Mental health charity Bridge hosts hugely successful conference

Mental health charity Bridge hosts hugely successful conference

Ground-breaking mental health charity Bridge is to host more events to discuss What Works in Wellbeing after the outstanding success of its 30th anniversary conference, organised by White Label Creative.

Bridge, which supports 1,000 people a year across Greenwich with a range of services, invited leading UK experts, practitioners and campaigners to discuss how best to support the rising number of people in the UK with mental health problems.

"The response from everyone at the conference was incredible," said Bridge chief executive Raymond Sheehy. "Speakers and delegates said how valuable it was to have a forum which brought together experts, practitioners and campaigners, along with people who've experienced mental illness. So we hope to host another event in the near future."

The packed conference at Devonport House on February 23 heard from campaigner and writer, Rachel Kelly; director of Channel Four's BAFTA winning series Bedlam and Kids on the Edge, Peter Beard; national Mental Health Foundation Assistant Director, Dr Antonis Kousoulis; and award winning campaigner, Steve Gilbert, who has personal experience of severe mental health problems.

They addressed the rise in mental health problems, particularly among young people in the UK, and discussed the latest approaches to support and prevention. Each of the speakers backed more "whole community" working between the different services and said that treating people as individuals and tackling stigma was the first step to stemming the rise in depressive illnesses.

"Progress is happening in the field of mental health and wellbeing but it is very slow," said Bridge's Raymond Sheehy. "However there are some very important practical things you can do to help people with mental health problems, like really listening to them and treating them like human beings rather than a diagnosis.

"Our experience has taught us that giving people a sense of purpose – ideally a job – and someone who cares and listens, is key. A little support can prevent unnecessary crisis. We just need to look at the evidence we have heard at the conference, and act together to do something about it."

Revealing the significant rise in mental health problems among young girls in particular, Dr Antonis Kousoulis of the national research and policy organisation, Mental Health Foundation, said 50 per cent of adult mental health problems were established by the age of 14, and 75% by early adulthood. He advocated more peer mentoring in schools to promote early stage prevention.

Dr Kousoulis said there was now "a very good window" to improve the nation's mental health over the next five years.

"Good mental health is a state for an individual but an asset for society," he commented. "The Government has recognised this and hopefully it will translate into more money for much needed mental health services in the next few years."

"I think involving people with lived experience of mental health problems, as Bridge did at the conference, and giving them a central point in whatever services we want to design in future is very important," said Dr Kousoulis.

Speaker Rachel Kelly, a former Times journalist who has written three books about coping strategies after suffering serious depressive episodes in her thirties, said dedicated charities like Bridge provide vital support. "What I particularly like about Bridge is that it mirrors my belief that people need strategies they can adopt themselves on the road to recovery. A 'one size fits all approach' does not suit everyone."

For further information on Bridge visit: www.bridgementalhealth.org To view the new Bridge Mental Health First Aid video please visit: http://bit.ly/2lZU4Yu