In 2020, Dean Russell MP launched an ambitious target of training a thousand people in mental health first aid awareness across Watford. The long-term goal was created to tackle stigma and encourage conversations around mental wellbeing. To deliver his ambitious goal, Dean partnered with Watford-based national business Camelot who supported the project with funding, and the Watford and West Herts Chamber of Commerce to support and deliver the training.
Despite the fact that the original goal was intended to be a long term ambition, Dean is excited to share that the target has already been reached - with one thousand local people trained in mental health first aid awareness. The Watford and West Herts Chamber of Commerce, led by Chris Luff, embraced the project, with his team and a host of volunteers helping to deliver sessions in mental health first aid awareness. The sessions aimed to train people to have the basic knowledge and tools needed to recognise the signs of mental health problems and to support individuals. The training is not intended to replace counselling or professional help but ensures support for initial conversations and importantly guidance for signposting.
Special mentions also need to go to the former Camelot Chief Executive Nigel Railton, Richard Hickson and to the Camelot team for their ongoing support. Through this collective effort, Dean envisions a town where open conversations about mental health are the norm, and where individuals feel empowered to reach out for help without fear of stigma.
Dean, who is a recognised mental health campaigner and is an ambassador for Baton of Hope and for Where’s Your Head At?!, expressed his motivation behind the initiative, stating:
"I would like to put on record my sincere thanks and appreciation to many people who helped with this project, but in particular Chris, Saffron and Lee from the Chamber of Commerce, all the volunteer trainers, Camelot and everyone who undertook the training.
I have a long-term ambition for Watford to be, what I call, a ‘Wellbeing Town’, where loneliness has no place to hide and mental wellbeing has no stigma. By training 1,000 people in mental health first aid awareness, we have created a network of support that reaches every corner of our community.
I am already aware this initiative has inspired others across the country to do similar schemes and I am proud that my original target has already been reached. My hope is that this initiative will not only benefit our town, but will also inspire individuals, businesses and wider communities to prioritise mental health and wellbeing, ensuring mental health parity with physical health.”
Camelot’s Co-Chief Executives, Clare Swindell and Neil Brocklehurst, said:
“Camelot is proud to call Watford home, so we’re delighted that this important milestone of training 1,000 Mental Health First Aiders locally has been reached. We have seen first-hand the benefits of providing mental health support within the workplace through our own fantastic team of Mental Health First Aiders and we’re really proud that Camelot’s donation to this initiative has allowed more people across Watford to receive this training.”
Chris Luff, Chamber of Commerce, said:
“We are extremely proud this target has been reached. We have an amazing team of instructors from our local community who have given their time to deliver this valuable awareness program and they should be commended for their commitment. Having personally been involved in delivering the sessions I have seen firsthand the positive impact this has had on everyone attending across all age ranges, professions and backgrounds. The positive feedback we have been getting at the end of each group has been incredible. Thanks to Dean, Camelot and everyone involved including the brilliant instructors and the Chamber team.
The feedback given throughout the program is evidence that mental health first aid awareness is critical and that just by being more confident in starting a conversation about our mental health will have a major impact on our community.”
Notes to the Editor
The 1,000 people who have been trained range from businesses to charities, students, schools and colleges.
Watford Chamber of Commerce, led by Chris Luff, is a vibrant and influential organisation that plays a vital role in fostering business growth and community engagement in the Watford region. The Chamber is actively involved in initiatives that promote mental health awareness and support within the local community.
Dean has taken a Bill to Parliament entitled, ‘A Bill to make mental health first-aid part of first-aid training requirements and for connected purposes’. It has had its first reading, and the second reading is scheduled to take place on the 24th November 2023.
Learn more here https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3409
Dean is an ambassador for Where’s Your Head At?! a campaign to promote better mental health in the workplace, and for Baton of Hope, an initiative aiming to ignite a nationwide conversation about suicide awareness and prevention, breaking down barriers, reducing stigma, and encouraging actions that can save lives. Dean was recently asked to join the final journey of the Baton of Hope after travelling across the UK to Downing Street with Mike McCarthy (co founder of the charity). Dean was given the honour of passing on the baton to the Mental Health Minister, Maria Caulfield MP in No10. More can be found on the link here:
Learn more here https://www.deanrussell.co.uk/news/dean-russell-mp-hands-baton-hope-men… (https://www.deanrussell.co.uk/news/dean-russell-mp-hands-baton-hope-men…)