Mental health

Mental health

Mental health

Introduction

Our Covid-19 Action Fund provided grants for Churchill Fellows to run projects combating the effects of Covid-19 in all areas of society. Hundreds of pandemic projects nationwide are being run or assisted by Churchill Fellows, using the international expertise they gained during their Fellowships overseas. Here are the Action Fund recipients working on mental health issues.

January 2022 awards

Akvinder Bola-Emerson: improving mental health support to new mothers

Akvinder Bola-Emerson (CF 2017) from Hounslow in London is a perinatal mental health clinical lead for the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. Through her work, she has noticed that the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on new mothers’ mental wellbeing.

Akvinder will use her grant to develop a model of perinatal couple therapy to support new mothers with a mental illness diagnosis. This will be delivered through a course of couple therapy sessions for mothers and their partners, at their home or a local children’s centre. Akvinder will also offer multi-family group therapy interventions, providing an opportunity for couples to interact with others in a similar situation and learn copying strategies to help with their mental health recovery. To help these sessions, she aims to provide extra training for perinatal staff members in supporting families. Akvinder hopes that this will decrease the possibility of a mental health breakdown in new mothers and prevent relationship breakdowns.

Akvinder’s Fellowship to Australia and the USA in 2017 explored preventing relationship breakdowns between parents through perinatal mental health support. It was supported by the Wave Trust.

Erin Hope Thompson: delivering bereavement support

Erin Hope Thompson (CF 2017) from London is a clinical psychologist and the founder and CEO of The Loss Foundation, a national cancer bereavement charity. During the pandemic, Erin has extended the support services offered by the charity to help those who have lost a loved one to Covid-19.

Erin will use her grant to run a series of therapeutic groups for individuals who have experienced bereavement due to cancer or Covid-19. These groups will be delivered by clinical psychologists and will consist of seven sessions of support taking place over 10 weeks. Each session will have a theme that will address key issues of the grieving experience, such as processing difficult memories, anxiety, troublesome thoughts and sleep deprivation. To facilitate these sessions, she plans to train additional psychologists. Erin hopes that this will help attendees to learn more about loss and equip them with coping strategies, as well as helping them to make meaningful connections with others who are also dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Erin’s Fellowship to the USA in 2017 explored best practice in cancer bereavement support. It was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

Jane Lawrence: supporting families caring for someone with a mental health condition

Jane Lawrence (CF 2009) from Bristol is a retired carer support worker for families who are supporting individuals with a severe mental illness.

Jane will use her grant to research the experiences of family carers supporting a person with a severe mental illness during the pandemic. This includes those who care for someone with schizophrenia, bi-polar, psychosis or personality disorders. Jane plans to collect the experiences of more than 40 carers to understand the impact that Covid-19 has had on the cared-for person from the carers' perspective, how they have coped with the lockdown restrictions, and the impact that it has had on their personal wellbeing. She will then use this data to create a report that identifies coping strategies and stress reduction techniques that will support other family carers. This report will be created in the form of a leaflet and website and will be distributed to mental health providers and organisations that support carers.

Jane’s Fellowship in 2009 to the Netherlands and New Zealand explored support for carers in mental health services.

Neil Morris: preparing people with poor mental health for work

Neil Morris (CF 2008) from Barnsley in South Yorkshire is a community leader. In December 2020, Neil received a Covid-19 Action Fund grant to help people with poor mental health prepare for work.

This is Neil’s second Action Fund grant. He will use it to develop a pilot project that will aim to re-engage back into the community individuals who have been affected by the pandemic. This includes those who have suffered from a mental health issue, suffered redundancy or experienced a relationship breakdown. Neil will do this by developing a pilot series of craft activity sessions that can be delivered both virtually and in-person. Craft packs will be sent to individuals who register, who will then be invited to attend online sessions where a facilitator will demonstrate how to carry out the activity. Neil also hopes to run in-person activity sessions in community halls for those at risk of digital exclusion. He plans to run 12 activity sessions in total, with the hope of reaching over 180 people.

