MP who battled depression among speakers at BU mental health 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

New films will raise awareness of mental health issues in Bournemouth


A set of films created by Bournemouth University and Dorset Healthcare will help to reduce the stigma around talking about mental health issues, it is hoped.

Three films have been made, featuring BU staff, students and members of the local community talking about their experience of mental health problems and overcoming them.

They are available to watch on the Bournemouth University YouTube channel and are the latest in a series of awareness-raising activities organised by BU and Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust.

The films are part of the national Time to Change anti-stigma campaign, being run by leading charities to encourage people to talk about mental health issues and reduce discrimination.

Dr James Palfreman-Kay, Equality and Diversity Adviser at BU, said: “We thought about how we could bring something to life where we have got students, staff and members of the community talking about their own experiences.

“I’m hoping that it will start conversations around mental health and continue these discussions.”

BU and Dorset Healthcare have been working together to combat stigma around mental health for the past three years, holding regular talks and events.

Key achievements include a 150 per cent increase in attendance at mental health events, a poster campaign, an institutional pledge, and activities like quizzes and football tournaments to help raise awareness.

The videos were premiered at a Mental Health Awareness @ BU event, which took place on the university’s Talbot Campus and was attended by around 100 people.

Carer and Service User Co-ordinator at BU Angela Warren is featured in the videos, and spoke about her own experiences with depression and self-harm.

She said: “I want to help raise awareness of the issues and help people understand what it is really like.

“My hope is that we keep on talking about mental health and we don’t shy away from it.

“We need to constantly challenge that stigma and treat people with mental health problems with the same understanding and compassion that we do any other illness.”

Gail Taylor, Patient Experience Facilitator at Dorset Healthcare, said that the events raising awareness of mental health issues had been well-received.

“We have had a huge amount of positive feedback, both anecdotally and written.

“It has allowed us to reach a much younger audience and helped them to connect with the health community locally, which has been really important as well.

Watch the Time to Change videos

Eating Disorder Awareness Week runs at Bournemouth University


A series of events were run at BU to raise awareness of eating disorders and the support available at the university and in the local area.

The week of events ran during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and included sessions on the recognition of eating disorders and the impact it might have on individuals, the role of the internet and the local services available to provide support.

There was also a poster presentation of research being done by BU Psychology students into eating disorders, and sessions run by Jess Griffiths, director of local eating disorder charity I*EAT.

Jess, who herself has had an eating disorder, started the charity at Bournemouth University, running a weekly support group on campus before receiving external funding and moving elsewhere.

She said: “I ended up agreeing to run a drop in for an hour a month at Talbot Medical Centre [on BU’s Talbot Campus] and put a poster onto the back of toilet doors just to see what would happen.

“I think I also just knew that my experience was never going to be wasted, I kind of knew that once I had recovered I was going to use the experience for good and to help others.”

She added: “After this week, we are launching a drop in service for an hour in the Chaplaincy on campus so that we will see more students coming forward. It is the best way for students to get in contact and then we can refer them to GPs and get them some professional support.”

There is now also a weekly clinic at the GP surgery on Talbot Campus, run by Micki Bennett, a clinical specialist nurse in eating disorders, who sees students who present to the GPs there displaying symptoms of eating disorders.

Micki said the clinic was important in providing an easily accessible and unobtrusive place for students to get additional support and monitoring for eating disorders, but also to increase awareness of the conditions among GPs.

She said: “Staff from the GP surgery can come to me and say ‘I have just seen someone and I’m a bit worried.’

“There is a much more informal communication, which has heightened the awareness of what is going on.

“If there is somebody who isn’t motivated to come and get help, the doctors and nurses can talk to me and I can help treat them by proxy almost.”

Another session run as part of the week heard from Alice Jackson, who recovered from her exercise addiction and received treatment and support for her eating disorder whilst studying at BU.

She said that it can be hard to spot if a friend or housemate has an eating disorder, adding that if people are concerned they should look for changes in habit.

“When you have anorexia you are not eating normally and you don’t really want to socialise in terms of how you are eating. It is noticeable but not in some ways so it depends on what your accommodation is like.

“I had a room with a bathroom and the only things I ate were things I could do in my room. It is difficult to spot but if someone is not engaging in food and are eating things that are very different.”

The programme of events was run and supported by a number of organisations including charity I*EAT, Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust and organisations and services at BU – including the Students’ Union, Equality and Diversity service and the Psychology group within the School of Design, Engineering and Computing.

Dr James Palfreman-Kay, Equality and Diversity Adviser at Bournemouth University, said: “The events have been attended by more than 250 people, including schools, parents, students and academics.

“It shows that we are putting partnership into practice, with the collaboration between Dorset Healthcare, BU and I*EAT.”

I*EAT will be launching a drop in clinic at the chaplaincy service, in Talbot House on Talbot Campus, from 3-4pm every Monday.

Anybody who is concerned about themselves or a relative or friend with an eating disorder is welcome to pop in. For more information about the charity and the support they offer visit