Campaigners to share their mental health experiences at inaugural conference
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A groundbreaking conference will feature a range of top speakers as an inaugural mental health event hits Lowestoft next month.
Organised by Feedback Mental Health and Tod Sullivan – the first Lowestoft mental health ambassador – the free event will feature inspiring talks from national and local campaigners who will share their own stories surrounding mental health recovery.
Former mayor Mr Sullivan, who was instrumental in writing the Lowestoft Positive Mental Health Manifesto which has been adopted by all of the key agencies as the new approach to mental wellbeing in the town, said the conference is 'going to be a groundbreaking event.'
Having been appointed as the first Lowestoft mental health ambassador – with the objective of bringing people together to share their experiences, support each other and become part of a network of support groups and activities – Mr Sullivan took on the task of creating a significant annual event for the town around mental health.
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And now the first Lowestoft Conference – which is 'shedding the light on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma informed approaches and suicide prevention' – will be held on Saturday, February 3.
Mr Sullivan said: 'Over time the idea is it will be a leading nationally recognised event. We combine keynote speakers with breakout sessions, sharing from experts by experience, panel discussions with leaders in their fields, and the launch of new initiatives and activities.'
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Among the keynote speakers will be Dan Biddle – a survivor of the 7/7 terror attacks in London, who subsequently battled profound physical injuries and now campaigns raising awareness of PTSD in civilians; public speaker and blogger Josh Connolly, who grew up the child of an alcoholic and then suffered from his own mental health and addiction difficulties and Ivan Humble, from Lowestoft, who campaigns across Europe tackling radicalisation and the misrepresentation of a variety of faiths.
With a series of breakout sessions and fringe events planned, the conference will run from 9.30am to 4pm at Lowestoft Community Church.
Mr Sullivan added: 'We are already seeing a huge amount of bookings for this free event but we also want local people who have experience of mental health to be aware and to attend.'
Mental health ambassador
As Lowestoft's first mental health ambassador, Tod Sullivan is working with a range of organisations and individuals to deliver a trauma informed approach for the town.
Having been in the role for the past five months, Mr Sullivan is promoting the Positive Mental Health Manifesto for Lowestoft, and is also chairman of the Feedback Mental Health user network.
He said: 'I work as a senior client services manager, running mental health services in Waveney, working with NHS, local councils and a range of agencies to help those with enduring mental health conditions to move towards independent living.
'The Lowestoft mental health ambassador appointment was a result of the Positive Mental Health Manifesto for Lowestoft that I was part of writing – and to be asked to do it is a really nice honour.
'It is a really good opportunity and has allowed us to create a significant annual event around mental health for the town.'
In 2016, Lowestoft Rising said that mental wellbeing was 'an essential issue in the town,' connecting with its other priorities of aspiration, integration and pride.
To improve overall mental health in Lowestoft, it was felt that a new approach was necessary, identifying and drawing together the wide network of support services. It led to the Feedback charity - which Mr Sullivan is chairman of - unveiling the Communities Embracing Mental Health project, as a campaign was launched urging organisations and businesses across Lowestoft to take small steps to become more mental health friendly.
The Feedback mental health service user forum was also the lead organisation delivering a positive manifesto for mental health for Lowestoft.
Mr Sullivan said: 'We now have about 90 businesses and organisations along with hundreds of people that have already signed up to the manifesto, and we have had really encouraging feedback about it.'