Back in 2014, I never thought I would set up and run a national mental health charity. I was performing stand-up comedy across the UK, had met my now-wife and was planning my future. From the outside, everything looked like it was going well – but behind the scenes, I was struggling with debilitating mental health issues, that eventually led to a suicide attempt.
Thankfully, that was the turning point in my life. After working through my issues and reaching a point of recovery, I set my sights on helping others. Removing the stigma from mental health became my goal, and almost six years later I am proud that this little idea of mine has turned into a national charity, Chasing the Stigma, that is helping thousands of people across the country.
Back to basics
The reason Chasing the Stigma has been so successful in the mental health arena is because we have come in as outsiders, looking into a complex and overly-bureaucratic system. We have identified the gaps in the mental health ‘market’, so to speak, and filled them with simple ideas that have a lasting impact.
Our approach from the beginning has been to focus on the basics, which not many organisations seem to have done in the past. Our database, the Hub of Hope, is very simple yet innovative in its approach. We found that people who were struggling with mental health issues were finding it difficult to find local services near them, for a number of reasons. Either they did not know the service existed, didn’t know where to look for the service, or the service wasn’t particularly easy to find.
Therefore, by simply entering a postcode or device location, the Hub of Hope amalgamates these services into one place, making it much easier for people to find the services closest to them as well as national support, too. There is also a functionality to focus on certain issues, such as depression, eating disorders or psychosis, to narrow down results even further.
Not only that, the Hub of Hope offers a talk now option, which can put you directly through to the Samaritans or our new crisis text service, which we have launched in partnership with Shout and Crisis Textline.
Quite simply, you’re not alone.
Simple, but effective
Since launching the Hub of Hope in July 2017, over 40,000 unique users have visited the site or app, signposting them to the nearest and most relevant mental health support services from our database of more than 1,200 national and grassroots organisations. The site has had over 170,000 unique page views, furthering our ambition to become the go-to tool for mental health support.
Our approach to mental health awareness and activism is not complicated, and it doesn’t need to be. What’s so complicated about providing resources to people, pointing them in the right direction and providing them with the help they need? Clearly it works. For example, if you have a broken arm, you head to A&E, get an X-ray, a diagnosis and treatment within the target of four hours — the pathway is well known and, vitally, trusted.
The disparity between mental and physical health treatment is still so wide that many are unaware of the treatment pathways available to them when they are suffering from a mental health issue.
Until Chasing the Stigma came along, no one really thought to make this knowledge readily available to the public.
Sharing our knowledge
In addition to the Hub of Hope, our new programme – the Ambassador of Hope – is also borne from this concept. By providing companies and individuals with basic mental health training – so the trainee is then able to provide an individual seeking help with information about where to go and who to contact – the programme is equipping employees and the general public with the tools needed to help and provide support.
So far, we have used the programme to train more than 1,500 individuals across many organisations, including The Regenda Group, Liverpool City Council, System Group, Mando and Mashbo. We also have a commitment from the Disclosure and Barring Service to train all 900 members of their staff.
The training isn’t a fast track to becoming an armchair psychiatrist – it provides knowledgeable and useful information about how to help someone who is looking for somewhere to turn. The Ambassador of Hope badge indicates to those in need that the person wearing the badge is available to talk to and provide appropriate support.
There is nothing complicated about providing support. If you simply provide information, the chances of someone being equipped to access treatment and move forward with their lives is dramatically increased.
Looking to the future
Chasing the Stigma has been lucky over the past couple of years to have gained support from a vast array of companies and individuals, including Natasha Devon MBE and Everton Football Club.
We are also proud of the fact that, along with Everton FC, plans to build a dedicated mental health centre in Liverpool are underway. This will be an invaluable resource to the people of Merseyside, and we can’t believe that in the space of five years the charity has gone from a few Twitter posts to working with a Premier League Football Club on the construction of a centre that will change — and even save — lives.
We are also very lucky to have won the Technology Award in the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards 2018. This meant a lot to us, as the focus of our work has been to use digital innovation to help more people than ever access services, and for this to be recognised by Care Management Matters showed that our work is vital and celebrated.
We have achieved so much over the last two years, but we are forever looking to the future. While we strive to change the conversation surrounding mental health, it is the responsibility of the Government and local authorities to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to funding services and treatment. Chasing the Stigma can open the discussion and point people in the right direction, but the response and future of mental health services lies with those in power.
The Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards is run specifically for the voluntary care and support sector. Nominations are now closed for this year’s Awards, but you can book your tickets for the awards ceremony here. Be the first to find out who the finalists are by following the Awards on Twitter: @3rdSectorCare #3rdSectorCareAwards
With thanks to our supporters: National Care Forum, Learning Disability England, The Care Provider Alliance, Association of Mental Health Providers and VODG.
The Technology Award was sponsored by everyLIFE Technologies.