DORSET County Council has become one of the first local authorities to sign a pledge to help tackle the stigma surrounding mental health.

The Time to Change ceremony was held on Thursday, and was opened by Councillor John Wilson, chairman of Dorset County Council.

The national director of the Time to Change programme, Sue Baker, also attended the ceremony, which took place at the Dorford Centre in Dorchester.

Ms Baker said: “This pledge is many things but one of the most important things is that the council itself has to set out its strategy for looking after the mental health and well-being of its own workforce.”

She praised Dorset for its successful number of partnerships focusing on improving attitudes towards people with mental health problems.

“There’s a huge amount of energy, enthusiasm and activity. I think that’s possible because of local leadership and great partnership working.”

The ceremony was attended by over 40 guests, including representatives from Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, the largest provider of healthcare in Dorset.

In 2010, Dorset County Council became the first local authority in England to appoint a member champion for mental health, Councillor Michael Bevan.

Ms Baker commended the councillor for his passion and for taking the issue of addressing stigma and discrimination to a ‘new level’ that has not been seen before.

She said: “He’s the inspiration behind this national scheme to get mental health champions in every authority.”

Cllr Bevan said that having a band of officers with an awareness of mental health issues helped ensure the right facilities were put in place.

He said: “I know that government cuts don’t help, which is why I’m trying to fight as much as I possibly can to retain as much money to promote mental health and I’ve got a good bunch of officers who will help to try and do that.”

The facts about mental health

  • One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year
  • One in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem
  • Nine out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination
  • Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they discuss their problems