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Partnership between mental health trust and community radio raises awareness and tackles stigma

In May 2016, local community radio station Unity FM, based in Sparkbrook, and Beresford Dawkins, Community Development Lead at BSMHFT, teamed up to develop a weekly one hour live radio broadcast to promote mental health awareness within local communities, initially for a six week period, then extended for a further 24 months.

Trust staff and partners who provide, use, and work in mental health services are invited to take part in live or pre-recorded interviews to share their knowledge and expertise. The programme, ‘What shape are you in?’ quickly became established, broadcasting to over 11,000 people per week.

Various topics around mental health care and wellbeing have been covered, some of which would previously have been little known about in the community. Just a few of these so far Birmingham Healthy Minds, secure and complex care, suicide prevention, autism, dementia care, faith and wellbeing, domestic violence, safeguarding, eating disorders, deaf mental health services, patient liaison services, peer support and our work to help divert vulnerable people away from custody.

The interviews have provided an accessible facility for local communities to engage with services, giving listeners information and the opportunity to phone in asking specific questions to specialist experts who can respond in real time. There are specific examples where individuals can give testament to signposting and referral opportunities, individuals’ families and the general public gaining access to local support services.

Beresford now plans to invite local community members with mental health lived experience, who often feel isolated, to share their stories and challenge mental health stigma in the process.  He was named as a ‘Mental Health Star’ in the annual Thrive Mental Health Commission Awards, organised by the West Midlands Combined Authority, for his work with Unity FM and he is also working with another community station, New Style Radio.