Lottery Boost Set To Strengthen The Mental Health, Wellbeing and Skills of...

Lottery Boost Set To Strengthen The Mental Health, Wellbeing and Skills of Birmingham’s Young African Caribbean Men

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Young African Caribbean men across Birmingham will benefit from National Lottery funding totalling almost £750,000, thanks to a life-changing scheme initiated by Birmingham Repertory Theatre, First Class Legacy, Centre for Mental Health and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Together the four partners will receive £746,112 over three years to run a scheme, Shifting The Dial, which aims to develop a Birmingham-based brotherhood of 300 young African Caribbean Men who feel mentally stronger and healthier. The money, raised by National Lottery players for good causes, was granted by the Big Lottery Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Shifting The Dial has been developed in response to statistics that show that young African Caribbean men in the UK are much more likely than their white counterparts to develop serious mental illness, and three times more likely to be at risk of suicide as referenced in the Centre For Mental Health report Against The Odds (July 2017). The three year project has been developed as a result of a successful pilot scheme, Up My Street – an initiative which ran in Birmingham between September 2015 and July 2017.

Shifting The Dial will engage groups of young African Caribbean men in cultural activities run by First Class Legacy and The REP at a range of places within Birmingham and Solihull, working alongside artists and facilitators who they can relate to, trust and can inspire them for their futures. The scheme will strengthen the mental health resilience and wellbeing of the men involved, improve their self-esteem and self-belief; assist their personal development and life skills, increase economic opportunities, raise mental health awareness and encourage inclusion. It will address the weathering effects of racism, discrimination, negative self-image and invisibility.

Additionally, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust will play a vital role in supporting pathways and opportunities for young people including apprenticeships, volunteering and work experience.

Over the three years, Shifting The Dial will also identify and promote a set of 30 ambassadors who will impact and influence a generation of young African Caribbean men that need new and strong leadership. With the help of peer-led research and respected evaluation from Centre for Mental Health, these advocates will reach out into communities to foster a network of less formal mental health support for the young men and their families.  The findings will be shared with established health, education and justice institutions around the region, and eventually nationally, to signpost a more effective, grassroots solution to building mental resilience, and subsequently help shift the dial in the Mental Health sector at policy, board and every strategic level possible.

Stuart Rogers, Executive Director at Birmingham Repertory Theatre said:

“This Big Lottery funding will help make a big difference and a real positive impact in Birmingham.  It will help young African Caribbean men feel mentally stronger and lead happier and healthier lives. Our pilot project demonstrated what can be achieved when a group of organisations work together to tackle the things that really matter to their local community. It’s also a brilliant example of how theatre can work with other sectors to tackle some of the most pressing issues in our society.”

Nathan Dennis, Director of First Class Legacy said: “We’re immensely proud and grateful that the Big Lottery Fund, have recognised the value and importance of our project, Shifting The Dial.  This project has the voices of young African Caribbean men at its heart. Twelve months ago, during the pilot scheme, we asked participants what the future of the project might look like. Their biggest request was that the project wasn’t allowed to just disappear – they’d been used to flash in the pan initiatives that built hope and then vanished.  First Class Legacy are a small organisation and it’s thanks to our partners at The REP, the Centre for Mental Health, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and now the Big Lottery Fund that their voices have been heard.”

James Harcourt, Director of England Grant-Making at the Big Lottery Fund said: “Supporting good mental health is an important issue in the UK today, which is why we’re proud to be funding Shifting the Dial. It’s great to see these four organisations from across different sectors joining together, to take action to help young African Caribbean men build their mental resilience and wellbeing. By building on the initial pilot, and thanks to National Lottery funding, even more men from across Birmingham will be supported.”

Centre For Mental Health Chief Executive, Sarah Hughes said: “We are delighted to be continuing the vital work with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, First Class Legacy and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust with young African and Caribbean men, following the successful pilot scheme that we evaluated and reported on in 2017.

“The programme seeks to continue critical partnership work with young men, building resilience through a range of creative support activities, with mentoring and by providing leadership and employment opportunities.  The Big Lottery Fund has provided important and much valued continuity through their funding to learn from and build on this important programme of work to help young men succeed and thrive.”

Lakhvir Rellon, Head of Community Engagement at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said:  “We are delighted to be working with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, First Class Legacy and the Centre for Mental Health on this exciting new programme of work. While black men are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health issues than other groups they are underrepresented in our workforce. Shifting the Dial will enable us to take positive action to promote working in mental health as a positive choice. We will do this through our work experience, apprenticeship, volunteering and employment opportunities. In addition, our staff will be invited to take part in theatre style training sessions designed to improve outcomes for service users.”

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