Specialism: Adults with learning disabilities/young adults in transition.
Details of vacancy: None
Age range: 20 years +
Amber Heighton is a real pioneer when it comes to encouraging people to re-think their attitudes towards mental health. Amber, who is just 20, has worked with adults with mental health problems since October 2012 at our supported living service at Oaklands in East Anglia. She works with people with mental health issues and learning disabilities, and has made the focus of her work the reduction of stigma around mental health, particularly in terms of encouraging others to be more open and talk about their experiences.
Amber believes the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health problems can be even worse than the symptoms themselves, so she’s registered as a Time to Change champion. This is a volunteer organisation, funded by MIND, which aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage people to talk about it in order to “normalise” it.
Last July Amber took her cause to Norwich Pride, going round the event talking to festival-goers about mental health. She encouraged people to discuss issues such as how hard it is for those with mental health problems to tell others about it because of the reaction they may receive. And to consider instances of how many of them find they are misunderstood by family members, shunned and ignored by friends and work colleagues, or called names or worse by neighbours.
She found that many of those she spoke to either had experienced mental health problems first-hand or knew someone close to them who had, and encouraged them to examine the prejudice, ignorance and fear that surround the issue. She was very successful in getting lots of people make pledge cards, stating what they would do as individuals to help reduce stigma surrounding mental health.
In December she did the same thing at the Bigger Picture event, also in Norwich. Here she was aiming to bring people who don’t have mental health problems into social contact with those who do, knowing that this is one of the most effective ways of breaking down stigma and discrimination. Another MIND project, the Bigger Picture tackles the issue of how negative stereotypes about mental health are spread around through the medium of cinema. Amber helped facilitate conversations around mental health, which hopefully will challenge labels and change minds and attitudes in Norwich.
At work Amber is tireless in her mission to support our service users to get the maximum benefit from the local facilities and mental health services available to them.
For example she has supported one individual who came to us from hospital in a very unwell state to become a highly independent person who manages their mental health successfully.
Amber’s thoughtful support has enable this individual to access the correct services, and to use community facilities such as the library, to enrol for educational courses, and to attend concerts and the cinema. She encouraged them to talk through what they were feeling and how they could help manage these feelings.
Written by Katrina Greff, Locality Manager