New High Sheriff of Norfolk pledges to highlight ‘amazing’ work of mental health staff

Lady Dannatt speaking at the Royal British Legion women's section AGM in Norwich.

Lady Dannatt speaking at the Royal British Legion women's section AGM in Norwich. - Credit: Archant © 2009

The new High Sheriff of Norfolk has pledged to help break down the stigma surrounding mental illness during her year in office.

Lady Dannatt, who took on the historic role last month, said she was keen to highlight issues around mental health and promote the work of those working in mental health services in the county.

The trained counsellor said: 'I want to publicise and normalise mental illness and I want to thank those people who work in the mental health arena for the enormously valuable work they do.'

Lady Dannatt, who lives in Keswick, near Norwich, also plans to visit the region's prisons where 70pc of inmates suffer some form of mental health problems.

'I believe that the main purpose of my role as High Sheriff is to be responsible for all aspects of the criminal justice system in the county. It seems to me that a significant number of the men and women who fall foul of the law, do so because they suffer from various mental health disorders. One in five of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives but there is still a huge stigma attached to mental illness. We don't talk about it and, as a result, far too many people with mental health problems end up on the streets or on the wrong side of the criminal justice system,' she said.

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Lady Dannatt, the wife of General Sir Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff, trained as a counsellor 15 years ago and worked with the charity Relate in GPs' surgeries where she came across many people battling with mental health problems.

She added that there were many 'amazing' people working within the mental health arena in Norfolk.

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'They are dedicated, committed and often brave in the work they undertake, and they need our support. We have so many outstanding men and women working within the mental health arena here in Norwich, in the public, private and charitable sectors, especially within the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. They all have a significant role to play and they're doing a brilliant job in difficult circumstances. And that should be sung from the rooftops.'

'I hope that, by bringing mental health issues into the public domain, I can help to reduce some of the stigma that still attaches itself to mental health problems today. Many people fail to realise that you can recover from a lot of mental illness. That's why it's so important that we ensure these people receive adequate support and treatment, alongside ongoing kindness, understanding and care,' she said.

The role of High Sheriff dates back to Saxon times to support the Crown and the judiciary. For Lady Dannatt, there is a strong family tradition too, as both her father and grandfather were High Sheriffs of Norfolk.

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