14 October 2016
A picture of Hundreds attend Kent's first mental health festival

Kent’s inaugural mental health festival has been hailed a huge success with over 300 members of the public attending the event to learn more about the issue and the support available in the area.

Kent Mental Health Festival, which took place at Folkestone’s Leas Cliff Hall, played host to 46 stalls from mental health charities and organisations from across the county.

The event was organised by a working group of services in the area to raise awareness of the help available for an issue that affects one in four people over the course of their lives.

Organisations that took part included Sanctuary Supported Living (SSL), Mind, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT), Porchlight, Shaw Trust and Speak Up CIC, among dozens of others.

Workshops and talks at the free festival covered subjects from mental health well-being for teenagers to eating disorders, while visitors were also invited to take part in mindfulness sessions.

Kent’s Live It Library was on hand to give people the opportunity to tell their own mental health story on camera in a secure, friendly environment, which will then be edited and put online.

A number of activities such as face painting, raffles and tombolas were also on offer during the day, with proceeds being donated to the county’s mental health crisis cafés.

The cafés are open at weekends and offer people support during mental health crisis episodes in a friendly setting, at a time when other services will be closed.

The event also attracted the attention of Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott who launched a survey inviting people to have their say on policing priorities on World Mental Health Day.

He said: “I was delighted to attend the Kent Mental Health Festival because mental health is not only an issue I care deeply about, but also one that has become much more important within the police and criminal justice system. It is estimated that a third of police time is now spent dealing with people who have a mental health issue.

“It was good to see so many agencies committed to supporting people with mental health issues all in one place because it is in everyone’s interests to ensure there is an effective response to a mental health crisis.”

SSL operations director Sarah Clarke-Kuehn said: “This was a superb first event to raise awareness of mental health across Kent. It was great to see so many stakeholders coming together, networking and helping to spread the word.

“Visitors got a lot out of the activities on the day and, by sharing their own stories of mental health, helped to combat the stigma around this most pressing of issues.

“It was inspiring to see so many people taking part and hopefully walk away knowing more about the help available to them.”

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