Newbury Planning Event


A planning event for Brighter Berkshire was held in Newbury Rugby Club on 16th December to understand more what might be possible over the Year of Mental Health and what is the level of ambition for the year. Almost 70 people turned up for the event from across Berkshire with every Council area represented. There are already groups of people coming together in Art, Music, Sport, Education, Literature, and Business putting in place activities and events for the year.

Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, gave a strong and passionate speech. He made a clear commitment to work with a range of people over the year to make a significant local impact on this issue. His speech can be read here.

Lisa McNally, Public Health Consultant for Bracknell-Forrest made a plea to focus on emotional and mental health for young people, focusing on self-esteem as an effective approach to the growing people needing mental health support. She also shared with us her personal story of mental illness as a student and something she manages daily through loving relationships and exercise.

Angela Ryan, who has just set up the first Recovery in Mind College in West Berkshire, talked about her journey through severe mental illness and her own recovery. She has had amazing results from her first group of students and is hoping to get 200 students through in her first year.

Nicky Jerome, talked emotionally from her own experience about how long anxiety and depression can go hidden and the damage to family and career this can have. She made a commitment last year to share her experience to help others while using knitting and running to help her own symptoms.

Andy Bell, Deputy Chief Executive for the Centre for Mental Health took us through what other areas have found to be the most effective way of making a difference issue.

We enjoyed the power of music for ourselves with Vox Skool. Thank you Victoria Bee Bee.

Aspirational ideas expressed included notions of community, working together in communities, towards a cultural shift that would see people in everyday places and activities talking about mental health. It would be necessary to generate momentum (in the practical ways described below) and take responsibility as people who use services, care for others, and as members of communities, to work with statutory bodies, political groups and professionals, in ways that support families and volunteers, and avoid relying on or exploiting goodwill.

Places important to people includes schools, colleges, workplaces, social, leisure, sports, creative spaces, as well as the casual, familiar places we inhabit.

A receptiveness to people talking about mental health would be evidenced by mental health friendly policies and practices in formal and informal settings, and in our relationships with each other. These would be informed by a deeper knowledge and understanding of both the negative effects of silence, stigma and exclusionary practices, and the positive power of openness, inclusiveness and an assertive approach to maintaining and promoting good mental health.

Practical ideas included formation of a steering group or committee, with dedicated roles, a series of events, aims and goals. Specific ideas have been offered and listed, with popular ideas including safe haven cafes, work with young people and their networks, more effective connectedness between helping agencies, education/training and social/leisure activities open to all. A new openness and visibility would characterise Brighter Berkshire’s A Year of Mental Health, particularly in everyday places and activities. Learning from others may include connecting with other regions, mapping resources, signposting and creating resources.   

The need for a narrative was expressed in order to help us make connections with other important societal contributors to mental ill health, to understand the importance of context, and to offer some ideas of how the future might be different. A narrative that challenges the dominant tendency to locate mental health problems with individuals and families is overdue; one that offers new learning and understanding of the role played by communities and organisations as well as by individuals and those in positions of influence.

The importance of working with statutory partners, independent/third sector and charitable organisations was a given, however it was the perspective and insight of people with experience of ill health and of recovery/self management that enabled us to see mental health services in the most memorable ways.