The Royal Borough has embraced Brighter Berkshire’s Year of Mental Health initiative and has already achieved a number of key goals in the nine months since the campaign started.
Brighter Berkshire is a county-wide collaboration bringing together local authorities, health partners, businesses, schools and the wider community to share experiences and raise awareness of mental health issues.
Since launching in January approximately 90 per cent of all council managers and senior staff have now received mental health first aid training. The training covers a basic understanding of mental health, recognising the early signs of mental health needs, and how to refer staff to support services.
In addition to this the council’s public health team have delivered mental health awareness training in local schools.
Opportunity Recovery College, the Royal Borough’s Virtual College for people with mental health conditions, will be another key milestone for the year when it launches on Friday 13 October at the Town Hall, Maidenhead.
This is an innovative shared learning experience providing courses and activities based on a recovery model.
Its aim is to empower people to become experts in their own recovery; participants are referred to as students and not patients. It enables pupils to learn, at their own pace, equipping them to self-manage their mental health and take positive steps.
In 2014, nearly 21,500 people had some form of mental health condition in the borough. This is predicted to rise to more than 22,600 by 2030 (an increase of 1,132 people).
The council has also endorsed the Berkshire-wide suicide prevention strategy and created a separate guide focussed on local needs in the borough.
Cllr Stuart Carroll, principal member for public health and communications, who helped set up the initiative, said: “It’s down to the hard work of staff that we have been able to deliver mental health first aid training to 90 per cent of council managers, making them better equipped to deal with and spot the signs of mental health needs in their teams.
"As someone who knows from first-hand experience and suffers with clinical depression, some people struggle to talk about mental health and this training will enable managers to spot the signs in their colleagues and signpost them to support services if they would like them.
“The council’s public health team have also provided mental health impact assessment training for the council’s HR team. This is part of the council’s pledge to ensure mental health awareness and empathy is embedded in all local authority policy.”
Cllr MJ Saunders, mental health champion for the council and mental health patient, said: “I am delighted with the important questions that are being asked and answered on mental heath since Brighter Berkshire launched earlier this year. The large minority with mental health challenges can begin to imagine when empathy and acceptance will overcome embarrassment and fear.
“Talking honestly about mental health is the very best way to understand the opportunities and challenges our minds present to all of us.”
For more information see the Brighter Berkshire website and Twitter feed @BrightBerks2017.