I set up national mental health charity, Chasing the Stigma following my own suicide attempt in October 2013. For me, I didn’t really think about my mental health and when I was struggling I didn’t know where to turn or know that help was available.
I then realised when talking through my own personal experience, that others felt the same and didn’t know where to turn for help with their own mental health issues. So many people got in touch asking me for help and I knew I needed to do something that would make a difference for them and anyone else who was struggling.
Starting the Hub of Hope – tech and better mental health support
Mental health is just as important as our physical health. If we have something physically wrong with us, we go to the doctors and we keep going back until we are better, however, this isn’t the case for mental health. People – particularly men, are often afraid to talk about their feelings and their mental health. Asking for help isn’t something people find easy to do and this can often lead to mental illness.
I set up the Hub of Hope in 2017 – which is an app to bring together all of the mental health support available to someone in any given area.
The Hub of Hope uses tech to create greater mental health support for people. The app works like Deliveroo and is a great signposting tool. It is the only service of its kind that brings NHS, Samaritans, Mind and 3,500+ registered national and local voluntary, grassroots, private and third sector mental health support services together in one place, with the number listed growing daily.
People can search for services by their postcode or by concern (e.g anxiety, addiction or LGBT+ support) and it brings up all the services within the locality, so no matter where anyone is, they can get relevant support.
In just four years, we have grown the Hub of Hope from a simple spreadsheet of services to become the UK’s go-to mental health signposting tool, recently cited by the Secretary of State as the sole pathway to find local mental health support in a letter to 3.6m people who had previously been on the shielding list.
To date, the Hub of Hope has directed more than 200,000 people to life-changing and even life-saving help. The site has proved particularly popular amongst men aged 25-54, who are often cited as being most likely to die by suicide.
So many people slip through the net and don’t get the help they need, and this has to stop. We are doing everything we can to raise awareness of the Hub of Hope app which is free to download and free to use. The Government and the NHS are under immense strain so to have this directory of mental health services, means that people can still get help.
The Hub of Hope has also been included on the charity referral page of the official NHS.UK website, directing people to be able to search thousands of options in one place, rather than a list of just 20 or 30 national services.
Supporting mental health in the workplace
Everyone has mental health and as the workplace is where we spend so much of our time, it’s important that people can talk to their line manager or colleagues if they are struggling or need help, or people can spot the signs if they see someone else struggling quietly.
At Chasing the Stigma, we employ people who have lived experience of mental illness, as we want to remove the stigma by opening up real and honest conversations, as well as highlighting the importance of talking about our mental health.
With this in mind, we developed our Ambassador of Hope training in 2018 to provide organisations and individuals with the tools to recognise and talk openly about mental health and illness.
We have delivered our training to some high profile organisations such as Premier League football clubs, including Everton FC, the DBS, Edge Hill University and Southport & Ormskirk NHS Trust. In addition, in 2021, we also launched a mental health training programme for schools called Ambassador of Hope Youth, particularly as children have gone through so much throughout the pandemic.
Workplaces and schools have to play their part in removing the stigma around mental health. Being equipped with this understanding can make a huge difference, especially as one in four adults experience mental illness each year.
We need to keep directing people to the Hub of Hope, which is free to download, free to use and free to list a service on. It’s also my aim to keep bringing mental health organisations together, to make signposting more consistent and to consolidate our efforts so people know where to turn. The more we talk about mental health in schools, at home, in the workplace, with friends, families and strangers, the more we will help people to be mentally healthier, and even save lives.
How to get help
The Hub of Hope can be accessed through the app, which can be downloaded from the App Store (iPhone) or Play Store (Android), via the Chasing the Stigma website or www.hubofhope.co.uk. The Hub of Hope also has a ‘Need Help Now?’ button that connects users directly to Samaritans or Crisis Text Line’s messaging service.
For further information on the Ambassador of Hope Youth training contact Rachel Coogan the Ambassador of Hope Training Coordinator on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.chasingthestigma.co.uk.
Jake Mills is Chief Executive Officer at Chasing the Stigma.