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Stigma in Mental Health – Conference Report


On 9 May 2017 Cygnet held its latest free educational event, ‘Stigma In Mental Health: The role stigma plays and strategies for positive change.’ More than 120 delegates gathered at the Village Hotel in Leeds for the event which addressed the problem of mental health stigma and what strategies can be used to help those affected by stigma.

The event was co-produced with service users and experts by experience and chaired by Cygnet Health Care’s Director of Nursing and Patient Experience, Julie Kerry and Raf Hamaizia, Cygnet’s Expert by Experience Lead.

The conference got off to a powerful start as delegates watched ‘Stigma – What it means to us’ a video developed and produced by service users at Cygnet Hospital Bierley. The video explored what affect stigma has had on the women involved in the video’s production and included service users interviewing staff and members of the public.

Following on from this the conference heard about the successful Recovery Academy at Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust’s Edenfield Centre. The presentation by Kevin Scallon, together with peer mentors and experts by experience, highlighted the importance of peer mentors in establishing the success of the Recovery Academy.

“If you can’t knock down a wall, put a door in it.”Kevin Scallon, Lead for Recovery Academy, Edenfield Centre

After a break delegates had a choice of joining one of three workshops facilitated by the team from Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust. The workshops looked at co-production, peer mentorship programmes and volunteering.

Following the workshops there was a presentation from John-Paul Kozah and Lindsey Martin from Advent Advocacy who explored the role advocacy plays in addressing and combating stigma.

“How you support a person today influences how they respond tomorrow.”Lindsey Martin, Operations Director, Advent Advocacy

After lunch delegates watched a vlog by Aimee Wilson in which Aimee discussed her online blog imnotdisordered.co.uk and her hope that the blog makes her readers feel less alone and more confident to get help. A theme of Aimee’s video was the importance of the medium of digital communication in combating stigma.

The following presentation was from Holly Alix and Angela Wall on the Mental Health First Aid programme. There was also testimony from Sarah Fanning of the charity, Racing Welfare, on how the use of Mental Health First Aid training has helped support people in the racing industry. Next the team from Cygnet Hospital Bierley, with the help of Lucinda Williams from York University, gave a presentation on the success of Bowling Ward’s Recovery Scrapbook.

The conference ended on an uplifting note as Deborah, a service user, recounted her inspiring journey in overcoming internalised stigma.

Conference Feedback

“Thought that all of the service users testomonies were really powerful and gave a greater insight into the impact of stigma.”

“A great day, very informative and very well thought out. A good mix of presentations, service representatives and it was great to see such a variety of services together, discussing stigma, how it presents within society and how it can be challenged.”

“Overall a very inspirational day with stimulating presentations and some very good videos included.”

“Very emotional in a positive way. Reinforced my love and reason for working in mental health care. Went away feeling proud!”

“Excellent conference, felt such happiness for their recovering mental health issues from the service users and challenging stigma face on. Well done to all.”

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