Mental Health is "everyone's business"

The majority of sponsorship raised by this year’s charity race will be used to expand Cam-mind’s befriending service and community groups.

With mental health problems affecting one in four people in this region, and now among the main reasons for absence from work, no-one can afford to be blasé about their own mental health – or that of their friends, family or colleagues. So says local mental health charity Cam-mind, the charity chosen to benefit from this year’s Chariots of Fire. 

The majority of sponsorship raised by this year’s charity race will be used to expand Cam-mind’s befriending service and community groups, which reach out to local people experiencing mental health problems. However it will also enable Cam-mind to launch a project designed to help employers tackle stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace. “Some 70 million working days a year are lost in this country every year due to mental ill-health,” says Cam-mind’s development manager Aly Anderson. 

“We want to help local employers tackle this problem by taking steps to protect the mental wellbeing of their staff, to effectively support those having difficulties and to create a culture where mental health issues are no longer taboo.” She adds, “There are so many myths and misconceptions relating to mental health problems and one of our aims is to challenge those – and the stigma and discrimination that go alongside them.” “What many people don’t realise is that we all have mental health – just as we have physical health – and that mental health problems can affect anyone, whatever their age or background.” 

“Anxiety disorders and depression are among the most common problems, and the chances are that everyone knows someone who is experiencing one or both of these conditions. However many people will be doing so alone because the stigma attached to mental illness makes them too afraid or embarrassed to seek help.” “And yet, contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of people experiencing mental ill-health can and do make a good recovery.” Cam-mind is currently developing a range of services to help employers, and is already offering the new, certificated Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training that is designed to complement physical First Aid in the workplace. 

 Chariots of Fire Race Director, Charles Hewitson from Hewitsons says: “Cam-mind is a fantastic charity which reaches out to some of the most isolated members of our community.” “The subject of mental health is one that affects us all and which has been taboo for far too long. We are very pleased to be supporting Cam-minds groundbreaking workplace and wellbeing project, which has huge potential locally to change attitudes and tackle stigma.” Working locally since 1908, Cam-mind community-based services include supported housing, a one to one befriending service and a range of community groups and activities. All of these projects are designed to support people in their recovery from conditions such as anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among others. Much of this work is self-funded and is facilitated by volunteers.

 “Many people become very isolated as a result of mental ill-health, which has a knock-on effect on their confidence, self esteem and social networks,” says Aly. “A lot of what we do is about helping people to rediscover their belief in themselves, giving them the confidence to move on with their lives.” Expanding the charity’s befriending service is a priority for the charity so that it can reach more people living in rural areas around Cambridge. “There are numerous people living in rural Cambridgeshire who are having mental health difficulties, but have no transport and no support services nearby. These are some of the most socially excluded people in our community and we know from experience that our befriending service can make a real difference to their lives and future opportunities.” 

“Chariots of Fire is a great opportunity for local organisations and college members to join together for a great cause, whilst getting fit in the process. For those who don’t want to run in the race, it is also a great fun day out to come along and support the teams,” adds Charles Hewitson. 

Chariots of Fire takes place on Sunday 20 September, on Queens’ Green in Cambridge. Teams are made up of 6 members of varying categories, who run the course in relay format. If you would like to enter a team in the race, visit the "Enter" page of the website. 

 If you have any queries, please contact Hazel Kraus at hazelkraus@hewitsons.comor on 01223 461155. For further information about Mental Health First Aid training and promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace - or to find out more about Cam-mind’s work and volunteering opportunities - please call Aly Anderson on 01223 311320 or email development@cam-mind.org.uk. Photo caption - Cam-mind Chariots of Fire team:Back row left to right: Craig Radcliffe, Thomas WillersMiddle row left to right: Victoria McCallum, Shelley RoganFront row left to right: Polly Stokes, Helen Vincent