With apologies for the unsubtle metaphor (for which you can blame mother nature!) - we arrived in Bristol, for the first of our shared learning series with the British Red Cross and Co-op partnership on tackling loneliness, in deep fog. We left in glorious sunshine.
The event featured a wide range of organisations that work to tackle loneliness by connecting people back to their communities. Along with upcoming events in London and Glasgow, it aimed to draw upon the learning emerging from the Red Cross's own work to establish almost 40 new 'Community Connector' schemes across the UK, and to share this with other similar schemes working in different areas and with different communities.
Though the terraces were empty, 'You'll never walk alone' played in my mind throughout our recent event at Anfield Road. It seemed a fitting accompaniment to our conversations, which addressed some suitably grand topics about the role of community and place in promoting positive mental health.
From a day that didn't shy away from polemics, here are five big ideas that stayed with me.
How often do you have, in one place at one time, geographies as diverse as Sussex, Swindon and Southwark? Or organisations from the fire service to the Samaritans? Or professions, from politician to medic to manager?
It happened in London at the recent learning event for Public Health England’s Prevention Concordat for better mental health. One of the joys of being part of these events – they’re supported by Kaleidoscope, alongside Centre for Mental Health and the King’s Fund – is the breadth of people who have attended, and the rich conversation and new connections that such diversity has brought.
Home of Tolkien, more canals than Venice; Birmingham is a remarkable place.
Among much else, Birmingham gave the world the blueprint for how local authorities could act with muscle to improve the health of its population. In the 1870s, waterworks were nationalised, slums were cleared; and the death-rate of those who lived on Birmingham’s main thoroughfare halved in under a decade.
Against this backdrop of municipal radicalism, the Prevention Concordat bus rolled in to discuss the promotion of good mental health and prevention of mental health problems. Led by Public Health England, and supported by Kaleidoscope, Centre for Mental Health, and the King’s Fund, Birmingham was the seventh stop on our tour. So what did we learn?
"My first NHS job was in Plymouth," said Michael. "1980. My accommodation was on the site of the psychiatric hospital. Largely full of people with dementia, and barely a foot between their beds."
If there’s ever an example of how major change does happen in health and care, the end of the Victorian asylum is it. A timely reminder when we met to discuss Public Health England’s Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health in Plymouth on a damp March Friday. The level of change required can appear insurmountable, but, despite the gloom outside, there was hope within. What did we learn?
"The best things in life are free," sang The Beatles. "But," they continued, "you can keep them for the birds and bees. Now give me money…"
Is money essential in getting what you want? Is it the key factor in making change happen? This debate has lurked behind our learning events on the Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health, led by Public Health England, supported by Kaleidoscope, along with the Centre for Mental Health and the King's Fund.
So what did we learn about money at our Sheffield event?
We were in London for face-to-face event number three in Public Health England's Prevention Concordat series, welcoming participants from across the south east. The aim of the events are to facilitate the sharing of effective practice and learning from others, and we were delighted to be joined by speakers from Kent, Southampton and Portsmouth.
A good event needs to leave you with snippets that you just can’t get out of your head, and the south east event certainly achieved that.
“We’re here today for enlightenment,” proclaimed Edward Kununga, Director of Public Health for Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, at the start of our learning event on the Public Health England-led Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health.