Mental health champions from the West Midlands honoured
Mental health champions across the Black Country have been honoured for providing 'outstanding' support to their communities.
More than 200 people came together to celebrate the achievements of people helping to improve the mental health of residents.
The inaugural awards, led by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) marked the first year of the Thrive West Midlands programme - introduced to drive better mental health and wellbeing across the region.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who presented the awards alongside North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, said: "The mental health agenda is a top priority for the WMCA and the Thrive programme has already made astonishing progress in just this first year.
"I am immensely proud of the work that has been undertaken so far and I look forward to continuing my support as we strive to improve the impact that poor mental health has within our communities and within our workspaces.”
The region's Mental Health Superstar was Wolverhampton community worker Gurbax Kaur, who was honoured for raising awareness of mental health issues - considered a 'taboo subject' - among the city’s South Asian community.
The founder of Asian mental health service provider Positive Participation said: “I’m really honoured that people think my work is worthwhile. It’s about tackling the stigma in groups that are perceived as hard to reach.
“It can be difficult to challenge some beliefs and that journey has only just started for us in Wolverhampton but I’m just so inspired now to carry on.”
Emma Jayne Sasaru, who is a peer mentor volunteer for birth trauma and perinatal mental health, won Walsall's Mental Health Star award presented at West Bromwich Albion FC.
Her job sees her draw on her own experiences of post traumatic stress disorder to support others, improve maternity services and campaign nationally to raise awareness.
Ms Sasaru said: "All I ever really wanted was to just help and support people and winning this award shows that has happened.
"It came from my own experience of birth trauma - it took me ten years to get help and I didn’t want anyone else to suffer that way."
Jon Mansell walked away as Dudley’s Mental Health Star after impressing judges with his efforts to call for improved services and his work with West Midlands Police to give officers mental health training.
Mr Mansell, who is a member of Healthwatch Dudley's People’s Network, said: "I’m quite taken aback but feel very honoured.
"I started with a blog after a mental breakdown in 2013 and now I work with the WMCA, the NHS and Dudley Council and do as much as I can to make a difference.
"The more I talk the more help I get – you’ve got to stand up, not worry about the stigma, get out there and ask for help."
Zoe Atkins, who was named Sandwell’s Mental Health Star, was also recognised for improving mental health and wellbeing, working as a full-time carer and advocate for her daughter Jodie.
Staffordshire’s Mental Health Star was Louise Dutton, who was commended for her voluntary work at Tamworth-based mental health charity Changes.
Ms Dutton, who was previously supported by the charity, said: "I’m really proud. This is a great achievement. Voluntary work is very rewarding and I would urge people to find the right service provider in their area and give it a go."
The winners of the awards, hosted by broadcaster Adrian Goldberg, were chosen after nominations flood in from across the region.