Sheena’s blog - Mental Health Awareness Week

by Sheena Cumiskey - 10 May 2017

This week (8-15) is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme of this year’s initiative is “Surviving or thriving?”, and is encouraging us all to think about mental health a bit differently. Rather than simply focusing on the conditions or problems that people may be facing with their own mental health, the campaign is asking us all to think about what good mental health really means to us.

I think this is a really positive message, and one that emphasises that this is a conversation important to everyone. We all have mental health – just like we all have physical health, and by acknowledging this simple fact we can tackle any misconceptions or stigma in an inclusive and positive way.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed that, at the moment, mental health is very much in the public consciousness. The Heads Together campaign, led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, has been hugely successful in spearheading many fantastic initiatives and establishing a conversation at the heart of the mainstream media. And like me, I’m sure many of you were inspired and humbled by the bravery of those featured in the BBC programme Marathon In Mind.

As a provider of mental health and community services across a large footprint, we have a responsibility to translate this momentum at a local level. Indeed, Mental Health Awareness Week is a fantastic opportunity for us to think about how we engage with our communities, and share our expertise to educate and empower our local population.

Raising awareness can take many different forms: it can be holding events or activities to reach people face to face; it can be publishing thought leadership blogs and articles to share key messages to a broader audience; or it can be linking in with partners and other organisations to recognise best practice and improve collaboration. I’m thrilled to say that over the last week we have taken a combination of all approaches to get our voice heard.

Colleagues at Ancora House, Cherry Ward and Springview hosted events to engage with people who access our services, their carers and families to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week: young people at Ancora have created an art exhibition throughout the site; Cherry Ward invited some of our young people to join them for a coffee morning aiming to bring together people of different ages; while Springview held baking and craft sessions for their afternoon tea event.

Two of our colleagues have been out spreading the word with national partners: Consultant Psychiatrist Mahesh Odiyoor spoke at the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Spring Conference in London about Transforming Care for people with learning disabilities, and Director of Nursing, Therapies and Patient Partnerships Avril Devaney hosted a National Mental Health Nurse Directors Forum to share learning about the Nursing Associates programme.

Recently, we’ve been on the receiving end of yet more national recognition, which is of course a fantastic way to make people aware of our progress and successes: our CAMHS new build Ancora House has been shortlisted in three categories at the Design in Mental Health Awards (Project of the year; Service user engagement  and Collaborative Estates and Facilities Team), and our Complex Recovery Assessment and Consultation (CRAC) Team have been shortlisted in the Mental Health category of the Patient Safety Awards 2017. I’ve got my fingers crossed for both!

Finally, I would just like to add that when it comes to spreading the word about mental health, we need to look inwardly as well as out. Our staff support service is there for any colleague who may be struggling, and can provide confidential expert advice to anyone with questions about their own wellbeing. All staff are welcome to contact this service via

Best wishes,


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