Health in Mind: Portsmouth’s own mental health support network

Sue ForberSue Forber
Sue Forber
REACHING out for help can be extremely daunting, no matter what you are struggling with.

But sharing how you’re feeling, your worries or details of a mental health illness that you are living with is viewed as a vital step towards taking control of your wellbeing.

Sometimes talking to friends, family members and colleagues isn’t always enough though.

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With mental health and wellbeing now considered a high priority there is more support out there than ever before and taking that leap to admit you want help could be a major turning point.

Rev Canon Peter Leonard talks about his own experiences with depressionRev Canon Peter Leonard talks about his own experiences with depression
Rev Canon Peter Leonard talks about his own experiences with depression

In and around Portsmouth there is a network of support available that includes charities, the public sector and even religious organisations all offering free services. It’s about knowing where to look.

National charity Mind is a well-known figurehead for mental wellbeing across the country. And local branch Solent Mind is at the fore of reaching out into the community.

The group works in partnership with Solent NHS Trust to provide the Portsmouth Support and Recovery Service, which offers personalised support, advice and practical assistance, which is available to anyone who needs it.

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And for more in-depth support the Solent Recovery College offers a range of educational courses around mental health issues to help people understand what they are living with.

Angela Etherington, a co-ordinator at Time to Change, attending Portsmouth Comic Con Picture courtesy of Angela EtheringtonAngela Etherington, a co-ordinator at Time to Change, attending Portsmouth Comic Con Picture courtesy of Angela Etherington
Angela Etherington, a co-ordinator at Time to Change, attending Portsmouth Comic Con Picture courtesy of Angela Etherington

For Sue Forber, the director of services at Solent Mind, the key was making mental health a part of our daily conversation.’It’s important that we create a society where mental health is an everyday topic of conversation – sadly one of the hardest parts of experiencing mental health issues is often the reaction of other people,’ she said.

‘Stigma, or the fear of being misunderstood or discriminated against, can leave people suffering in silence, and feeling like they are alone. It’s also extremely frustrating if we open up about our mental health issues, only to discover it can be difficult to gain access to the services we need.’

However, she was positive that things could change. She added: ‘We can all play a part in speaking up to end mental health stigma and discrimination, though, and at Solent Mind we’re delighted to be setting up Time to Change Southampton and Portsmouth, a local hub of the national Time to Change social movement, in partnership with the two city councils.’

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And she is not alone in her excitement about the new Time to Change hub in Portsmouth and Southampton.

Although the hub is not a physical place it will allow Time to Change champions to work more easily together to share their own experiences with each other and the public as well as providing funding to allow them to put on community events.

But what is a Time to Change champion?

Firstly, Time to Change is a social movement that works in partnership with charities Mind and Rethink and looks to end mental health discrimination. For example, it looks to stop people being turned away for a job because of a past history of a mental health illness.

Champions all have self-defined lived experiences of mental health issues and sign up to spread the message to others while boosting their own confidence and gaining peers to talk to.

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Angela Etherington, a co-ordinator at Time to Change, got involved after she was discriminated against during a job interview. ‘I had not worked for about six years due to my illness and when I admitted that, I could see that he (the interviewer) was looking for the door,’ she said.

‘As soon as I had that reaction I thought “I don’t want to work here any more”.

‘The idea is to spread the message that mental health affects everyone at some point - even if it’s through a friend or family member. And it’s so good just to talk about it.

‘Recently we had a stall at Portsmouth Comic Con and there were so many men there who came up to talk to us who might not have found us otherwise. That’s why the champions are so important.’

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University of Portsmouth’s student union worker, Hannah Morton, is a Time to Change champion working locally. The 28-year-old said: ‘Becoming a champion helped me to become a lot more positive about my own mental health.

‘I’ve done so many things I would never have done otherwise and met people I never would have met.’

Each funded hub is provided with £15,000 start-up budget along with £10,000 for a champions’ fund where local champions can bid for funding to run stigma-busting events and activities within their area - these could be something as simple as a coffee morning where people are encouraged to talk about their experiences.

Councillor Matthew Winnington, Portsmouth City Council's head of health and wellbeing when the hub was founded, signed up to become a champion. He said: ‘I'm thrilled that Portsmouth and Southampton have jointly been chosen to become a Time to Change hub. There is still a lot of misunderstanding and stigma around mental health and it's an issue that I'm passionate about.

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‘To further demonstrate our commitment to supporting people with their mental health I'm pleased to be taking on the role of mental health and wellbeing champion within the council and am looking forward to this being one of many projects we're involved in to make it easier for people in the city to look after their mental health and wellbeing.’

To find out more about becoming a Time to Change champion visit

Living Well at Portsmouth Cathedral

EVERY year Portsmouth Cathedral runs a theme to engage with the local community and bases events, activities and available information around it.

And for 2019 Reverend Canon Peter Leonard, canon chancellor at the cathedral, felt that exploring both mental and physical health was appropriate. The Living Well theme was launched at the cathedral earlier this year with talks from the founder of the Mindful Employer scheme, Richard Frost, and mental health advocate and comedian Ruby Wax.

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Essentially the cathedral is acting as a safe place that will signpost people to services that can help. Throughout the year more talks, activities and events will be held to consider how to look after all aspects of our wellbeing.

Rev Canon Leonard, who was acting dean at the cathedral last year, explained more. He said: ‘It started in 2018. I had a number of conversations with people, including members of the public and council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson and MP Stephen Morgan, because I wanted to make sure our theme was really relevant to people in Portsmouth.

‘The sense was that mental health was a key issue for the city. We wanted something that looked at mental health in a positive way and the team came up with Living Well, which is not just about people being ill but how do you live well and look after your mental and physical health.

People come into the cathedral to look after their spiritual needs but if your physical and mental needs aren’t being met then that doesn’t matter.’

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The 49-year-old opened up about his own experiences. ‘I have suffered from depression since I was about 26 and so I am very aware of the things that work and don’t work for me,’ he said.

‘Having a mental health issue or depression can be a bit like having alcoholism, you always have to be mindful of it.

‘I struggled with it quite significantly for five or six years. Since then I have managed it very well. I had things in place to talk about it and to talk to people. The moment you talk about it you realise lots of people have these issues.

‘I think now there has been a shift in our attitude towards mental health. People are much more willing to talk about it, which is really good.’

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On May 17 and 18 two Dying Matters afternoon sessions will be held at the cathedral in collaboration with Rowans Hospice.

To find out more visit Portsmouth Cathedral or go to

To get involved with Solent Mind

Visit to learn more about support services on offer.

Pop-up groups are currently being run -

Tuesdays: Portsmouth Central Library, Guildhall Square 10am till 6pm

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Wednesdays: Buckland Community Centre, Malins Road, Buckland 12pm till 8pm Saturdays: Buckland Community Centre, Malins Road, Buckland 9:30am till 2pm

Email [email protected] for more information about these groups.

Alcoholics Anonymous: 0845 769 7555

Anxiety UK: 03444 775 774

Beat (eating disorders): 0808 801 0677 (adults) or 0808 801 0711 (for under-18s)

Calm (for men aged 15-35): 0800 58 58 58

Cruse Bereavement Care: 0844 477 9400

Mind: 0300 123 3393

Narcotics Anonymous: 0300 999 1212

OCD UK: 0845 120 3778

Rethink Mental Illness: 0300 5000 927

Samaritans: 116 123

Sane: 0300 304 7000

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