Mental Health: moving the conversation forward

Today’s blog post comes from Cllr Asher Craig Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public Health.

Social workers play a crucial role in the mental and emotional wellbeing of the vulnerable children and adults they work with. They are often the voice of the voiceless; helping to ensure the people they work with feel empowered in their own lives. We know that in order to empower others, social workers need to feel that their roles are valued.

However, as The British Association of Social Workers recently commented, this isn’t always recognised in legislation. This is why, with the ongoing review of mental health legislation by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Work, there is an opportunity to explain the value of social work.  The aim of the group’s inquiry is to promote the role of the social worker within mental health services and to improve social worker working conditions under a new Mental Health Act.

Mental health and wellbeing is a key priority for us, and we recently launched Thrive Bristol. Thrive is a ten year programme to improve the mental health and wellbeing of everyone in the city, with a focus on those with the greatest needs. It covers all ages and considers mental health in its broadest sense. Mental wellbeing is also a key focus for the One City approach; the overarching goal for wellbeing in the One City Plan is that by 2050 everyone in Bristol will have the opportunity to live a life in which they are mentally and physically healthy. Mental and physical health need to achieve political, social and cultural equality. This is starting to happen, but there is a long way to go and lot of work still to do. Until the conversation about mental wellbeing is treated with equal seriousness as physical wellbeing, health inequalities will not be meaningfully reduced and our children and young people will continue grow up in the wake of adverse childhood experiences.

To be a healthier city, we need to work across all sectors; education, employment and housing all play intersecting roles when it comes to mental and emotional wellbeing. Thrive Bristol has a focus on prevention, early intervention and resilience. Educating our children and young people about how to take care of themselves and each other and how to talk openly about their feelings and struggles is the first step. This ensures stronger resilience and provides individuals with the tools and vocabulary to recognise triggers and communicate meaningfully about mental health issues.

Bristol City Council is also a supporter of the Time to Change initiative, which wants to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. Time to Change recognises that it can be very difficult to open up about mental health at work, with 95 per cent of people calling in sick with stress giving a different reason. By working together as a city and using the expertise and support offered by the national Time to Change campaign, we can make great progress towards Bristol becoming a city free from stigma and discrimination around mental health.

Information on how to get in touch with mental health services and links to support groups in Bristol is available here.

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