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Time to change

129. Tim McKenna

A pub landlord is helping others overcome the stigma of mental illness and has reached millions through the Time to Change mental health awareness campaign.

Tim, who has fought his own battles with mental illness, has used his experience to give others the courage to talk about theirs. He has always had mood swings, but it had never occurred to him that this was a symptom of bipolar disorder. The tragic death of his sister in 2006 triggered a deterioration in his condition. Now, as a volunteer with the Time to Change, he is sharing his first-hand experience as an example to others – particularly, men – that there is no shame in talking about mental illness.

Tim has become one of the faces and voices of Time to Change’s national campaign to break the taboos around mental health and get people to speak up. He has devoted himself to the cause, appearing in adverts, doing press and broadcast media interviews, attending events and open discussions. He was one of six volunteers to tell their story in the Metro; and took part in a two-hour talkSPORT programme about mental health in sport, alongside sporting celebrities from the worlds of boxing, cricket and athletics.

With Tim’s involvement the Time to Change campaign has now reached 39.8 million people; with 53% of the 4.92 million target audience saying it had made them consider or actually ask someone how they were, the first step to helping them open up. His YouTube video has received 7,000 views to date.

Away from the campaign, Tim is an equally tireless advocate, taking every opportunity to raise the issue of mental health among fellow publicans, writing numerous blogs, winning media exposure and encouraging others to follow his lead in being open about their illness and starting the process of getting the help they need.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Regrettably too often there can still be a stigma attached to mental illness. It takes real guts for those with personal experiences to talk about them. By courageously telling his story in such a public way, Tim has made it easier for others to reach out to friends, families and colleagues or to ask for the support they need. I’m proud to make Tim the 129th UK Point of Light.”

Tim said:

“I only started speaking out about mental health to help make sense of my illness, and because I felt I owed it to my sister and others who are no longer here. It’s been a pretty amazing journey so far, one that has given me back a lot of my self-confidence and sense of purpose. I certainly didn’t expect to win any awards though! I’m thrilled and humbled by this, and I accept it on behalf of all the Time to Change volunteers that are doing amazing work up and down the country.”

Andrew Robathan MP said:

“Many constituents that contact me have mental health problems, so I am delighted to congratulate Mr McKenna on his award – but even more on his important voluntary work with ‘Time to Change’, raising awareness of mental health issues.”

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma programme run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“We couldn’t be happier to hear that Tim has won this special award and it couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person. Tim has made an incredible difference and by sharing his story in our national advertising he has shown millions of people that it’s okay to talk about mental health. We know that unfortunately men can often find it difficult to seek help and support, which sometimes has devastating consequences, but Tim felt that he could share his experiences and really make a difference – and he really has! Our work will continue until we can put an end to life-limiting stigma and discrimination and we can only do this with people like Tim by our side.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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