Hoping to help people help themselves

Hannah-Louise Toomey had a keen interest in improving access to mental health services even before she was elected as a governor for Oxford Health in May this year.

Hoping to help people help themselves

“I used to give feedback to clinicians and email the board, and then I decided to put myself out there. I wanted my voice to be heard, not just for myself but for other people, too,” she says.

Hannah-Louise is acutely aware that in the affluent Oxfordshire there are underprivileged areas and people who aren’t aware of help available for them, or who don’t find it accessible. Those are the communities she wants to approach and find out what the barriers are, for instance, cultural or language-related.

“We are so fortunate in Oxford that we have a rich array or services and organisations that can support people, not just health care services but things to get involved in and socialise. But not everyone feels able to use them. I want to go out to the communities and ask: what do you need; what would you want,” she says.

Hannah-Louise is hoping to start a project to produce material in multiple languages that would help people to take the first step: realise that mental health issues are health issues that can be helped, and help is available.

The message is very much in line with Hannah-Louise’s commitment as a Time to Change Champion for Oxford. This movement is working to change how we think, talk and act about mental health, with the aim to dispel myths and stigma that can still be associated with mental health conditions.

“I want people to know that it’s okay not to be okay and ask for help,” she says. At the HealthFest at the Warneford Hospital Hannah-Louise was doing just that, running a stand for Time to Change. She has also just started a master’s degree in occupational therapy at the Brookes University. So, many hats to wear!

“Part of my election pledge was to practise good health. I manage the balance by working on my allotment, running, biking, spending time with my friends. I feel I have a responsibility for the wider community to keep myself well,” she says.

“I’m passionate about the future of Oxford Health and about helping people help themselves.”

You can contact Hannah-Louise and all your governors by emailing contactyourgovernor@oxfordhealth.nhs.uk

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Published: 27 September 2019