Shropshire Star

High Sheriff keen to help tackle mental health issues in Shropshire

Mental health is the “hidden iceberg in society” as the UK gradually returns to normal, Shropshire’s High Sheriff has warned.

High Sheriff of Shropshire, Tony Morris-Eyton, in talks with Kelda Wood, founder of the charity Climbing Out.

Tony Morris-Eyton has held talks on suicide, children’s wellbeing, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence, since taking over his role three months ago.

He today spoke about his attempt to meet a range of organisations that offer crisis help and day-to-day counselling, as well as talking to individuals about their own experiences.

Mr Morris-Eyton has also spoken to North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson about his public campaign to raise awareness of suicide, which the former Cabinet minister launched after his wife Rose took her life last year.

The Rose Paterson Trust supports organisations and individuals working to reduce the annual suicide rate, which claimed nearly 6,000 lives in the UK in 2019 – prior to the strains the disruption of the pandemic.

Mr Morris-Eyton said: “There is no doubt that nearly 18 months of tens of thousands of deaths, tough lockdown restrictions that separated families, the desperate loneliness of people forced to shield alone, the loss of livelihoods and so many other factors, has damaged many people’s mental wellbeing.

"A significant number will need help and guidance.

“I’m particularly concerned that a whole generation of children have had their education severely impaired, and not just academically. The chance to develop essential social skills was denied for months and we need to ensure that there is no lasting damage.”

High Sheriff of Shropshire, Tony Morris-Eyton.

Mr Morris-Eyton wants to use his role to raise awareness of help groups, and encourage more financial and voluntary support.

He has had three meetings with the Children’s Society, which helps those up to the age of 25 with minor mental health issues.

“The aim is to provide consultation within 48 hours of being contacted through a combination of full-time staff and volunteers," he said.

“All the staff are trained to offer different levels of support and parents are fully aware of any consultation.”

Mr Morris-Eyton has spoken to the head of Shrewsbury-based Samaritans, which has nearly 90 volunteers covering the county, as well as over the border in Welshpool and Herefordshire, with a separate organisation in Telford. The latest figures show 131 suicides in two years in the county.

“Samaritans, which is totally self-funded, provides round-the-clock support for people in desperate distress and, after the past year and a half, has never been more important,” Mr Morris-Eyton said.

The High Sheriff also met Heather Ireland, CEO of Shropshire Mental Health Support, which works closely with, but independently of, Samaritans.  He held an online meeting about The Armed Forces Covenant, a charity aimed at supporting ex-servicemen.

“These former soldiers are often from less advantaged areas and come out of the army with little or no training or skills for the wider world. Their problems are generally with employment, housing and adapting to civilian life in general. There are potentially 10 million people encompassed by the wider Covenant. This includes not only ex-members of the forces but also widows and widowers and families who have military connections.”

Mr Morris-Eyton visited the Shrewsbury offices of the personal support charity Crane Quality Counselling. It helps a wide range of people including families, forces veterans, prisoners and the homeless.

He said: “I met CEO Lin Foley and some of her team of volunteers and heard in detail about Crane’s vital work in the community, including ‘teen talk’, a new counselling service for schools.”

The High Sheriff has also met Kelda Wood, founder of Climbing Out which operates nationwide from its base near Worthen. The independent charity works with anyone aged 18 or over who has been through a life-changing injury, illness or trauma, as well as victims of bullying or abuse, and survivors of terrorism or crime.

High Sheriff of Shropshire, Tony Morris-Eyton, with some of the Shrewsbury Town in the Community team at the Montgomery Waters Meadow.

Mr Morris-Eyton has held three meetings with Shrewsbury Town in the Community.

“Its main aims are promoting health and wellbeing and better life chances, building a stronger community and reducing crime.”

He is also trying to shine a light on smaller charities.

He said: “I met Rebecca Blount who runs Recharge Telford which does great work with young people aged 12 to 21 who either have issues with drugs, alcohol or other forms of addiction or who live with a family member who does. There are currently 15 young people being helped by the programme.”

The High Sheriff spoke to Beth Abbott from Bridgnorth and Gary Thompson from Ludlow, who both battled addiction, alcohol in Beth’s case and drink and drugs in Gary’s.

“Both have turned their lives around, are very eloquent and aim to spread their message through a series of BTDT (Been There, Done That) workshops, which they aim to take into schools, targeting primarily young people aged 13 to 16.”

The High Sheriff got involved in Shropshire Wellbeing Day in June and most recently met staff at the Wellington offices of counselling service TACT Telford which helps people with drug, alcohol and mental health issues.

“The team of around 40 is made up of mostly volunteers with some paid staff and is doing great work.”

Mr Morris-Eyton added: “The past three months has shown me the scale of the mental health challenge. In the post-pandemic world, it will be a major issue.”

  • If you have been affected by this article contact Samaritans on 116 123 or at

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