, Project Manager for Empowerment & Later Life​

The Mental Health Foundation is partnering with ICAP (Immigration Counselling And Psychotherapy) on a new project to deliver self-management courses for Irish men in mid-life. The courses, which began in August, will run for six weeks and will be delivered at the London Irish Centre.

The aim of the self-management courses  is to give participants more choice regarding their lives and health, specifically their mental health. The course builds on what participants already know and do to look after their mental health, and introduces skills around goal setting and problem solving.

Participants who took part in similar courses previously have reported a greater sense of control over their lives and increased wellbeing.

The project aims to deliver 10 courses  by the end of June 2020 and engage over 120 men, so that peer support groups  can be established following completion  of the 6-week course.

Peer support groups will also be established following completion of the 6-week course.

In the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington, where most group participants will be living, middle-aged Irish men have been found to be at higher risk of poor mental health and suicide compared with men born elsewhere.

The project ran a consultation event with organisations in the Irish community, and a co-production event with Irish men in mid-life. The project name ‘Comhar’ was selected, which is often translated from Irish as ‘teamwork’ or ‘cooperation’. The format of each meeting will accommodate a discussion or activity that the men will choose, as well as a self-management theme.

Men in the UK are three times more likely than women to take their own lives with men in mid-life at greatest risk. Irish men living in the boroughs of Camden and Islington have been found to be at even higher risk relative to people born elsewhere.

We need your help to continue setting up projects that make a real difference

KidsTime Family Workshops

Jane Caro, Programme Lead for Families, Children and Young People

The Mental Health Foundation is delighted to be working in partnership with Our Time, a charity which supports children and families affected by  parental mental illness. We have been awarded a grant from The National Lottery Community Fund to support the delivery of ‘KidsTime Family Workshops’ across the London Borough of Southwark from September 2019.

An estimated 3.7 million young people in the UK live with, or care for, a parent with a mental illness and this number is expected to rise to 4.5 million by 2021. Earlier this year, NHS Digital published new data analysis which suggests that young people whose parents experience poor mental health are much more likely to develop a mental health problem themselves than those whose parents report good mental health. Across age groups, they were between two and a half to nearly three times more likely to experience difficulties.

Our Time have developed the ‘KidsTime’ workshops over many years. As Dympna Cunnane, the CEO of Our Time, tells us: ‘KidsTime’ workshops are unique in working with the whole family to overcome the challenges of raising children and having a mental health problem. We know from 20 years of working with families that relatively simple, early help makes a huge difference to the life of the children’.

The Mental Health Foundation will be adapting the traditional KidsTime delivery model to make it easier to ‘scale’ the programme, enabling us to bring it to far greater numbers of families than ever before. We will be working closely with professionals across Southwark, including the local authority’s Early Help team,  NHS Mental Health services, schools and children centre staff.
The KidsTime Southwark Project will run nine groups, each consisting of 12 fortnightly workshops over the course of six months.

These workshops will allow families to come together and have open conversations about the impact of mental health on their lives. A drama session  also takes place for children and young people to express themselves and help them to meet others with similar experiences. The families then eat together to end the evening with a sense of positive support and connection.

We’re delighted to receive this funding from the National Lottery Community Fund in partnership with Our Time. It is particularly important to work with families where a parent has a mental health diagnosis to ensure that both parents and children are able to connect with others with shared experience in order to reduce stigma and enable support from other families in a similar situation.

We value the experience that Our Time will bring to this project. We hope to learn valuable lessons from the KidsTime Southwark project to extend this important work elsewhere in the country.

Donate today

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) – building resilience

Heather Lewis, Interim Project Manager for ACE’s Resilience

In January 2018 we shared about our hopes for the Mental Health Foundation in Wales to partner with others in exploring Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s). I am really pleased be able to update you on what we’ve achieved so far!

