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Sharing the message that it is Time to Change

People from the Bury St Edmunds area were given the chance to chat about mental health and wellbeing while enjoying festive refreshments at a special event designed to reduce stigma which took place last night (19 November).

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and Suffolk VASP (Voluntary and Statutory Partnership) for Mental Health set up a Time to Change Village in the heart of the town centre during Bury’s annual charity fayre and Christmas light’s switch on.

People enjoying the festivities were encouraged to drop in, take part in some of the activities on offer and enjoy some festive treats, such as mince pies and non-alcoholic mulled wine, in return for a five minute conversation about mental health.

Around 40 NSFT staff, carers and service users volunteered to help at the event, and served free teas and coffees and other refreshments, as well as wrapping up Christmas presents for free.

Those visiting the village were also able to meet two pets as therapy dogs and drop in to a special surgery run by staff from NSFT’s Wellbeing service for advice on a wide range of issues, such as low mood, anxiety and stress. A variety of partner organisations from the voluntary sector also ran stalls and gave out information.

The initiative was arranged as part of the national Time to Change campaign, which aims to reduce stigma and help people understand that good mental health is everyone’s business.

Chris Hedges, Suffolk Lead for Imroc and Recovery with NSFT, said: “We were really pleased that so many people took the time to stop off at our special village, enjoy some of the festivities on offer and – most importantly – have meaningful conversations about mental health.

“We wanted the event to appeal to as many people as possible. We had conversations with people who knew nothing about mental health and simply wanted to find out more as well as talking to others who were concerned about themselves or someone close to them.

“People were given the freedom to say as much or as little as they liked, and were also offered information about services which could help. We were also able to signpost people to resources such as the Suffolk Wellbeing Service, which offers support for a wide variety of issues.

“We would like to thank all of our fantastic volunteers who helped run the event, as well as everyone who took the time to stop and chat. We hope that we helped to break down some of the stigma which exists, normalise the subject and get the message across that good mental health is everybody’s business.”