Neil’s Fellowship to Australia and New Zealand in 2008 explored the rehabilitation of men with mental health problems.

Joy O'Neill: Supporting local farmers to establish care farms

Joy O'Neill (CF 2020) from Buckinghamshire is a care farm director and a volunteer for the Farming Community Network. During the pandemic, Joy has been working with local farms to deliver a care farming training package that promotes the use of farming practices in improving wellbeing.

Joy will use her grant to support local farmers to create a care farm within their existing family farm. This will include providing training to at least five farms in the south-east of England to help them prepare a site for care farming. These farms will then take on a number of local families or individuals who have been identified as vulnerable by schools, social services or GP practices. The families or individuals will attend for half a day or one day a week for as long as needed. Joy will also use her grant to conduct research among farmers to understand the existing barriers to them taking on vulnerable individuals or families.

Joy’s Fellowship to Australia, Austria, Ireland, Israel, Italy and USA in 2020 researched the benefits of care farming to rural communities. It was supported by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Niki Powers: providing trauma-responsive support to young people

Niki Powers (CF 2017) from Edinburgh is the managing director of Let’s Talk (Young People), a social enterprise that supports young people with their sexual, emotional and mental health.

Niki will use her grant to deliver a programme of trauma-responsive therapeutic support for young people aged 11-26, whose emotional and mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Niki will target those who live in deprived communities, or who live in difficult family circumstances, or are experiencing poverty or have experience with substance abuse. The sessions will be delivered weekly in schools and community settings. They will cover a range of therapeutic activities such as talking therapy, mood management, creative workshops and physical exercise. Niki hopes that these will help young people to express their difficult feelings and adopt healthy coping strategies. As part of this work, Niki will develop partnerships with other organisations to offer additional services to young people who may need further support.

Niki’s Fellowship to the USA in 2017 explored services for young people who have experienced trauma and attachment disruption. It was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

Alexander Tempest: supporting the mental health of communities through therapeutic care

Alexander Tempest (CF 2015) from Totnes in Devon is Director at The Woodland Presents, a social enterprise that encourages communities to engage in British woodlands. During the pandemic, his company has piloted a community project called Woods for Wellness, which delivered therapeutic care to individuals affected by Covid-19.

Alexander will use his grant to develop this programme to offer longer-term wellbeing services for individuals suffering with their mental health. He will develop a partnership programme with local organisations to offer free or affordable professional mental health support to those who need it, with a plan of establishing this as a permanent wellness service for the community. Alexander will aim to deliver 37 wellbeing services, with the hope of reaching over 500 local people. These will include environmental arts and eco-therapy sessions, listening circles and eco-sensory workshops. He also plans to create a national framework of woodland community services based on the findings of this programme, which he hopes will act as a replicable model for similar woodland wellbeing services within Devon and the UK.

Alexander’s Fellowship to Brazil, Canada and the USA in 2015 explored ways of regenerating British woodlands through social forestry initiatives and enterprise programmes for young adults.

December 2020 awards

Kieron Kirkland: developing AI mental health therapy

Kieron Kirkland (CF 2015), from Fareham in Hampshire, is the product manager and UX lead for an award-winning artificial intelligence digital health company, the co-founder of CAST (Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology) and a trained cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist.

He will use his grant to support the technical development and prototyping of an AI therapist using natural language processing (NLP) technologies, in order to provide cost-effective and equitable mental health therapy at scale. As a result, more people will be able to access mental health support online and the demands on NHS staff will be reduced. Whilst AI is transforming the medical field, it is not much used in mental health and there is currently very little development on AI talking therapies in the UK. Kieron's innovative project will involve developing a prototype service, undertaking user research, and then developing and scaling the work.

Kieron's Fellowship to Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda in 2015 explored how technology can help address social challenges.

Neil Morris: preparing people with poor mental health for work

Neil Morris (CF 2008) is a community leader in South Yorkshire.

