We would like to say a huge thank you to the 500+ people who came to our anniversary event on Wednesday 15th November. It was incredible to see so many of our amazing MHFA instructors and Mental Health First Aiders come together to celebrate #10yearsofMHFA. We met new members of the community, caught up with familiar faces, and had so many great conversations.

wellbeing exhibition 1

The day kicked off with a wellbeing exhibition featuring leading mental health organisations including Birmingham Mind, Action for Happiness, Department Store for the Mind, Royal British Legion, Place2Be, Street Games and many more.

wellbeing exhibition stalls

A healthy smoothie bike was enjoyed by many and henna art was provided by the talented R Bee Henna.

smoothie bike

The MHFA England stall was decorated with photos of the team and community over the years, and of course the cake took pride of place.

anniversary cake and cupcakes

We then moved to the main hall for the welcome address by CEO Poppy Jaman who thanked the instructor community for their hard work during the first 10 years of MHFA. Poppy encouraged us to all pull together to reach our goal of training 1 in 10 people in England over the next 10 years – that’s 5.3 million people by 2027.

Poppy Jaman's welcome address

The day was hosted by ITV news presenter Sameena Ali-Khan who provided a perfect balance of fun and sensitivity. Following the welcome address, Sameena interviewed award-winning mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn, who shared their moving story of how simply asking a stranger “Are you alright mate?” saved a life, started an inspiring friendship and a groundbreaking movement of suicide prevention.

Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn being interviewed by Sameena Ali-Khan

Award winners

One of the day's highlights was the awards ceremony where we celebrated the achievements of our incredible instructor community over the last decade. Here are our winners:

Most Supportive MHFA Friend

This award recognises an instructor, MHFA staff member, or group who has been an exceptional example of support during the last decade. For example, providing peer to peer support, moral and emotional support, advice on marketing or client referrals. 

Winner (Group): Bristol MHFA Instructor Group
Bristol MHFA Instructor Group receiving their award

In Autumn 2016 a Youth MHFA instructor cohort met in Bristol and worked for 7 days with Belinda Heaven and Lee Loveless to train to become youth instructors. The group have stayed in touch and meet, speak and communicate regularly (including on a special What’sApp group). They share resources, articles and best practice with each other as well as their own stories from the font line. 

The judges presented this award in recognition of this being a wonderful way for MHFA instructors working with a shared purpose to build a community and network and to support each other in what can sometimes be difficult work. The judges especially enjoyed the story of Julie, a drama teacher and group member, who has invented an ALGEE dance which members use when they teach courses and then share the photographic evidence!

Winner (Individual): Mark Perryman
Mark Perryman's colleague collects his award

Mark’s passion and enthusiasm for MHFA shines out to all his colleagues. Underpinning this is his warmth and compassion forged in his career background providing medical welfare to members of the Armed Forces, and his voluntary work as a community first responder with South Central Ambulance Service. His nomination acknowledges his work with teachers, nurses, youth workers, jockeys, LGBT leaders and the emergency services. In his role with the Defence Medical Welfare Service Charity he has expanded the training team in his efforts to make DMWS the most prolific independent deliverer of MHFA in England. The judges awarded Mark the ‘Most Supportive Friend’ Award in recognition not just of this, but also his warmth, cheerfulness, ability to build confidence in people and in being a friend. As well as this, his nomination contained an original poem!

Mark wasn't able to attend the ceremony as he was delivering a course on the day, so his colleague collected the award on his behalf.

MHFA Ambassador Award

This award is to recognise the achievements of a person who has commissioned a large number of Mental Health First Aid training courses for delivery.

Winners: Gail Pluckrose and Mel Eyley (Severn Trent Water)
Gail Pluckrose and Mel Eyley accept their award

The judges recognised the role of Gail and Mel as Ambassadors in transforming the culture around mental wellbeing and mental health issues in Severn Trent Water. Through their role in driving the Elephant in the Room campaign they have enabled employees to share their stories, open up and seek advice. Alongside this they have addressed the issue of stigma, discrimination and mental health awareness through the roll out of MHFA which is now offered to every line manager in the organisation, with over 750 employees (15% of the workforce) trained within 2 years.

The judges wanted to highlight a fact made in their nomination which is that 200 of these people were trained in the Sewage Treatment Works, a relevant location as the organisation knew that these often remote locations were featured in people’s suicide plans. Delivering MHFA training in these very locations is a symbolic and practical response to the human need for positive mental health literacy as well as being a unique environment for delivery.


Most Obscure Environment

We know our instructor community delivers courses across England, sometimes in some surprising locations! This award is to recognise the most unusual settings that our instructors have delivered a Mental Health First Aid training course.

Winner: Nicola Rich (Feed Bristol’s Roundhouse)
Nicola Rich accepts her award

Walking through muddy allotments one cold wet day in March, Nicola opened the door and was confronted by a roaring log fire, the hypotonic smell of wood burning, the draw of twinkling fairy lights, a natural skylight in a green roof and a big sloppy kiss from a local dog. Not the most obvious place to deliver MHFA! However, Nicola saw opportunities in Feed Bristol’s Roundhouse to maximise the beneficial connection between nature and mental health. So, if you want to find out what a hypotonic smell is, ask Nicola! 

feed bristol's roundhouse

Most Innovative Delivery of MHFA

Our instructor community are great at using innovative ways to deliver Mental Health First Aid training content to their audience. From dressing up and using poetry, to singing songs. This award is to recognise the ways our instructors have taken MHFA content and spiced it up to capture the audience’s attention whilst maintaining its integrity.

