Today (Thursday 5 February) Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced the winners of his search for the country's mental health heroes.
The nine regional winners were chosen by an expert panel who were looking for those who were leading the way in changing lives through one or more of the following:
- helping to break the stigma around mental health
- inspiring others in addressing or overcoming mental health problems
- making it easier for people to access mental health support and advice
- supporting people experiencing mental health problems to stay in or return to work
- pioneering new or innovative ways of supporting people with mental health problems and/or their families
Kai More - South East winner
Kai Moore is a former Youth MP for West Sussex who started the ‘Free Your Mind’ campaign two years ago.
This campaign focused on challenging the stigma and challenges associated with young people’s mental health. Kai led in this work by raising the campaign’s aims in a series of interviews, speeches and major events, such as a pioneering youth-led ‘Free Your Mind’ Convention in October 2014.
Kai is now a student at the University of Reading but he has left a strong legacy for his Youth MP successors to carry on campaigning to improve outcomes for young people experiencing mental health issues.
On winning the award Kai said:
“I am so amazed and thankful to have been nominated, let alone to have been a winner. I am so grateful for all of the help and support I have received over the years from all of the people and organisations I've had contact with and I hope that the campaign and all other work in this area are carried on for years to come.
“There is still a lot of work to be done in mental health services and I am just so happy to be able to say I have been a part of it.”
Debbie Humberstone - South West winner
Debbie Humberstone was nominated for a Mental Health Hero award for her work as the founder and coordinator of The Project, a charitable organisation based out of Axminster in Devon that seeks to create a network to support young people aged 12-24 with mental health issues.
Debbie was nominated by her daughter Jess Foster.
“I feel very touched to have been nominated for this award, and so proud to have won. It means a huge amount to have The Project recognised in this way, and I hope that winning this award will help highlight the importance of the work we are doing, and generally make people more aware of the issues around young people’s mental health.
“Anyone and everyone can play a part in changing attitudes to mental illness, by speaking out and taking a stand against the stigma which surrounds it. I am inspired daily by the young people I work with, who show such courage and determination in overcoming their mental health issues – they are the ones who really deserve the award.”
Simba Kaseke - London winner
Simba Kaseke is an Inpatient Lead Nurse based at the Hammersmith and Fulham Mental Health Unit, part of West London Mental Health NHS Trust (WLMHT).
Simba was nominated by Suzanne McMillan, the Head of Inpatient Care at WLMHT, for outstanding leadership and passion in caring for those experiencing mental health crises, ensuring that the right care and compassion is always available for those who need it.
Simba has been praised by multiple sources for his work, including the Metropolitan Police and Norman Lamb MP, Minister for Care and Support at the Department of Health.
On being announced a winner Simba said:
"Firstly, I would like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister for launching the Mental Health Heroes award. I feel honoured and privileged to be one of the recipients of this award. I do hope that this initiative that the Deputy Prime Minister has launched will go some way in raising awareness of mental illness, dispel some of the stigma and prejudice associated with it.
“Hopefully this will result in people with mental illness having the same parity as people suffering with any other medical condition. This award is not only a recognition the work I have been doing but is also a recognition of passion and dedication of each and every member of staff in West London Mental Health Trust.
“By putting the needs of the patients first, WLMHT is the only Trust that does not turn away any patients picked up by the police under section 136. This has resulted in no adult patient being detained in a police cell for over a year and no child under 18 with mental illness has been detained in a police cell for over two years."
Becki Luscombe - West Midlands winner
Becki Luscombe was a tenacious and committed campaigner who, by utilising her own personal struggles with mental health, managed to raise the issues pioneered by Time to Change to a national level.
Tragically, Becki died in September 2014 aged just 23. However, in her short life she managed to take troublesome and complicated issues and deal with them in an open and friendly way, for example by playing a key role in a ‘Laughing for Change’ group in Birmingham.
She also achieved national prominence in 2013 for leading a campaign against several supermarkets that were stocking offensive ‘mental health patient’ outfits for Hallowe’en.
Becki was nominated by her parents Richard and Sue Luscombe, who accept the award on her behalf. saying that, along with their profound sadness, they felt enormous pride in Becki's achievements. They expressed her wish that, "If my experiences can be used to further any cause, I would be honoured."
Myria Khan - East Midlands winner
Myira is a counsellor based in Leicester, who has led work locally, nationally and internationally to break down the particular stigma mental health conditions are faced with within Muslim and South Asian communities.
Myira offers counselling locally and has also led on a variety of campaigns in her local area and more widely.
She founded the Muslim Counsellor and Psychotherapist Network in April 2013 which seeks to promote counselling as a career path for those from Muslim communities, and has attended multiple national conferences and speaking engagements on the topic of mental health stigma in South Asian communities.