He will use his grant to develop Transformation, an online training project for people who have experienced poor mental health to equip them to become volunteer facilitators in their community. The training will help them to run locally based community activities but also to cascade their knowledge to others. In this way, a culture of volunteer-led mutual peer support will be created, aiding both their own recovery, their interaction with society and also benefiting the community. The programme will focus on hard-to-reach groups and deprived areas, primarily in Sheffield and Barnsley, and will be designed to be both scalable and replicable in order to benefit other communities across the UK. Volunteering was Neil's way back into the world of work following an episode of poor mental health and it had a hugely positive experience on his own wellbeing. He hopes the programme will do the same for others.

Neil's Fellowship to Australia and New Zealand in 2008 explored the rehabilitation of men with mental health problems.

Mary Smith: supporting the mental health of rural communities

Mary Smith (CF 2019) from Kendal in Cumbria is the CEO of Growing Well, a rural mental health charity using therapeutic farming, which offers an alternative to talking therapy. During the pandemic, Growing Well has experienced a notable increase in referrals.

Mary will use her grant to expand the charity by working towards opening a second location in Cumbria. The funded stage of the replication will involve meeting with landowners, funders and clients, in order to develop a sustainable business and income model and identify a site. Therapeutic farming allows volunteers to share tasks, learn new skills, become part of a community and connect with the outdoors in a Covid-safe environment. An impressive 100% of Growing Well's volunteers say that its unique approach of activity, training and support has had a positive impact on their mental health.

Mary's Fellowship to Norway and the USA in 2019 explored international best practice in care farming and was supported by The Prince's Countryside Fund.

June 2020 awards

Alison Jordan: supporting people bereaved by suicide

Alison Jordan (CF 2019) from Exmouth is the founder of Pete's Dragons, a suicide bereavement support charity which operates across Devon, set up in memory of her brother Pete. They have been operational throughout the pandemic, supporting people online, but the increased complexities of the situation require a new approach.

Alison will use her grant to develop and roll out a therapeutic programme for prolonged grief disorder (PGD) to people bereaved by suicide during the pandemic. The programme is based on a model produced by The Center for Complicated Grief in the USA, which Alison visited during her Churchill Fellowship in 2019. Alison and her team at Pete's Dragons will redesign the model, a research-backed 16-week therapeutic intervention programme for PGD, for their beneficiaries and the UK audience. They will trial the programme once the lockdown restrictions have lifted, initially with 14 beneficiaries, before evaluating its impact and rolling it out more widely.

Alison's Fellowship to the USA in 2019 explored innovative approaches to suicide prevention and suicide bereavement and was supported by The John Armitage Charitable Trust and the Samaritans.

Evelyn Sharp: providing online trauma therapy for key workers

Evelyn Sharp (CF 2019), from Brighton and Hove, is a counsellor and psychotherapist.

She will use her grant to provide free online trauma therapy to key workers who are experiencing acute stress linked to Covid-19. These free sessions will be available to any key worker across the UK but low-paid key workers will be prioritised. Each person will receive between four and eight sessions. Additionally, Evelyn will share her learnings on delivering mental health interventions during a mass trauma with her colleagues and professional networks.

Evelyn's Fellowship to the USA in 2019 explored the use of the performing arts to support psychological recovery from trauma.

Dan Trevor: protecting young people at risk of self-harm and suicide

Dan Trevor (CF 2017) is a psychotherapist from Denbighshire in North Wales, who specialises in working with children and young people via dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) sessions. DBT provides training in managing emotions, navigating crisis situations and resisting urges to self-harm and suicide, and is particularly effective in helping chronically suicidal and self-injuring young people. Dan and his colleagues usually deliver DBT skills training face to face, but under the current social distancing restrictions they have not been able to do this.

He will use the grant to train six therapists to transition existing DBT groups into online virtual meetings. Therapists will be trained in adapting their face-to-face skills in assessment of clients online, managing risk and safeguarding, legal issues, insurance, security and data protection implications, so that they feel equipped to continue supporting their existing clients. Additionally, Dan will seek partnerships with schools, in order to help new clients. Finally, he will establish a permanent online service that will continue beyond the lockdown, in order to help young people who are socially anxious or lack the confidence to attend DBT in person.

