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MP's hair cut helps to publicise mental health campaign

October 5, 2010 3:13 PM

Huppert supporting mental health campaignSporting Cambridge MP Julian Huppert stepped up to take some personal cuts yesterday (Monday, October 4) … for a major boost to a regional mental health campaign.

Julian declined radical changes to his hair as he met professional city stylist, Piero Dangelico and chatted about the need to stamp out stigma in mental health.

The Liberal Democrat MP put his weight behind the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust-led Heads Up! campaign which has signed up 500 salons in the East of England to promote the simple message: 'It's ok to talk about mental health'.

Julian said: 'People find terminal illnesses and HIV more acceptable to talk about than mental health. We should be focused on people becoming more resilient when things go wrong and support across the whole mental health spectrum is important.'

With one in four people experiencing a mental health problem at some time in their life, he added: "I think we should be helping people to get on with their lives by focusing on the positive. Mental health has always been grossly underfunded and deserves our support, especially as we may well be one of those people who will need help in the future.'

Mill Road stylist, Piero said: 'Customers trust me to do what's best for them and it's important the way you transmit that trust to the person. That's what the Heads Up! campaign is all about, people being able to talk in confidence to their hairdresser about mental illness.

'It's something I have always done, talking through a range of personal issues that my customers may want to discuss. We are doctors of a sort - care doctors - the challenge is to put a smile on people's faces!,' joked the Italian-born stylist.

Julian, whose mother Felicia is a professor of psychology at Cambridge University, said positive psychology explored optimistic aspects of a person's life to assist treatment:

"Happiness and wellbeing are related to things like the number of friends you have or where you live." he said. "It's important to give people support networks to make them more resilient when things go wrong.

Heads Up! has targeted 5,000 salons in the East of England to get people talking to their hairdressers and barbers about mental health, and is part of the national Time To Change initiative to remove the stigma surrounding illnesses which can range from work stress to schizophrenia or manic depression.

Salons taking part are receiving special information packs, containing drip mats, posters, bookmarks and much more, to help staff become a listening ear - they are not expected to be counsellors.