Thanet champions recognised at Kent Mental Wellbeing Awards

Thanet area winners with sponsors, Emily Mason, Cllr Andrew Kennedy - KCC. Kent Mental Wellbeing Awards, Photo East Kent Mind Charity,

Top organisations and initiatives delivering projects to improve wellbeing in the region were recognised at the 2023 Kent Mental Wellbeing Awards.

Thirty three winners and 15 champions from across Kent, Medway, Bexley and Bromley were announced at the ceremony held at Hempstead House, near Sittingbourne.

The event, staged by Mind in Bexley and East Kent, was hosted by Nicola Everett from KMFM and Simon Dolby from Mind in Bexley and East Kent. It featured VIP speaker Sir Terry Waite.

Keynote speeches were delivered by Dr Anjan Ghosh, Director of Public Health at Kent County Council, and Andrew Kennedy, Deputy Cabinet Member for Kent County Council.

Nominations for the awards topped 230 and the nominees for each category were rigorously assessed and selected by a diverse panel, ensuring that only the most deserving recipients received an award.

The judges included representatives of Kent County Council, Medway Council, Kent Community Foundation, Cactus Graphics, GrainLNG, MHA accountants, Optyma Security, Blessing by Ble, CommunityAd and ADM Computing.

Four organisations from Thanet were named as winners at the Kent Mental Wellbeing Awards 2023.

The Thanet Partnership Award was won by the Hope Community Arts Fund.

The Hope Community Arts Fund initiative, spearheaded by Hollie Brennan from the Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Team, has spread the powerful message of hope to countless individuals in Kent and Medway during the summer.

The initiative was born out of the recognition of the positive impact that artistic projects have had on participants’ mental health. Hope Community Arts Fund aimed to harness its therapeutic potential.

Over the course of the initiative, 11 community projects including Broadstairs Town Shed brought together diverse groups of people to create artwork that symbolised hope. The artworks were exhibited at various venues, including Turner Contemporary, Fremlin Walk in Maidstone, Chatham Library, and the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells.

The exhibitions not only showcased the creativity of the participants but also inspired visitors to reflect on the concept of hope.

Thanet’s Wellbeing Ambassador of the Year is Michael Stocker of the Royal Harbour Academy.

Michael Stocker, of the Royal Harbour Academy, is an exceptional educator known for his unwavering kindness and dedication to his students. He goes above and beyond to improve the opportunities for young people, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, often facing complex issues like addiction, homelessness, and more.

Michael’s commitment extends beyond the classroom, as he ensures that his students are provided with basic necessities such as food, clothing, and a safe environment. Michael remains resolute in his mission to support these students.

His passion and dedication are truly remarkable, and he has made an indelible impact on the lives of the young people that he serves. Michael’s remarkable contributions have earned him a position as a volunteer director on the board of Youth Resilience UK – a mental health charity working with the school, reflecting the high regard in which he is held by his colleagues.

The Thanet Wellbeing Award for the charity sector was won by the Pavilion Youth and Community Cafe.

The Pavilion Youth and Community Café is a provider of safe and inclusive spaces for young people in Broadstairs. Under the leadership of manager Victoria Suchak, the organisation has demonstrated remarkable adaptability, responding to the evolving needs of the local children and families.

The transformation from the Zone Youth Club to a new pavilion building and new name allowed the organisation to grow into a multifunctional community café, serving individuals of all ages, including the elderly, young families, at-risk youth, and those struggling with school attendance and mental health.

Recognising the increasing unaffordability of after-school facilities and social clubs, The Pavilion responded by offering 12 hours of free activities and support, further expanding as a commissioned KCC youth service.

They actively involve stakeholders and volunteers, resulting in a diverse range of programmes, from community cafés to youth clubs and sports clubs, all provided at low or no cost. This organisation goes beyond service delivery, collaborating with local artists, conducting food distribution, offering safe spaces during extreme weather, and supporting youth facing digital poverty.

NHS Staff Meditation Sessions run at Margate’s QEQM Hospital by Kay Zhang won her both the Thanet’s Activity Co-ordinator Award and the title of Kent Wellbeing Activity Co-ordinator for 2023.

NHS Staff Meditation Sessions is an innovative approach to wellbeing in a hospital setting. East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust has implemented the program which is led by Kay Zhang and the Wellbeing Team. Initially piloted for six months, it has been labelled a resounding success, garnering an enthusiastic following. Participants have reported reduced anxiety and increased happiness, leading to unanimous recommendations to colleagues.

The popularity of these sessions has fostered a community of NHS staff advocating for Kay’s mindfulness expertise. Her dedication to staff Wellbeing earned her recognition and awards within the Trust. The sessions use the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’: fostering connections, physical activity, learning new skills, giving back, and embracing the present moment.

This holistic approach, provided by NHS staff for NHS staff, has proved invaluable, surpassing traditional support methods. Collaborative efforts to find the ideal session venue underscore the programme’s success, offering a cost-effective solution in a financially strained healthcare landscape. Kay and the team’s dedication to her colleagues is testament to her commitment to their wellbeing, both within and beyond her clinical responsibilities.

“It is vital to celebrate the incredible work being done in the field of mental health,” said Simon Dolby, Chairman of the judging panel. “The Kent Mental Wellbeing Awards is our way of acknowledging those who have been the driving force behind the progress we’ve seen in mental health wellbeing in the region.”

Mind in Bexley and East Kent CEO, Dr David Palmer said: “Mental health support has never been more critical than it is today. The ongoing challenges brought about by the global pandemic coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, increase in poverty and financial stress have affected public mental health and are having a negative effect on resident’s ability to engage in some of the activities known to help protect mental health.

“These awards are a celebration of innovation and successful interventions and inspirational stories from organisations, services and individuals for their relentless work toward making a difference in their communities. These remarkable people have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the cause of mental health and their efforts are truly commendable.

“They have made a significant contribution in reducing stigma and improving mental health outcomes for countless individuals across Kent. They really do inspire us through their achievements and challenge us to make our own contribution towards a better community with better mental health for all”.