Dan's Fellowship to the USA in 2017 investigated mindfulness interventions for children and young people and was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

January 2022 awards

Akvinder Bola-Emerson: improving mental health support to new mothers

Akvinder Bola-Emerson (CF 2017) from Hounslow in London is a perinatal mental health clinical lead for the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. Through her work, she has noticed that the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on new mothers’ mental wellbeing.

Akvinder will use her grant to develop a model of perinatal couple therapy to support new mothers with a mental illness diagnosis. This will be delivered through a course of couple therapy sessions for mothers and their partners, at their home or a local children’s centre. Akvinder will also offer multi-family group therapy interventions, providing an opportunity for couples to interact with others in a similar situation and learn copying strategies to help with their mental health recovery. To help these sessions, she aims to provide extra training for perinatal staff members in supporting families. Akvinder hopes that this will decrease the possibility of a mental health breakdown in new mothers and prevent relationship breakdowns.

Akvinder’s Fellowship to Australia and the USA in 2017 explored preventing relationship breakdowns between parents through perinatal mental health support. It was supported by the Wave Trust.

Erin Hope Thompson: delivering bereavement support

Erin Hope Thompson (CF 2017) from London is a clinical psychologist and the founder and CEO of The Loss Foundation, a national cancer bereavement charity. During the pandemic, Erin has extended the support services offered by the charity to help those who have lost a loved one to Covid-19.

Erin will use her grant to run a series of therapeutic groups for individuals who have experienced bereavement due to cancer or Covid-19. These groups will be delivered by clinical psychologists and will consist of seven sessions of support taking place over 10 weeks. Each session will have a theme that will address key issues of the grieving experience, such as processing difficult memories, anxiety, troublesome thoughts and sleep deprivation. To facilitate these sessions, she plans to train additional psychologists. Erin hopes that this will help attendees to learn more about loss and equip them with coping strategies, as well as helping them to make meaningful connections with others who are also dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Erin’s Fellowship to the USA in 2017 explored best practice in cancer bereavement support. It was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

Jane Lawrence: supporting families caring for someone with a mental health condition

Jane Lawrence (CF 2009) from Bristol is a retired carer support worker for families who are supporting individuals with a severe mental illness.

Jane will use her grant to research the experiences of family carers supporting a person with a severe mental illness during the pandemic. This includes those who care for someone with schizophrenia, bi-polar, psychosis or personality disorders. Jane plans to collect the experiences of more than 40 carers to understand the impact that Covid-19 has had on the cared-for person from the carers' perspective, how they have coped with the lockdown restrictions, and the impact that it has had on their personal wellbeing. She will then use this data to create a report that identifies coping strategies and stress reduction techniques that will support other family carers. This report will be created in the form of a leaflet and website and will be distributed to mental health providers and organisations that support carers.

Jane’s Fellowship in 2009 to the Netherlands and New Zealand explored support for carers in mental health services.

Neil Morris: preparing people with poor mental health for work

Neil Morris (CF 2008) from Barnsley in South Yorkshire is a community leader. In December 2020, Neil received a Covid-19 Action Fund grant to help people with poor mental health prepare for work.

This is Neil’s second Action Fund grant. He will use it to develop a pilot project that will aim to re-engage back into the community individuals who have been affected by the pandemic. This includes those who have suffered from a mental health issue, suffered redundancy or experienced a relationship breakdown. Neil will do this by developing a pilot series of craft activity sessions that can be delivered both virtually and in-person. Craft packs will be sent to individuals who register, who will then be invited to attend online sessions where a facilitator will demonstrate how to carry out the activity. Neil also hopes to run in-person activity sessions in community halls for those at risk of digital exclusion. He plans to run 12 activity sessions in total, with the hope of reaching over 180 people.

Neil’s Fellowship to Australia and New Zealand in 2008 explored the rehabilitation of men with mental health problems.

