Mental Health Champions

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2017 National Delegate Conference
15 February 2017

Mental health issues are reported to affect one in three of us throughout our lifetime. Although statistically women are more likely to develop common mental health issues than men it is an issue that impacts all of our members. A recent survey also suggests that there has been a marked increase in mental health issues in young women whilst it has remained consistent with young men. As a union with over one million members, this is an issue we cannot overlook.

Mental health issues can affect people in many different ways, including barriers to understanding, social anxiety and low self-esteem. This can result in valued ideas and great potential being missed.

UNISON takes pride in being inclusive of all our members and this is as it should be. However, it is possible, even likely, that we have many members with a great amount of potential and skills to contribute, who simply feel unable to come forward due to fear of rejection and validity.

As a branch whose members are instrumental in providing care to the public of the North East who experience mental health issues, Northumberland Tyne and Wear Health branch would like to put forward this motion which will both support and promote all UNISON’s members who feel unable, at this time, to engage with our union and to become active, due to their current mental health issues.

Conference notes that:

1)Mental Health issues remain a veiled cloak of stigma. UNISON must be seen to be proactive in informing our members that we will support them to develop the skills they need to contribute in whatever way they feel able to. We need to challenge stigma, enabling trust and confidence that all our members are valued. It is essential that we enable those experiencing mental health issues to feel open and honest knowing that they will not be judged;

2)We need to provide real support. Where required, it should be possible for UNISON to provide Mental Health Champions. Whether at conferences, training days or policy events, delegates/members should have easy access to a recognised and experienced mental health practitioner who can provide skilled and approved intervention to enable full participation.

3)UNISON needs to promote tolerance of mental health issues. Some Mental Health conditions can cause cognitive, emotional and behavioural changes. This can result in an individual presenting differently than expected. Causes for this may include anxiety, mental stimulation and/or frustration. Where this arises, members/delegates should be mindful and mental health issues are included under disability as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

Conference therefore calls upon UNISON’s National Executive Council to:

a)Take a lead in promoting awareness of mental health issues;

b)Develop a strategy to enable and support members with mental health issues, allowing them to feel valued and able to become involved with UNISON;

c)Ensure accessibility to Mental Health Champions at conferences, training and policy days;

d)Promote tolerance of mental health issues at UNISON events.