MP who battled depression among speakers at BU mental health conference

Posted on Thursday, September 12 2013

MP Kevan Jones speaking at the conference

An MP who was one of the first to speak publicly about his battle with mental health issues shared his thoughts and experiences during a conference at Bournemouth University.

Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, raised the topic of his depression in the House of Commons in a bid to reduce the stigma around the subject.

He was one of the keynote speakers at the Engagement in Life: Promoting Wellbeing and Mental Health conference, which took place at Bournemouth University’s Talbot Campus on Friday September 6.

The day-long conference was organised by the University Department of Mental Health, a collaboration between BU’s School of Health and Social Care and Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust.

Kevan said: “I think academic research into mental illness is very important, but it shouldn’t stay in an ivory tower, and I think this is good example of the university looking outwards and actually engaging with its local community. I think that’s very important.”

During his keynote, Kevan spoke about his own personal battle with depression and the need to reduce the stigma around talking about mental health.

“We need to see mental illness as the same as a physical illness,” he said.

“We’ve got to get it into people’s heads that just like any other condition,” he said.

The conference was attended by more than 200 service users and health professionals from across the country and looked at innovative, recovery-focused service development, training and research in mental health care.

Other keynote speakers at the conference were Rachel Perkins OBE, chair of cross-government advisory committee Equality 2025, and Professor Geoff Shepherd, who leads a national programme for the Centre of Mental Health around supporting recovery journeys.

Professor Shepherd said: “It’s an important conference, bringing together a lot of people who are interested in a number of things but particularly these ideas which come now under the heading of recovery.

“Up to now, most people have thought that it’s the staff who are in charge, that they have all the knowledge, and expertise,” he added.

“But actually, the people who come to the service know a lot as well and know some rather different things.

“The way that services will be most helpful in the future is if we can combine these two elements.”

There was also a wide-ranging programme of sessions looking at recovery-focused topics including measuring recovery outcomes, personal stories of recovery and developing peer support workers.

Professor Sue Clarke, Director of the University Department of Mental Health, said: “Good mental healthcare depends critically on bringing service users and service providers together in a mutually respectful and compassionate way.”

Find out more about the University Department for Mental Health