Joy O'Neill: Supporting local farmers to establish care farms

Joy O'Neill (CF 2020) from Buckinghamshire is a care farm director and a volunteer for the Farming Community Network. During the pandemic, Joy has been working with local farms to deliver a care farming training package that promotes the use of farming practices in improving wellbeing.

Joy will use her grant to support local farmers to create a care farm within their existing family farm. This will include providing training to at least five farms in the south-east of England to help them prepare a site for care farming. These farms will then take on a number of local families or individuals who have been identified as vulnerable by schools, social services or GP practices. The families or individuals will attend for half a day or one day a week for as long as needed. Joy will also use her grant to conduct research among farmers to understand the existing barriers to them taking on vulnerable individuals or families.

Joy’s Fellowship to Australia, Austria, Ireland, Israel, Italy and USA in 2020 researched the benefits of care farming to rural communities. It was supported by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Niki Powers: providing trauma-responsive support to young people

Niki Powers (CF 2017) from Edinburgh is the managing director of Let’s Talk (Young People), a social enterprise that supports young people with their sexual, emotional and mental health.

Niki will use her grant to deliver a programme of trauma-responsive therapeutic support for young people aged 11-26, whose emotional and mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Niki will target those who live in deprived communities, or who live in difficult family circumstances, or are experiencing poverty or have experience with substance abuse. The sessions will be delivered weekly in schools and community settings. They will cover a range of therapeutic activities such as talking therapy, mood management, creative workshops and physical exercise. Niki hopes that these will help young people to express their difficult feelings and adopt healthy coping strategies. As part of this work, Niki will develop partnerships with other organisations to offer additional services to young people who may need further support.

Niki’s Fellowship to the USA in 2017 explored services for young people who have experienced trauma and attachment disruption. It was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

Alexander Tempest: supporting the mental health of communities through therapeutic care

Alexander Tempest (CF 2015) from Totnes in Devon is Director at The Woodland Presents, a social enterprise that encourages communities to engage in British woodlands. During the pandemic, his company has piloted a community project called Woods for Wellness, which delivered therapeutic care to individuals affected by Covid-19.

Alexander will use his grant to develop this programme to offer longer-term wellbeing services for individuals suffering with their mental health. He will develop a partnership programme with local organisations to offer free or affordable professional mental health support to those who need it, with a plan of establishing this as a permanent wellness service for the community. Alexander will aim to deliver 37 wellbeing services, with the hope of reaching over 500 local people. These will include environmental arts and eco-therapy sessions, listening circles and eco-sensory workshops. He also plans to create a national framework of woodland community services based on the findings of this programme, which he hopes will act as a replicable model for similar woodland wellbeing services within Devon and the UK.

Alexander’s Fellowship to Brazil, Canada and the USA in 2015 explored ways of regenerating British woodlands through social forestry initiatives and enterprise programmes for young adults.

December 2020 awards

Kieron Kirkland: developing AI mental health therapy

Kieron Kirkland (CF 2015), from Fareham in Hampshire, is the product manager and UX lead for an award-winning artificial intelligence digital health company, the co-founder of CAST (Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology) and a trained cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist.

He will use his grant to support the technical development and prototyping of an AI therapist using natural language processing (NLP) technologies, in order to provide cost-effective and equitable mental health therapy at scale. As a result, more people will be able to access mental health support online and the demands on NHS staff will be reduced. Whilst AI is transforming the medical field, it is not much used in mental health and there is currently very little development on AI talking therapies in the UK. Kieron's innovative project will involve developing a prototype service, undertaking user research, and then developing and scaling the work.

Kieron's Fellowship to Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda in 2015 explored how technology can help address social challenges.

Neil Morris: preparing people with poor mental health for work

Neil Morris (CF 2008) is a community leader in South Yorkshire.

He will use his grant to develop Transformation, an online training project for people who have experienced poor mental health to equip them to become volunteer facilitators in their community. The training will help them to run locally based community activities but also to cascade their knowledge to others. In this way, a culture of volunteer-led mutual peer support will be created, aiding both their own recovery, their interaction with society and also benefiting the community. The programme will focus on hard-to-reach groups and deprived areas, primarily in Sheffield and Barnsley, and will be designed to be both scalable and replicable in order to benefit other communities across the UK. Volunteering was Neil's way back into the world of work following an episode of poor mental health and it had a hugely positive experience on his own wellbeing. He hopes the programme will do the same for others.

