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Unique event tackles the 'black dog' of mental ill health

​A special event which brings together a range of high profile speakers who all share the goal of stamping out the stigma associated with mental ill health will take place next week.

Called ‘Black Dog and Stigma’, the event has been organised by Norwich Cathedral. It begins on Friday (22 July) with a ‘speaking of stigma’ panel discussion chaired by journalist and broadcaster Helen McDermott, who has suffered with depression. Member of the panel – which includes health professionals, an MP and service users – will spend a few minutes talking about their own experiences before taking questions from the public.

The following morning (Saturday 23 July), anyone with a mental health issue, their families and carers, is being encouraged share their stories – both good and bad – with representatives from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), charities and other support groups. It is hoped their feedback can be used to make changes which will improve the experience people have when accessing help.

“A significant number of people with mental health problems come to churches looking for help and someone to talk to, which is why we decided to organise this event,” said Canon Andy Bryant, from the cathedral.

“When someone breaks a leg, people understand how to talk to them. But if you say you are suffering with anxiety or depression, people are immediately wary and treat you differently. Often this distance can make the problems which the individual is suffering even worse.
“We hope that the cathedral will provide a comfortable, caring environment where people can talk openly and honestly about their experiences.”

NSFT Chairman Gary Page said: “We are delighted that NSFT has been able to contribute to what promises to be a fantastic event which will give people the chance to share their own experiences while also listening to others.

“We hope as many people as possible will come and show their support so that we can work together to tackle the stigma which unfortunately still exists around mental ill health.”

The panel discussion takes place in the Nave between 7pm and 8.45pm on Friday (22 July). Panelists include NSFT non-executive director Bishop Tim Stevens, former soldier Luke Woodley, who founded the Walnut Tree Project and has suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder, and Robert Ashton, Vice Patron of the Norfolk Community Foundation. They will be joined by Consultant Psychiatrists Sarah Cornick and Dan Dalton and Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and former Government Health Minister.

The drop in session runs from 10am to 12 noon on Saturday, and will be held in the Weston Room. Both events are free and everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information, contact Andy on 01603 218331 or by email at