Mental health awareness event – breaking down barriers

29 June 2022

Local NHS mental health trust, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and St Denys Activity Group – supporting mental health in the community, jointly hosted a mental health awareness event in Southampton on Saturday 25 June.

Over 100 people from the local area, including service users, carers, organisations came together to talk about mental health. Opened by Mayor of Southampton Councillor Jacqui Rayment who urged the audience to “take that opportunity to open up and there is someone there than can help you in some way – don’t ignore any symptoms”, the event was a great success bringing together so many different types of people, with a common purpose to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, raising awareness of the services available in the city and working hard to support each other in the community. 

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Keynote speaker Shuranjeet Singh, founder of Taraki, a mental health action group for Punjabi communities spoke about how your culture and identity affects your mental health and the importance of building safe space for our communities to discuss this. 


The event also featured:

  • Dr Abdoulie Sanneh discussing the importance of having conversations and talking about the research project which had been undertaken in the BAME Community within Southampton of which the event was part of the outcome – raising awareness of the support and services.
  • Dr Zaid Alabassi, Medical Director from Antelope House, inpatient mental health unit in Southampton, talking about warning signs of mental health and the services available in the city,
  • Dr Pritti Aggarawal, local GP talking about social prescribing, peer support and mental health practitioners
  • Dan Arnold, peer support lead for Southern Health, the compassionate nature of peer support with a call to action to work together with the communities and provide a solid basis for peer support.


There were also some great videos from services users and carers talking about stigma, how they overcame it and messages of support to others.


Anne Cato, Event organiser and volunteer at St Denys Activity Group was delighted with the event.  “I noticed just how happy people were that this event had happened, a lot of people coming to listen and talk about mental health problems and it was great to see so many people engaging with the services on offer, listening to the speakers and asking questions of them.  They are very happy that the NHS is engaging with our communities in Southampton at such a level that they feel their voices are being heard.  It’s been a very positive day, enabling us to raise awareness of talking about mental health and seeking support”.


Paula Hull, Director of Nursing and Allied Health Professionals at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust said “I am absolutely inspired – we have had some incredible keynote speakers and heard some amazing stories from carers and service users accessing our service.  We are really committed to keeping going with the conversations and listening to what you’ve got to say about what matters”.


It’s the start of some fantastic engagement work Southern Health is doing with local communities talking about mental health.


This event was run as part of the outcomes from a research project into access to mental health support groups and services in Southampton conducted by St Denys Activity Group and supported by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.


  • lack of awareness and access to mental health services,
  • cultural attitudes towards mental health, particularly in the black and ethnic minority communities
  • inequality in treatment due to culture, assumptions and stereotypes having an effect on accessing support


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