A Solihull man has been handed a prestigious award from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) for his contribution to improving people’s mental health.
Gary McLeod was named Solihull’s Mental Health Star at the Thrive Mental Health Commission Awards hosted by broadcaster Adrian Goldberg at West Bromwich Albion Football Club.
The awards were staged by the WMCA to celebrate outstanding work in the field of mental health and to promote positive attitudes.
The event was a chance to mark the achievements of the first year of the Thrive West Midlands programme, introduced to drive better mental health and wellbeing across the region.
Gary was recognised for his role in establishing the Fiveway Café, a safe place where young people can drop in, get a drink and get emotional support from staff and peers.
All activities are based on the five ways to wellbeing, and help young people to develop confidence to talk about their mental health.
He said: “It is amazing to win this award – it was a collaborative effort with a lot of support in Solihull to get the project off the ground. I am very proud but it’s been a real joint venture.”
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street welcomed an audience of more than 200 people, many with a wealth of professional and personal experience of mental health issues.
He said: “The mental health agenda is a top priority for the WMCA and the Thrive programme has already made astonishing progress in just this first year.
“I am immensely proud of the work that has been undertaken so far and I look forward to continuing my support as we strive to improve the impact that poor mental health has within our communities and within our workspaces.”
Norman Lamb MP chaired the WMCA Mental Health Commission and joined the Mayor to present the awards.
Mr Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson and former care and support minister, said the event was a major milestone for the region.
Nominations were invited from across the whole WMCA region and a Mental Health Star was chosen from each area.
People could nominate anyone they felt had made a real difference to improving mental health – either their own or in the community.
It could be a friend, family member, colleague or carer, GP, health professional or volunteer.
Sean Russell, Thrive implementation director, said: “It has been a real celebration of all sorts of people’s work to help others and of all the many and varied efforts we see going into improving mental health outcomes in our region.
“We have been delighted with the response to these awards, with nearly 200 nominations for people from all walks of life.
“The winners really are amazing examples of the depth of dedication to this cause – and their wealth of creative ideas.”