Individuals with personal experience of a mental health problem are encouraged to apply for a share of £10,000 to run stigma busting events and activities.

Earlier this year County Durham was one of eight areas selected to become a Time to Change Hub and was awarded funding to help tackle mental health stigma locally.

People across the county have until Tuesday 1 October to apply for a grant of up to £500, to help educate their local community about mental health issues.

The Time to Change Champions Fund will be co-ordinated by Investing in Children, a children’s human rights organisation, in partnership with Durham County Council and a number of voluntary and community sector organisations.

Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, the council’s mental health champion and Cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, so it’s essential that we raise awareness of this important issue. Mental health is an often-misunderstood topic, but a person’s attitude to mental health could be life changing for someone.

“We want to hear from people over the age of 18, who have personal experience of a mental health problem, who could run an event or activities which could help to change people’s attitudes and behaviour around mental health. We don’t need them to provide evidence or details and they don’t have to have a current mental health problem, but their experience of a mental health problem at some point in their life could help us to end mental health discrimination in County Durham.”

The Champions Fund aims to empower people with lived experience of mental health problems to have conversations with those who do not have experience of mental health problems, with a view to eliminating the stigma surrounding them. The fund can be used to develop and deliver an activity or an event, including those delivered as part of a wider event where there will already be a crowd.

Chris Affleck, Hub coordinator from Investing in Children, said: “We want to fund activity that encourages people with experience of mental health problems to talk to people who wouldn’t necessarily attend a traditional mental health related event.

“When people talk to each other and establish common ground, it can often lead to a change in people’s attitudes. We’re keen to hear from anyone who is interested in helping to challenge the prejudices and assumptions that people often make and replacing them with mutual understanding and respect.

“The fund offers us a really exciting opportunity to change the way people in County Durham think about mental health issues and we can help people at all stages to apply for funding and organise their event.”

Grants can be used to pay for a range of items including venue hire, food and refreshments, equipment hire, printing costs, and travel reimbursement for volunteers, and can also be used to pay for services such as hiring an entertainer, masseur, public speaker, crèche worker or caterer. The funding can not be used to purchase items such as cameras and computers or to cover the cost of training courses or salaries.

To launch the fund, an information event has been organised, where people can find out more about the Champions Fund and receive support to apply for a grant.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the fund can contact Investing in Children by calling 0191 307 7030, by emailing [email protected] or by visiting https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/become-time-change-hub/the-champions-fund.

Grant applications close at 12 noon on Tuesday 1 October and successful applications will be announced on Thursday 10 October to coincide with World Mental Health Day.