Winner: Oz Osborne and the 12th Man Campaign
Oz Osbourne accepts his award

The judges presented the 12th Man Campaign with this award in recognition of the innovative and inspirational way in which instructors can train in any environment. 12 barbers from four shops in Norwich met over pizza and beer over four evenings to train in MHFA. The projector was balanced on barber’s chairs and staff were still sweeping up hair whilst the training took place. The judges especially wanted to recognise that fact that these barbers will be using their MHFA skills on members of the public sat in their chairs, and in the streets in October, when they are going to offer haircuts and a listening ear to homeless people. This is a real reminder that MHFA skills can be used anywhere and at any time to identify and support anyone.

Most Creative Entry into the Awards

Our instructors are a creative community and we wanted to encourage them to enter the awards in creative ways. When we announced that applications to the awards were open, we encouraged our instructors to submit their entries using alternative media. This award recognises the most creative of those entries.

Winner: Hazel Sawyers
Hazel Sawyers collects her award

The judges met in a small subterranean windowless room on a grey day in London. One nomination above all others brought smiles to their faces. Hazel's entry captured the typical background sounds she and her delegates hear while she is delivering training - mooing cows!


Excellence in Training Award

This award is to recognise this instructor's lifetime achievement in delivering Mental Health First Aid to a consistently high standard across a range of different audiences.

Winner: Peter Larkum
Peter Larkum receives his award

Peter’s nomination award arrived with a portfolio of participant testimonies to his skills, passion and dedication to delivering training across seven MHFA products. Words like care, humour, charm, sensitivity, fantastic, jokes and honesty were peppered throughout all the feedback. The judges recognised Peter’s skill in successfully and sensitively delivering MHFA training to participants from a wide range of different organisations since 2010.   

The judges also presented three special awards to the following people to recognise their outstanding contribution and energy towards MHFA England in the last 10 years:

Most Supportive National Trainer

This special judges’ award is to recognise a member of our national training team who is consistently supportive.

Winner: Clive Stevenson
Clive Stevenson accepts his award

Clive was nominated for an award by one of his mentees on an Adult MHFA Instructor Training programme. She writes that Clive supported her development and confidence as an instructor and has been a sounding board for ideas and a cheerleader in her corner. Whenever she needed someone to talk to she writes that he ‘would listen and really hear her’. The judges concurred with this assessment of Clive’s dedication and passion towards MHFA England and his colleagues within it.


Most Inspirational Individual Award

This special judges’ award is to recognise the achievements of a member of the MHFA England team in inspiring their colleagues and the instructor community, and going above and beyond to be constantly supportive.

Winner: Caroline Hounsell
Caroline Hounsell accepts her award

The judges wholeheartedly agreed with a nomination which described Caroline as consistently genuinely caring, and quietly providing great advice as well as moral and emotional support, as well as being fantastic to work with and bounce ideas off. Caroline Hounsell was presented with this special award as a thank you and in recognition of all of her hard work, vivaciousness and energy from 2007 to the present day. 


Special Recognition Award

This special judges’ award is to recognise the significant achievement of this instructor to spread the word about Mental Health First Aid training, and to champion increasing mental health awareness and literacy in the wider community.

Winner: Kathryn Grant
Kathryn Grant accepts her special recognition award

Kathryn was presented with this special award for the breadth, innovation, commitment and dedication she has shown to MHFA England in a startling number of ways. She is a shining example of an ambassador, instructor, innovator and a tireless driver of change. Kathryn has been a superb asset to the Marketing and Communications team, lending her time and expertise to enable us to respond flexibly to media opportunities and championing MHFA training on programmes such as Radio 4’s You and Yours and ITV’s lunchtime and ten o’clock news.

Congratulations to all our award winners and nominees!

People at the conference


After the award ceremony and lunch, a Q&A session was held with the directors of MHFA England, followed by workshops on:

  • Marketing and Communications, hosted by Eleanor Miller, Director of Marketing and Communications 

  • Mental Health Services: Recovery and WRAP, hosted by Dr Anne Crawford-Docherty and Lakhvir Rellon of MERIT Vanguard

  • Ten Keys to Happier Living, hosted by Vanessa King of Action for Happiness

  • Workplace: Client Experience Team, hosted by Jaan Madan, Head of Client Experience Team 

  • Youth MHFA in Schools Programme, hosted by Jessica Agudelo, Regional Development Lead, Product Development and Partnerships

If you are a registered instructor you can download the slides from these workshops from your instructor dashboard.

People at the conference


Here is some of the wonderful feedback we have received about the event:

  • "What a wonderful day yesterday. I felt it got the balance just right in terms of location, duration, content and atmosphere. Your address was excellent Poppy. Particularly good was the warm welcome, helpfulness and “vibe” from all the wider MHFA team in the white t-shirts who just demonstrated exactly what we are about. I thought they were just great."
  • "I have just returned from your 10th Ann Conference. What an excellent event! It was so valuable and inspiring. Oh, and the food was nice too."
  • "I feel the need to say how much I appreciate having caught up with you all yesterday. I had no specific expectations of the day (such days can be variable in my experience) however this one was worthwhile for me." ​
  • "Please extend my thanks to everyone involved in organising the 10th Anniversary Conference yesterday at the NCC. It was memorable occasion and I really enjoyed and appreciated it. The speakers and workshops were great and the venue and food and service, and the stewards' help and guidance were fantastic (the cake was lovely as well)."
  • "Just to say thank you for such a great day! I feel really proud to be a Youth MHFA instructor & part of it all. What a lot you have all achieved in 10 years! It really is amazing. Thank you for treating us to lunch, cake and to a fantastic day." 

For another view, check out Instructor Jane McNeice's blog post about the day.  

People at the conference

A big thank you to everyone who attended - and to those who couldn't attend but showed their support on social media. Here's to another decade of MHFA and training one in ten of the population!

The MHFA England central team