Meet the man who wants to help improve Lancashire's mental health

People suffering from mental health issues – and the organisations that support them – have a new advocate in the corridors of power at Lancashire County Council.

The authority has approved the creation of a mental health champion, after a meeting of the full council heard concern about the “increasing prevalence” of mental health problems in the county – something likely to be worsened by the pandemic.

The role will be filled by Burscough and Rufford county councillor Eddie Pope, who – like others with a champion area of responsibility at County Hall – will both promote his cause and have a £10,000 budget that he can use at his discretion to support activities in connection with it.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that it was a “timely” moment for the authority to increase its focus on mental health.

County Cllr Eddie Pope is Lancashire County Council's new mental health champion

“It’s such a wide agenda, especially with the way things are at the moment because of Covid.

“Whether it’s students at university who can’t get the proper teaching or older people who are isolated at home – a lot of people are really struggling.

“I want to encourage people to be open about their mental health and contact organisations that can support them – and hopefully we can help get greater access to those groups to enable that.

“I’m looking forward to working with a range of mental health organisations to help in whatever way I can,” County Cllr Pope said.

He has spent most of his working life in the NHS – including 15 years as a non-executive director of what was then the Lancashire Ambulance Service from 1999. County Cllr Pope says that, during his tenure, he saw the range of mental health problems that ambulance crews have to deal with.

Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing Shaun Turner said that there was a “really pressing” situation with mental health in the county.

“Often, the solutions are in communities – and hopefully with a mental health champion supported financially in some small way, that can link us all together with some of the potential issues out there,” County Cllr Turner added.