Become a local mental health champion

Waltham Forest has been named a ‘Time to Change’ hub, writes Jon Salmon

Time to Change mental health champions

As part of the Time to Change initiative, local mental health champions set up a living room in The Mall to invite people to talk

Mental health problems affect one in four of us every year. In my early 20s I was one of them, and I ended up in hospital after being sectioned due to a psychotic episode.

My mental illness was caused by the stress of my first job and not having had any professional help after my dad sadly took his own life after suffering from depression. Luckily, I was able to get cognitive behavioural therapy through my employer’s health insurance. I returned to work a year later, but I didn’t dare tell a soul what had happened to me.

However, that was all to change in May 2016, when a friend took her life after suffering from post-natal depression. I was in shock, and realised it was probably the stigma of mental illness that had stopped her from getting help.

Since then I have campaigned for better mental health. I have spoken alongside Prince William as part of a cross-party debate in the House of Lords and I have also gone back to my old college to share my story with students.

This is why I am so pleased that Waltham Forest is the first London borough to be awarded ‘hub status’ for the Time To Change campaign, calling for an end to mental health discrimination. The hub is being led by Waltham Forest Council and co-ordinated by local charity Crest Waltham Forest. However, it’s the local champions with lived experience of mental health that will bring the campaign to life.

It is recognised that having someone tell their story is a great way to challenge mental health stigma and end the shame and isolation around mental health. For World Mental Health Day in October, local Time to Change champion Hannah Schwartzman set up a living room at The Mall in Walthamstow and, along with other champions, had conversations with shoppers to challenge the misconceptions of having a mental illness.

I am really proud to be a Time To champion myself. We are seeking more local people with lived experience of mental health to join our movement. When you become a Time To Change champion you will receive training and ongoing support from other local champions, as well as the hub co-ordinator. There is also funding available for events or initiatives that challenge mental health discrimination.

If you are interested in becoming a Time to Change champion, or to find out more, contact:
Email chris.osullivan@crestwf.org.uk
Visit walthamforest.gov.uk/timetochange

If you have been affected by anything in this article or would like someone to talk to, you can contact Samaritans for free at any time:
Call 116 123