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Liz's Column Office News

Liz’s column, February 2019

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week and as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Suicide and Self-Harm, meetings and campaigns around mental health play a large part in my Parliamentary diary.

I recently met with Action for Children at the launch of “Build Sound Minds” – a new campaign to help parents to create a positive space to talk about mental health and well-being with their children.

Giving parents the tools for holding conversations about mental health can make a big difference, so that talking over issues of loneliness, low self-esteem, stress and anxiety become a normal part of every day life.

A self-assessment tool produced by Action for Children showed that a third of 15 to 18-year-olds were found to have worries about their mental health. I know that our local services here are struggling to cope with increasing demand, as young people face more pressures at school and at home.

Action for Children are also pioneering early help interventions for teenagers coping with depression. Their “Blues” Programme is the first of its kind, which aims to reduce the early signs of low mood and negative thoughts in adolescents.

Their evidence shows the impact that this early intervention can have, and I am pleased to hear of similar intervention work in Whickham School, in my constituency, who have embedded mental health workers to support pupils who need to talk.

A fortnight ago I also hosted an event with Samaritans and other MPs to reach out to anyone who might be lonely over a cup of tea. We turned ‘Blue Monday’ – often described in the media as ‘the most difficult day of the year’ – on its head by renaming it ‘Brew Monday’.

Brew Monday is about asking people to do something simple and practical to help others: take time for a cuppa and a chat with anyone who may be going through a tough time. I’m delighted to support Samaritans in this initiative.

I am always pleased to support our many different charities and health services who provide vital support to people dealing with mental health issues. The government says it is working towards parity between mental health and physical health and its about time they put their money where their mouth is.

With one in four of my constituents working in the retail sector, my constituency, Blaydon, is reliant on our high street, the MetroCentre and the Team Valley retail park.

These are difficult times for retail and before Christmas we received notice that Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct intended to pull their House of Fraser store out of the MetroCentre, causing real uncertainty for employees.

As a member of the Communities, Housing and Local Government Select Committee I was able to ask Mike Ashley about the decision, when he attended a session to give evidence of the challenges in retail. I am pleased to report that House of Fraser and the other Sports Direct-owned stores in the MetroCentre are now set to stay.

Micropubs are popping up in many of our local centres. Last week I was pleased to visit the lively One Eyed Stag in Whickham. Across my constituency we have a number of other new micropubs including Awa The Road in Swalwell, The Red House in Chopwell, Wig’s Place in High Spen and The Lane Head in Ryton. Its great to see many of these smaller venues selling locally brewed real ales.

Speaking of pubs, a year ago I joined local residents to start a campaign to save our local pub, Ye Olde Cross, in Ryton. The pub, in the heart of Ryton old village has a long tradition of being at the heart of local events such as the Carols and the “Ryton Hirings” fair.

A year on more than 300 of us have clubbed together to purchase community shares in the pub and we are now raising money to refurbish, re-open and re-establish it.

So, to everyone who is taking part in the Save Our Ye Olde Cross campaign, lets raise a glass and say cheers!

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