Local Council Member Champion for Mental Health Michael Bevan from Dorset City Council draws on his personal and political experience of mental health problems, wanting to help others and why he believes the work of the Centre is so invaluable.
I finally decided that life was futile and took an overdose in an isolated country lane. What saved me was an impulsive phone call to my best friend thanking him for his constant friendship. It was not a call in the hope he would dissuade me, it was simply a call of thanks for listening on all those occasions I could unburden.
He called out all the emergency services and traced the regular steps I travelled to work each day. Within an hour I was found; another half hour and I would have been dead. Rehabilitation was a painful process and took some years. I did have some professional help but my own solitary efforts played a part, for by this time I had moved elsewhere and rebuilt my life.
In 2009, I was elected a county councillor and, with a full term ahead of me, I wanted to focus on what was really important, particularly in the field of social care. It would have been so easy to shrug off the past and pretend it never happened. There were new opportunities facing me; why reflect on the past? But I considered it important to share my experiences of mental anguish with others, to use my new influence to seek a better understanding of mental illness and to fight the stigma and discrimination that come with it.
In 2010, I presented a paper to the Leader of Dorset County Council advocating the appointment of an elected member champion for mental health. I had his instant support, that of the Cabinet, and subsequently the full Council. In 2013 the Mental health Challenge was officially launched by Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, MHPF, Rethink Mental Illness, Royal College of Psychiatrists and YoungMinds.
Centre for Mental Health plays a crucial, pivotal role in bringing mental health issues to the forefront of society. It has been a unifying force in bringing together the local authority mental health champions and forging a cohesive national network that now consists of 68 such champions. But we need 100 more.
I find the Centre’s work invaluable, and its existence essential because—
- It uses its research to influence policy makers and achieve change in mental health.
- It arranges the annual general meeting of mental health champions so that a collective exchange of views and achievements can be aired.
- It maintains a constant ongoing basis of facts and figures on how mental health issues affect 1 in 4 of the population and debates solutions to aid recovery and shortage of funding.
The Centre is dynamic and dedicated and its workforce professional. It is very much up front in leading the campaign to defeat ignorance and bring about enlightenment. I have found the Centre fully supportive of my work – they are indispensable – and I have complete confidence in the Centre’s ability to change attitudes and move public opinion.