A WHITEHAVEN woman is striving for change around mental health in the workplace and the community.

Lauren McAdam, 34, of Mirehouse, helped set up the wellbeing forum at Sellafield. It was a joint venture between Lauren’s employer, Morgan Sindall, and Balfour Beatty to promote mental health within the site’s contracting companies. Those involved have all been fully trained in mental health first aid.

Since then the forum has been rolled out into the community and now collaborates with mental health groups including Always Another Way Ltd, Hug-a-Mug and Mind West Cumbria.

Each month the forum explores a mental health issue and last month this was suicide awareness.

Lauren said: “Mental health, especially suicide, has touched everybody in our local area. I think the problem is bigger than any of us know. The more we get talking and the more we normalise these things, the stigma’s broken down and we’re encouraging people to talk.”

She believes that West Cumbria is at “hinge point” for suicide.

“I think there’s a lot of contributing factors to that. I think we have a poverty divide – you’ve got these people at Sellafield who are earning really good wages and then you’ve got either unemployment or really low-paid jobs. There’s no middle gap. I think that’s when some people slip through the net.”

Lauren now wants to see people look out for one another more. “We may ask if someone is ok but we never press that. I think we’re probably frightened of the answer. I would encourage people to press – ask if someone is OK and if you’re not happy when they say, ‘yeah, I’m all right’, press it even further. I think we’ve got a responsibility to take care of each other.”