AROUND 100 people found the time to talk and to listen at a mental health conference last week.

Organised by Cockermouth Rotary, with help from members of the Bassenthwaite Rotary Club and funding from GDF Allerdale, the conference followed the theme of the 'Time to Talk' national campaign.

It brought together a powerful panel of speakers who told their own - often heartbreaking - stories and how they have coped.

Among the speakers was Andy Airey, one of the Three Dads Walking, who have visited every parliament in the UK to raise awareness and money for suicide charities after their daughters tragically took their own lives.

Working with Papyrus, they have a petition for getting suicide prevention into all schools. This will be debated in parliament on March 13.

Emily brought the audience to tears with the story of her journey, including childhood trauma and a mental health condition that never leaves her and the many ups and downs that result from it.

She said she has overcome so much sadness and loss to be in a much better place and being able to positively manage her mental health on a daily basis and now works for TogetherWe, coordinating the activities for the North Cumbria Recovery College.

Alison and Dave spoke of putting their own heartbreak into doing something. Alison set up a suicide bereavement group, Oreet Marras in Maryport, while Dave has just set up an Andy's Man Club in Workington.

Times and Star: Andy Airey, one of the Three Dads Walking, makes a point at the Rotary Club's rental health conference in CockermouthAndy Airey, one of the Three Dads Walking, makes a point at the Rotary Club's rental health conference in Cockermouth (Image: TpmKay)

Maryport GP and mental health lead, Dan Berkeley, told of the social prescribers offering a local perspective of mental health in a local community and the different offers of support from your local surgery.

Alastair Sharp from Samaritans West Cumbria talked of the free confidential help available 24/7.

Terry Peate from Cockermouth Linking Lives spoke about a local befriending service for those feeling socially isolated and needing a friend. 

Vicki Boggon and Ian Alcock spoke of Every Life Matters – a local charity promoting suicide-safer communities, suicide-safer schools programmes and providing suicide bereavement support to local people bereaved by suicide.

Adam Day from The Farmer Network  gave a presentation about the mental health struggles within our farming communities.

The conference was opened by Rotary president Julia Mather and Cockermouth Mayor Andy Semple.

Speakers and delegates were thanked for attending by Rotary District Governor Kath Bromilow MBE and Cumbria’s High Sheriff Alan McViety closed the day reminding people to be kind to each other.