Thanet projects and people that helped the public cope with life over lockdown are among those that were celebrated at the Kent Mental Health and Wellbeing Awards.
Thirty-three people, organisations and initiatives were recognised at the annual event, which was staged at the Ashford International Hotel on Friday.
Keynote speeches were delivered by double Olympian Jack Green, Cllr Clair Bell, Cabinet Member for Adult social Care and Public Health at Kent County Council, and Allison Duggal, Interim Director of Public Health at KCC.
Jack Green revealed to guests his own mental health issues that affected him as an athlete competing for the Great Britain team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Mr Green’s passion for issues around wellbeing has led him to champion openness and transparency on mental health issues – and to become an Honorary Patron of South Kent Mind.
Ten nominees were named as county champions on the night and received a limited-edition trophy designed by 12-year-old Faith Tuohy from Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre, Tenterden and cut from sustainable bamboo by Cactus Graphics in Dover.
Thanet’s Jenny Woledge, from Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, was named the 2021 Kent Suicide Prevention Champion in recognition of her work with support groups for people bereaved by suicide in Margate and Canterbury – and her work with schools, workplaces and universities.
Jenny’s proactive, can-do and tirelessly supportive attitude is an utterly invaluable resource for the Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Network, where she assists as a volunteer with lived experience.
In 2015 Jenny lost her son Wills to suicide and she is determined to support others who have found themselves in that terrible situation.
Now, she is a qualified suicide and self-harm prevention trainer, operating in schools, workplaces and universities; has supported and launched support groups for people bereaved by suicide in Margate and Canterbury; and enthusiastically promotes the 24/7 mental-health helpline Release the Pressure and the Help is at Hand booklet.
And while the world ground to a halt during coronavirus, Jenny played a key role in maintaining access to these groups and resources – sharing her time, experience and compassion virtually throughout the lockdowns to ensure vital support for the increased number of individuals reaching out for help during the pandemic.
The Charitable Football Club’s Head in the Game initiative won the Thanet sport and activity category of the year.
Supported by Kent County Council and run in partnership with Talk Club, the Charitable Football Club’s Head in the Game project aims to support men’s mental health and well-being through the medium of football.
It does this by bringing men aged 25 to 55 together through games of football, so they can talk, form social relationships and express and share emotions in a judgement-free way.
Men of any sporting ability or experience are welcome to join in, and the project uses additional digital communication to facilitate additional check-ins and updates, and to give members the opportunity to express their emotions, struggles and challenges between sessions.
Head in the Game sessions are held every Monday at the 3G pitch in St Mildred’s Road, Minster, from 8pm to 9pm.
The Community Driving School CIC won Thanet Activity Co-ordinator of the Year.
The Community Driving School CIC is the only not-for-profit driving school in the UK. It recognises that passing your driving test is not just a licence to drive, but a licence to freedom too.
The school breaks down the formidable financial barriers to learning to drive by allowing people from low-income households to earn their lessons through community volunteering, thereby also giving people the chance to boost their self-esteem and gain vital work experience in the process.
And when covid-19 put lessons on hold for much of the past year, denying many learners their only social interaction, the school used Zoom and phone calls to stay in touch and prepare individuals for their theory tests.
Simon Dolby, Chief Executive of mental health charity South Kent Mind and co-host for the night, said: “Mental health has been the Cinderella of the health service for too long and its champions deserve to be in the spotlight. These awards illustrate the dedication and passion so many charities, volunteers and professionals deliver for the sector – and I am proud to have played a part in celebrating their hard work and commitment.”
A best practice booklet detailing all the winning nominations will be sent to 1,000 Kent organisations over the coming week. The event was supported by Stagecoach SE, Loch Associates, KCC Public Health, Medway Council Public Health, Kent Community Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund, Crossways Community, Blessing by Ble, Cactus Graphics, Ashford International Hotel, Co-op, Premier Foods and Independent Music Productions.
To find out more or to download the best practice booklet visit www.KentMHWAwards.org.uk or follow @KentMHWAwards on Twitter or Facebook.