Talk about 'elephants in the room' this Mental Health Awareness week, urge mental health professionals

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) began on Monday– and charities and health professionals have taken the opportunity to remind people that help is available to those in need.

MHAW began on May 10 and will continue until May 16. This year, mental health is more relevant than ever, with the number of people needing support increasing during COVID.

According to a recent Mind survey, around 50 per cent of the UK population is now experiencing a mental health difficulty – compared to one in four people pre-pandemic.

One of the services offered by Buckinghamshire Mind is the Friends in Need peer support group for people with depression and anxiety.

In normal times it operates out of local community centres and GP surgeries in Maidenhead, Windsor, Slough and Bracknell.

Its daily and weekly volunteer-run groups were adapted to virtual versions in March last year, including a new phone befriending service. The service now caters for 400 people and counting.

“The need for help has really gone up – we have never been busier,” said Ansa Khan, team lead for Friends in Need.

“Mental Health Awareness Week is a great opportunity to remove some of the barriers to accessing services – sometimes people don’t know where to go, or the stigma stops them seeking help,” said Ansa.

“It’s about normalising (mental health problems) as part of everyday life, because it is.”

Though Friends in Need had to stop its local walking groups in December, began again in April. Its art group starts again next week.

Those who wish to join the peer support groups of Friends in Need should call Ansa on 07496 874882 or email

Meanwhile, NHS Frimley Clinical Commissioning Group has worked with charity Aik Saath – Together As One and film company Resource Productions to convey young people’s views on mental health.

A poem ‘It’s all just a façade’ written by Upton Court Grammar School student Abirami Sritharan, 17, challenges parents and carers to check on their children’s mental wellbeing.

The piece has been transformed into a short film by Katie Bonham and a team of local cast and crew.

To view the film visit

For professional help, NHS Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust offers mental health services via its Talking Therapies team.

Therapists can provide support for stress, all types of depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sleep difficulties, anxiety and panic disorders, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It can also help with low moods caused by a medically unexplained symptom (MUS) or long-term condition (LTC), such as diabetes, lung problems or heart disease. If you are registered with a GP in Berkshire, you can access Talking Therapies by completing the form at

This does not require a GP referral. Send any questions to or call 0300 365 2000.

The service also offers online therapy via SilverCloud digital mental health platform. Register at

Councillor Stuart Carrol, Royal Borough lead member for mental health, said: “It’s important we start talking about some of the elephants in the room – we need to talk about suicide, which is the biggest killer of men under 45, and an increasing number of women.

“We also need to be talking about social media and how that can be a really negative environment. Mental health is a team sport – it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

  • Buckinghamshire Mind received £500 from the Advertiser and Express’ owner, the Louis Baylis Trust, in its latest round of donations. Visit to learn more.

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