People from all over came to Dumbarton for a “Big Chat” about mental health last week.

Those who have experience of mental health challenges, as well as those supporting recovery, joined each other at Levengrove Park.

Men and women had the opportunity to connect, share and learn from others with similar experiences.

The event was designed by and for people who have their own experiences of poor mental health, as well as those who support them in their recovery in either a personal or professional capacity.

Over 100 people attended the event held in Work Connect’s new training suite in Levengrove Park.

The event took the form of a conversation cafe, with guests sitting at round tables in small groups.

It was a collaborative effort, with charity Stepping Stones, West Dunbartonshire Council’s Work Connect Service and West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership (WDHSCP), working together to organise the day.

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They also had support from the Scottish Recovery Network (SNR), a national organisation that promotes the fact that people can and do recover from mental health problems.

Robert Stevenson, network officer with SRN, said: “The idea came from local people. The concept was to bring people together to have conversations about good mental health and what supports people to recover from mental health problems.

“It’s been a great success. We’ve got over 80 people in the room, we’ve had lots of good conversations, people sharing their stories about their own personal experiences.”

Emily Fraser, Stepping Stones service user, said: “I went to Stepping Stones for counselling last year, and I still attend a weekly social group, called Reflect and Connect.

“Stepping Stones has been very important to me over the last 18 months. They’ve helped me to recover and manage my mental health issues I was having, anxiety and depression.

“Helping to organise this event is our way of giving back. We were hoping that there would be some people here today who have never been to a councillor or never used Stepping Stones. We’re hoping to get a mixture of people who work in mental health, people who like myself who have already used services, and people who have never done anything like this.”

Laura Griffen, WDHSCP, said: “It’s been a brilliant day. We are the hosts of the event, here on our premises. A lot of our clients attended today. Its been fabulous

“This is the ‘Big Chat’ but we’re hoping to have lots of ‘Wee Chats’ within the different organisations.”

John McIntyre suffered a bereavement but, with the help of mental health services, is now in recovery. He told the Reporter: “It’s really important for people like myself, I always thought I didn’t need any help, to know recovery is real.”

A spokeswoman on behalf of Julie Lusk, head of mental health, learning disabilities and addictions, said: “It’s important to take expert advice from the experts – the service users themselves."

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