The Mental Health Foundation have partnered with Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to create an ACE’s Resilience Programme supported by the Welsh Government Transformation Fund. The programme involves 13 staff with a wealth of experience, qualifications and differing passions wanting to collaboratively build resilience across our 0 to 18’s in Cardiff and The Vale.

Our aim for this project is that children and young people, their families and those who work with them, be able to flourish using the tools we develop to build resilience, helping them reach their potential. This could include using peer support groups, training school staff, creating staff support and, providing opportunities for play therapy. The team are excited to utilise all the fantastic resources and people that are available across Cardiff and The Vale.

The team is made up of both MHF and NHS staff. A project manager, administration support and evaluation officer are all in place to provide the infrastructure and support. We have appointed ten fantastic graduate mental health workers who are employed by the NHS. These workers will be on the ground in preschool, primary and secondary schools to signpost, resource and provide support. The project is managed clinically by a psychologist who has been appointed and starts in October.

Throughout July and August, the team were preparing for the project launch in September by carrying out research and mapping of what is already available locally, observing other relevant roles, undertaking training and building up a strong team bond.

We hope to update you in a few months with some real stories of success from the team working across Cardiff and The Vale.

Adverse Childhood Experiences can seriously impact the mental health of young people. The right support at the right time is essential.

Help us ensure that every child can thrive

Disability Research on Independent Living & Learning

Jade Yap, Research Officer

The Mental Health Foundation, with partners including Queen’s University Belfast, NI Chest Heart and Stroke, Praxis Care and three Recovery Colleges, is leading on a physical activity pilot study, ‘Empowering people through physical activity’.

The study, supported by the DRILL Programme (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, aims to address the high levels of physical ill-health and preventable deaths of people with serious mental health conditions in Northern Ireland. It is currently in the delivery stage with physical activity interventions running in sites across the country.

Personal trainers from the Platinum Training Institute – with extensive experience and qualifications specific  to working with mental health conditions – have used the feedback from coproduction workshops to inform the design and delivery of the programme.

Co-production is at the heart of the study. A cohort of peer researchers were recruited last year and completed three days of research training at Queen’s University Belfast.

They have played a pivotal role in coproducing the programme design and research, methodology and will continue to have a key part in the analysis, research findings, recommendations and promotion.

The next step is to analyse the data collected from participants to identify whether the programme has impacted positively on their physical and mental health. Interviews and consultations with partners will be conducted to identify any important learning as to how future programmes can empower people with serious mental health problems to incorporate physical activity in their lives.

We undertake research that meaningfully involves people with lived experience of mental health.

Donate towards more inclusive mental health research

Emma Lannigan’s Tea & Talk

I started supporting the Mental Health Foundation in 2010. Walking  had really helped me out of my anxiety and depression years before. In 2009 I realised I could walk further, and I could help others too, and so I signed up for a charity trek on the Great Wall of China to raise money  for the Foundation. On World Mental Health Day in 2010, I was flying back!

I wanted to raise awareness of mental health and help fund research for resources so for me the only charity I wanted to support was the Mental Health Foundation, and that’s where it all began.

The Foundation’s event team over the years has been really supportive of the fundraising events I have hosted, including Tea & Talks. I’ve never felt like just another fundraiser. It was always lovely to share the successes of the events and not just in money raised, in awareness shared too.

I’ve been running Tea & Talk events since October 2010. I love tea and cake so these worked for me and I could reach out to the local community to get involved in baking as well. It’s been a journey, and I’ve seen the attitude change around mental health positively.

Over the years of hosting these events I’ve seen people start new hobbies  and build up new networks of friends. Some people just donate cakes as a way of taking part!

I keep hosting these events because I love seeing the local community get together and make a difference. I couldn’t do it without the support of my family and friends!

In 2015 I added a walk to the Tea & Talk and for Mental Health Awareness  Week in May 2017 I launched WALK HAPPY. This, now a local annual event, offers a charity walk and tea and cake, and we raise money for the Foundation and other local charities.

Want to join thousands of people this World Mental Health Day and host your own Tea & Talk?

Find out more and sign up


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