Worthing Mental Health Awareness Week round-up: Building momentum to break stigma of mental illness

This year’s Worthing Mental Health Awareness Week was one of the most successful yet, building a momentum to break the stigma of mental illness.

This was the seventh year for the event, which brings together good-qualty information in one place and includes a film night, concert, workshops, coffee morning and afternoon tea.

The Rev Dawn Carn lights the peace candle to launch Worthing Mental Health Awareness Week, watched by mayor Hazel Thorpe, the week's co-founders Bob Smytherman and Carol Barber, and Val Turner, executive member for health and wellbeing. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks190553-1

The Rev Dawn Carn lights the peace candle to launch Worthing Mental Health Awareness Week, watched by mayor Hazel Thorpe, the week's co-founders Bob Smytherman and Carol Barber, and Val Turner, executive member for health and wellbeing. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks190553-1

Carol Barber, co-founder, said: “It has been such a good week. What is different this year is the number of businesses and individuals giving cake or food, so we could look after others.

“Also, we had firm outcomes and commitments as a result of some of the speakers by the end of the week - usually it’s a month or so afterwards.

“There seems to be such goodwill, such momentum to break the stigma of mental illness.”

The organisers were absolutely delighted with the response to the various workshops, talks and activities at Offington Park Methodist Church from October 7 to 12.

Just under 650 people attended the more formal sessions and hundreds more visited the information centre that was set up in the church.

During the week, 60 local groups and organisations were represented and eight of these were taking part for the first time.

The Rev Dawn Carn, minister at Offington Park Methodist Church, lit the peace candle to launch the week, alongside Worthing mayor Hazel Thorpe.

Val Turner, executive member for health and wellbeing on Worthing Borough Council, gave an update on local initiatives such as the extremely successful Beat the Street challenge.

The keynote address by Louise Gisbey from Safe In Sussex, entitled Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Abuse, was well attended by representatives from Sussex Police, charities and agencies, as well as the general public.

Carol said: “This valuable and informative session highlighted the work of Safe In Sussex in supporting people to make informed choices about their futures and also in supporting them in the longer term.”

Jackie Farrell, from the National Tremor Foundation, gave a candid talk about the impact of essential tremor on mental wellbeing.

Carol said: “Currently, there is no local support group for this condition but it is hoped that one will soon form.”

There was a focus on dementia on the very busy Tuesday afternoon, which included a discussion with Worthing Town Cryers, a living well with dementia group.

This was followed by an informal afternoon tea with harpist and music therapist Hazel Child and Sing and Smile with cognitive stimulation therapist Ric Gray.

Lynsey Tran, co-ordinator for Worthing Dementia Action Alliance, said: “It was a joyous occasion with much laughter and some dancing in the aisles. There were 63 people taking part and it was lovely to see people living with dementia, their carers, professionals and also members of the public getting together as one family to enjoy the afternoon.”

The alliance held an open meeting, where the role of admiral nurses in supporting those living with dementia was discussed. It was revealed the Horsham area had six admiral nurses but there were none at all in the Worthing area.

The Wednesday saw 27 people receive training in adult mental health awareness with a four-hour accredited course.

Carol said: “I am always pleased to be able to facilitate the provision of courses which mean that we have people within the community who are better equipped to understand some of the issues surrounding mental health.

“A grant from Worthing Community Chest meant that this course could go ahead. The support from Worthing Samaritans, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary in Worthing, enabled us to provide a light lunch, too.

“We have had very positive feedback from course participants about the course itself and also the fact that we were able to offer lunch after the training was appreciated.”

The theme for World Mental Health Day on October 10 was suicide prevention.

Ann Feloy, a Worthing mum bereaved due to suicide, spoke about the work of Olly’s Future, a charity set up in memory of her son, Oliver.

Bob Smytherman, co-founder of the week, said he was delighted to welcome Ann and Otis, a friend of Oliver. He stressed the importance of anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide to seek help.

The remainder of that day and the Friday, consisted of workshops designed to promote self care and resilience.

Carol said: “This week could not happen without the generosity and goodwill of the Offington church community, who allow us to use their church and who also volunteer throughout the week.

“We have also been touched by the many gifts of food and cakes from local hotels, cafes, groups and individuals.”

Plans are already underway for the next Worthing Mental Health Awareness Week, from October 5 to 10, 2020.