Richmond Fellowship Volunteer Coodinator Alison Walker tackling mental health stigma

Charity marks year of conversations tackling mental health stigma

Richmond Fellowship is marking over 1,000 conversations tackling mental health stigma in a year with an afternoon of music and entertainment in Dorset.

Richmond Fellowship, the national charity making mental health recovery a reality, teamed up with Time to Change to launch the ‘Face 2 Face’ project in Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole last year.

Since then the mental health charity has smashed its target of having 1,000 conversations about mental health and is holding ‘Face 2 Face Fest’, an afternoon of music, culture and arts in Poole to celebrate.

The ‘Face 2 Face’ programme encouraged the local community to talk about mental health and as a result Richmond Fellowship has seen an increase in engagement and people accessing services.

Doug Low, locality manager for Richmond Fellowship in Dorset, praised the impact of the scheme:

“Face 2 Face has been a fantastic project to tackle mental health stigma. Since we began last year we’ve held over 1,000 conversations with members of the public to talk openly about mental health.

“It’s well documented that talking about mental health is vital to breaking down the stigma associated with it and we’ve been blown away by the number of people who’ve been willing to share their experiences and talk about mental health and its impact on their lives.”

The ‘Face 2 Face’ project, funded by Time to Change, has seen people who have experienced mental ill health or currently have mental health problems talking to the community and breaking down the associated stigma.

Alison Walker was diagnosed with Bipolar type two five years ago. She suffered discrimination, lost her job and home as well as a number of friends. Despite being degree educated with a good employment record, her disability advisor told her it was unlikely she’d be employed again.

Having been supported by Richmond Fellowship, Alison was approached to join the team running Face 2 Face as volunteer coordinator to use her experiences to talk to members of the public about mental health and break down the stigma she’d been a victim of. She said:

“I was aware of the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health; however it wasn’t until my condition overcame me that I became fully appreciative of how such attitudes impact on daily living.

“Talking to complete strangers about mental health can at first seem very daunting, but in the main the reactions have been quite astounding. People seem to gain an awareness and understanding of mental health issues and talking helps to break down the barriers.

“The sense of personal achievement and empowerment I get when engaging people around mental health issues is a huge boost for my self esteem, especially when people realise they’ve been talking to someone with a mental health condition.”

The ‘Face 2 Face Fest’ is taking place in Falkland Square, Poole between 12noon and 5pm on Saturday 28 March. The free event is open to all and Richmond Fellowship is calling on everyone to come along and enjoy the event whilst learning more about mental health and its impact.

Face 2 Face is run in conjunction with Zoofish Arts and the Borough of Poole Art Service.

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