Neil's Fellowship to Australia and New Zealand in 2008 explored the rehabilitation of men with mental health problems.

Mary Smith: supporting the mental health of rural communities

Mary Smith (CF 2019) from Kendal in Cumbria is the CEO of Growing Well, a rural mental health charity using therapeutic farming, which offers an alternative to talking therapy. During the pandemic, Growing Well has experienced a notable increase in referrals.

Mary will use her grant to expand the charity by working towards opening a second location in Cumbria. The funded stage of the replication will involve meeting with landowners, funders and clients, in order to develop a sustainable business and income model and identify a site. Therapeutic farming allows volunteers to share tasks, learn new skills, become part of a community and connect with the outdoors in a Covid-safe environment. An impressive 100% of Growing Well's volunteers say that its unique approach of activity, training and support has had a positive impact on their mental health.

Mary's Fellowship to Norway and the USA in 2019 explored international best practice in care farming and was supported by The Prince's Countryside Fund.

June 2020 awards

Alison Jordan: supporting people bereaved by suicide

Alison Jordan (CF 2019) from Exmouth is the founder of Pete's Dragons, a suicide bereavement support charity which operates across Devon, set up in memory of her brother Pete. They have been operational throughout the pandemic, supporting people online, but the increased complexities of the situation require a new approach.

Alison will use her grant to develop and roll out a therapeutic programme for prolonged grief disorder (PGD) to people bereaved by suicide during the pandemic. The programme is based on a model produced by The Center for Complicated Grief in the USA, which Alison visited during her Churchill Fellowship in 2019. Alison and her team at Pete's Dragons will redesign the model, a research-backed 16-week therapeutic intervention programme for PGD, for their beneficiaries and the UK audience. They will trial the programme once the lockdown restrictions have lifted, initially with 14 beneficiaries, before evaluating its impact and rolling it out more widely.

Alison's Fellowship to the USA in 2019 explored innovative approaches to suicide prevention and suicide bereavement and was supported by The John Armitage Charitable Trust and the Samaritans.

Evelyn Sharp: providing online trauma therapy for key workers

Evelyn Sharp (CF 2019), from Brighton and Hove, is a counsellor and psychotherapist.

She will use her grant to provide free online trauma therapy to key workers who are experiencing acute stress linked to Covid-19. These free sessions will be available to any key worker across the UK but low-paid key workers will be prioritised. Each person will receive between four and eight sessions. Additionally, Evelyn will share her learnings on delivering mental health interventions during a mass trauma with her colleagues and professional networks.

Evelyn's Fellowship to the USA in 2019 explored the use of the performing arts to support psychological recovery from trauma.

Dan Trevor: protecting young people at risk of self-harm and suicide

Dan Trevor (CF 2017) is a psychotherapist from Denbighshire in North Wales, who specialises in working with children and young people via dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) sessions. DBT provides training in managing emotions, navigating crisis situations and resisting urges to self-harm and suicide, and is particularly effective in helping chronically suicidal and self-injuring young people. Dan and his colleagues usually deliver DBT skills training face to face, but under the current social distancing restrictions they have not been able to do this.

He will use the grant to train six therapists to transition existing DBT groups into online virtual meetings. Therapists will be trained in adapting their face-to-face skills in assessment of clients online, managing risk and safeguarding, legal issues, insurance, security and data protection implications, so that they feel equipped to continue supporting their existing clients. Additionally, Dan will seek partnerships with schools, in order to help new clients. Finally, he will establish a permanent online service that will continue beyond the lockdown, in order to help young people who are socially anxious or lack the confidence to attend DBT in person.

Dan's Fellowship to the USA in 2017 investigated mindfulness interventions for children and young people and was supported by the Mental Health Foundation.