A man from the Wirral who has anxiety and depression has become this year’s recipient of an award by the national charity Rethink Mental Illness for his work to improve mental health services.
Chris Lynch, 38, won the Janey Antoniou award for his passion and commitment to changing mental health services, and supporting other people affected by mental illness. He has worked as a service user representative for many organisations, including the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the British Psychological Society.
In the past couple of years he has also launched two Rethink Mental Illness support groups in Chester, on top of holding down a full-time job. These are peer-support groups run by people with personal experience of mental illness, or their families and friends.
The Janey Antoniou award was set up by Rethink Mental Illness last year in memory of the mental health campaigner and researcher who died in 2010. Lynch will receive a prize of £1,000 from Antoniou’s family.
“It still hasn’t sunk in that I have won,” said Lynch. “Being nominated was heart-warming enough, but to actually win is something else! I’m passionate about mental health support, because throughout my illness I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the support of my family and friends, my employer of 15 years and more recently, from people in the groups I coordinate. Without this, I don’t know where I’d be today, or even if I would still be here today.
“But many people with mental health problems don’t have this support, and this is what motivates me to speak on their behalf. I will continue to use my experiences in mental health care to ensure that people with mental illness have the right services to help them.”
BBC journalist and presenter Fiona Glover was one of the judges for the award, who added: “This was a difficult award to judge because we had hundreds of impressive entries. But Chris’ achievements, as well as his expertise and energy, really stood out, and he is a very worthy winner.
“We were particularly taken by his commitment to using his experiences to improve mental health services, and to support others. His work is making a real difference in helping other people in his community get through difficult times with their mental health.”
Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, also praised Lynch for his “exceptional contribution” to supporting people affected by mental illness and in shaping mental health services.
“His support groups in Chester have had a great impact helping people affected by mental illness,” he said. “His first group was so popular, that he decided to open a second one!
“Chris’ work highlights how important it is for people who use mental health services to have a say in the care they receive, and on how that can be improved. We commend Chris for all his fantastic work, which he will no doubt continue to do in future with great success.”