Michael champions mental health care
A PERSONAL struggle is behind one man's fight for better provision for mental health services across Dorset.
Michael Bevan, of Trent, has been appointed as the elected member champion for mental health services for Dorset County Council.
TACKLING ISSUES: Dorset county councillor for Sherborne Rural Michael Bevan is to take on responsibility for championing mental health issues
The role will mean he will travel around the county visiting mental health workers and service users and reporting his findings and concerns to fellow councillors at county hall meetings.
Mr Bevan, who was elected Sherborne Rural's representative on the county council last year, battled with an isolating and crippling bout of mental illness less than a decade ago.
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He said: "Like Alistair Campbell, I have experience in mental health problems. Around nine years ago I went through a manic-depressive state. I was bullied at work, matters at home weren't too good and I felt myself beleaguered on all fronts.
"I will never forget that time. When you get to that stage it's difficult to talk to other people. I would go home where there was no one to talk to. It was a question of rising above it or sinking. I wasn't going to sink.
"I got help from the South Somerset Mental Health Partnership and my doctor. Nine years on, who would have thought I would be where I am today?
"Now I find myself, rather surprisingly, an elected representative and I am in a position where I can pay society back.
"Up until this point there was a vacuum on the county council. Our officers do a splendid job but there was no movement on behalf of the elected membership to get involved in mental health issues.
"As mental health champion my aim is to improve facilities and eliminate stigma and prejudice. I will be championing the work of mental health services throughout the county to other elected members at every opportunity."
He welcomed the county council's transition from institution-based care to the personal budgets system in which service users get an alloted amount and can choose activities from public and private providers.
Mr Bevan said: "It wasn't so long ago that people with mental health problems were locked up in mental institutions and forgotten about.
"Day centres I have visited were very sterile. One great benefit of the personal budgets system is people can choose which services they like, which can be at home, if that is what makes them feel most comfortable.
"My aim is initially to find out all I can about the different sorts of mental health services operating currently in the county."