"I am really honoured and humbled to be receiving the Deputy Prime Minister's Mental Health Hero Award. I believe it is a reflection of my work as a Counsellor, Lecturer and as the Founder of the Muslim Counsellor & Psychotherapist Network.
“I am driven by my passion to create easier and wider access to counselling services for our communities and to provide effective, safe and supportive counselling to all clients.
“I also believe in my social responsibility to break down barriers and reduce the stigma around mental health issues. Mental health awareness, talking therapies and counselling/mental health services need to be recognised and fully supported and funded to ensure that everyone can get access to services and the help they need, when they need it."
Clive Hathaway - East of England winner
Clive is an author and campaigner who spent a significant part of his life suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Utilising his personal experiences, Clive regularly writes, speaks and campaigns on what it is like to experience and be treated for severe mental health illnesses, and advocates for better care and understanding of these concerns.
This work resulted in a book, Looking for Prince Charles’ Dog, which was published in 2013 and raised significant proceeds for a number of charities.
Clive was nominated by Alison Bass, a psychiatric nurse at South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, who originally worked on treating Clive a decade ago.
“I am overwhelmed with pride at receipt of this reward. Thanks very much to the Deputy Prime Minister and the committee for the award which I gratefully accept for the whole service user community.
“The mental health service user fraternity really needs to see that recovery from paranoid schizophrenia and depression with a return to a happy and productive life is a possibility.
“I relish this opportunity to do that as I am happy, productive and have avoided hospital for over 10 years now.”
Jack Wilson - North East winner
In 2009 Jack was subjected to bullying that left him suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression and unable to attend mainstream school.
He has since become a volunteer with YoungMinds and has been active with media appearances and speaking engagements in seeking to motivate other young people to either address their own mental health issues or better understand those suffered by their peers.
Jack is currently a Young People’s Service User Governor for Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and works full time as an Apprentice Youth Worker at Youth Focus: North East. Jack was nominated by his mum Suzanne.
“I never expected anything like it to happen to me. It means so much to just be nominated for this award let alone win it, I couldn't be any happier than I am right now.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me get here my tutors at Hospital and Home Tuition Service Gateshead, my psychiatrists, YoungMinds, Youth Focus: North East but most importantly my family who have been there for me through thick and thin I wouldn't be where I am today without them.”
Bob Paxman - North West winner
Bob is a former Special Forces soldier who suffered a near total mental breakdown in 2006 following his time in the military.
Drawing on his personal experiences, Bob has since founded a charity called Talking2Minds with another veteran Ernie Dowell.
This charity has researched, created and put into practice a new form of talking therapy known as Paradigm, which is tailored towards ex-service people and their families and has helped nearly 500 people since 2009.
This has been managed with a minimal amount of funds through use of volunteers and borrowed facilities. Bob was nominated by his friend Stephen McDowell who is also a trustee of the charity.
On winning Bob said:
“I am thrilled and honoured at this award. This is a recognition not only of the massive and growing problem that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder represents, particularly among veterans, but also that Talking2minds is doing its bit to give PTSD sufferers their lives back.
“This award is for the thousands of unpaid hours our volunteers have willingly given to help us to give lives back to the living and end the devastation that PTSD causes individuals and their families.”
Helen Boutle - Yorkshire winner
Helen has spent 20 years leading local communities in Barnsley and Wakefield to provide greater care, compassion and understanding to those suffering from mental health conditions.
Through a variety of work and projects, Helen has been instrumental in the emergence of a new community known as Creative Recovery, a people-led organisation that uses creative, therapeutic and social activities to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health and enabling those with experience of mental health conditions are able to live their lives to the full.
Ian Callaghan - South East winner
As a former user of secure mental health services, Ian has been working with Rethink Mental Illness and NHS England Ian to provide strategic advice and direction focused on ensuring that patients using secure mental health facilities know exactly the quality and nature of the treatment they can expect to receive.
Ian has also pioneered several national conferences that celebrate the achievements in this area and harness their learning potential, and has been credited with effecting a real culture shift within secure mental health services.
Ian was nominated by Olivia Butterworth, Head of Public Voice at NHS England, who has worked closely with him on his projects to improve secure mental health services.
“I am absolutely thrilled to have won this Award – in fact I’m bowled over! I don’t feel like a hero at all because I so thoroughly enjoy the involvement I have with the Recovery and Outcomes project for people receiving care in secure mental health units around the country.
“I started with the project when I was a patient in a secure service and it’s great to be able to give something back. Along with a dedicated group of others, I help support people in their recovery and give people a voice outside their service and that’s incredibly rewarding.
“To see people that are hidden behind high fences and thick walls who’ve experienced some awful events in their lives make real progress towards rebuilding their lives is a privilege to be a part of – and it’s for all those people that I receive this Award.”