Mental health came under the spotlight at a unique Sandwell event aimed at improving care and support in the community. More than 50 people took part in the Ideas Festival held at West Bromwich Town Hall and hosted by the borough’s Mental Health People’s Parliament and rights-based organisation Changing Our Lives. The event focused on ‘community places of safety’, where people can go for support.

Community places of safety are local cafes and businesses, which are open in the evening and during the night, for people with a range of mental health, from good to poor, and who want friendship, support or a distraction.  Melissa Newell, Mental Health People’s Parliament MP, said: "I was really pleased to see such a great turnout and be part of an event that gave people the safety and the freedom to think outside of the box. Be the change you want to see."

Speaker Dr Rosalind Frampton, from Changing Our Lives, who has visited five community places of safety around the country, told people about their advantages and disadvantages before delegates gave pledges about how they can help set up community places of safety in Sandwell.

Councillor Preet Gill, Sandwell Council's mental health champion, said: "There was a really great turnout for this event and as a result a working group has been set up to organise and develop community places of safety in Sandwell.

"We want to make sure people get the support they need to live full and independent lives."

And Councillor Ann Shackleton, the council's cabinet member for social care, who also attended, added: "We are committed to addressing mental health issues and supporting the idea of establishing a 'place of safety' in each town.

"If you experience a mental health crisis in the evening, would you want to wait in A&E for hours on end? Or would you prefer to chat with others who understand what you're going through at a community place of safety? This is the kind of thing we discussed and will address thanks to the festival."

The festival was opened by James Morris, MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis, and delegates included Melissa Newell, Leon Blake and Mareesha Morris, who are Mental Health People's Parliament MPs, Dr Rosalind Frampton, staff from Sandwell Council, the police, fire service, local faith organisations and charities, which are all working to improve services and support for mental health.