Dedicated mental health campaigner Ben Salmons has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bedfordshire in recognition of his outstanding contribution to mental health services.
Ben, who battled his own mental health challenges, created the Break the Stigma initiative to help people across Bedfordshire understand more about the subject and to tackle common misconceptions.
The 35-year-old from Ampthill attended a graduation ceremony at the University’s Putteridge Bury campus in Luton today (Wednesday 26 July) where he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science.
He described the doctorate as a ‘huge honour’ and added: “I really hope it will help others who are struggling with mental health difficulties see that things can get better.
“When I was ill, I never thought anything like this would be possible, but getting help and support really did turn my life around".
Ben received a rousing round of applause when he used his acceptance speech to personally thank his mum, Ann, for her unconditional true love throughout the good times and bad.
He also paid tribute to the care and compassion of Michelle Bradley, Director of Bedfordshire Mental Health and Wellbeing Services, who has personally supported him throughout his mental health journey and was among Ben's personal guests at the ceremony.
Bill Rammell, University Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, praised Ben for his tireless campaign work and said: “The achievements that Ben has made, both in his personal and professional life, are inspirational.”
Ben is now employed by ELFT to continue his campaign work and encourage healthy, open discussion about mental health.
The main focus of the campaign is for people to write a message on a white board headed ‘Let’s Be Open About Mental Health to Break the Stigma’.
They are pictured with their comment and the image is shared through the campaign Facebook page and @LetsBreakStigma on Twitter, as well as the official East London NHS Foundation Trust Facebook page and @NHS_ELFT Twitter account.
It has been running for nearly two years and been supported by hundreds of people including the public, service users, Trust staff, MPs, Bedfordshire Police, East of England Ambulance Service and high-profile mental health author and vlogger Jonny Benjamin.
Ben has also given talks to university students and held sessions through the Bedfordshire Mental Health Academy and Recovery College, run in partnership by the Trust and the University.