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Coventry Mental Health Nurse chosen to represent West Midlands in NHS birthday awards

As regional champion in the Healthier Communities Award, Alex Cotton and the ‘It Takes Balls to Talk’ team who work with her, will now vie with other regional winners from across England for a national award, which is to be presented at a special ceremony in the Palace of Westminster in July.

The NHS70 Parliamentary Awards, sponsored by IBM and Teva, recognise the massive contribution made by the individuals who work in and alongside the NHS.

Launched in February, it asked the region’s MPs to find and nominate those individuals or teams they thought have made the biggest improvements to health services in their constituencies across 10 categories.

Alex Cotton, the creative force behind the campaign, from our Trust was nominated by Coventry North East MP Colleen Fletcher, Rugby and Bulkington MP Mark Pawsey, and Warwick and Leamington’s Matt Western for her work with colleagues on the It takes balls to talk mental health campaign.

From over 750 entries, senior experts have chosen four outstanding nominations in each category, which exemplify the best of what the NHS and its partners do day in, day out.

‘It Takes Balls to Talk’ is a campaign which uses sporting themes to encourage people, particularly men, to talk about how they feel.

Suicide is the biggest cause of death in men under the age of 45. Over three quarters of people who have taken their own lives are male (Reference: ONS). Suicide continues to be three times more common in men than in women.

Mental health issues can affect anyone and can be caused by a number of factors, including bereavement, unemployment, finance and debt issues, family and relationship problems, social isolation, low self-esteem, drug and alcohol issues and many other personal factors.

The campaign was launched in September 2016. Alex developed the campaign in partnership with Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, Coventry and Warwickshire Mind, Unite the Union, Samaritans, Time to Change, both Coventry and Warwickshire Public Health teams, and sports partners including Wasps Rugby Club, Blaze Ice Hockey Club and Coventry City Football Club’s charity, Sky Blues in the Community. Local authorities in Warwickshire and Coventry also actively support the campaign.

Since the launch the campaign team has raised awareness by attending professional and amateur football, rugby, ice hockey and other sporting events at venues including the Ricoh and Sky Dome in Coventry and held events at Coventry, Warwick and Worcester Universities.

They have also delivered valuable suicide awareness training to key groups across the area.

Alex said: “It Takes Balls to Talk is about reaching out to men and the people who care about them. It can be difficult to talk about mental health and our wellbeing, we hope that the campaign will encourage  men to speak out sooner and access support from friends, family and mental health services if required. Through It Takes Balls to Talk, we wish to build compassionate communities in Coventry and Warwickshire, that work together to stamp out the stigma that can attach to mental health conditions. I am delighted to say that not only is the campaign positively received, but men have also told us that they have obtained support because of our campaign. It’s great to be nominated for an award like this, as it helps to further raise awareness of the campaign.”

Dr Kiran Patel, Medical Director for NHS England West Midlands said:The Parliamentary Awards have given the NHS a fantastic opportunity to recognise those who provide the very best healthcare to people as part of the NHS’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Our NHS staff work hard to ensure that local services are delivered to the highest standards and I am delighted that a West Midlands organisation has been recognised and wish them luck in the final.

All of the champions will now be invited to the national awards ceremony, which will be held on July 4, the day before the NHS’s 70th birthday.

The ceremony will be hosted by Dr Sara Kayat, NHS GP & TV Doctor best known for This Morning, Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls and GPs: Behind Closed Doors.

The regional champions will now go forward to a final stage of judging by a panel including the leaders of Royal Colleges, the Unison trade union, and the Patients Association – collectively representing millions of health and care workers and patients.

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