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Dr Helen Paterson

Working to identify challenges and improve mental health outcomes

Dr Helen Paterson is Chief Executive of Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council.

Which part of the region do you live in and/or work in?

Work in Walsall, live in Shropshire.

Which organisation/sector/network are you representing on the Mental Health Commission?

Representing Local Authority sector on behalf of the West Midlands Metropolitan Councils’ Chief Executives Group

How does your role relate to the mental health agenda?

As Local Authority Chief Executive, I have supported the organisation and partners highlight the importance of mental health in the Borough.  Most recently demonstrated the need for the place-based partners to work together to support the long-term impact of the pandemic on residents’ mental wellbeing by encouraging the establishment of a Mental Health cell in the local Incident Management Team.  This provided for the first time a space where all partners, including the voluntary and community sectors, to share information and secure funding to further develop their work across place not just in response to the pandemic but across broader areas of mental health, including bereavement, isolation and loneliness.  Due to the recognised benefits of this cross-partner working, this cell has continued to meet following the Incident Management Team being stood down.

To demonstrate this leadership, I am also a Mental Health First Aider.

What are your particular areas of passion and interest, which you aim to champion through the work of the Commission?

My passion is to create safe spaces where people can talk and share. Spaces where we can get to know and understand each other better. Places of acceptance, kindness and joy.

What particular knowledge, skills & experience are you particularly seeking to ‘bring to the table’ to help to progress the work of the Commission?

I have a wide range of skills and knowledge both from my professional roles starting as a teacher, then headteacher before progressing into to senior management in local government and then as Chief Executive of two local authorities.  All of these roles have required leadership by encouraging people (children and adults) to think with clarity and simplicity, by focussing on those 1 or 2 things which have been agreed to be achieved, and then delivering them.  I believe in partnership working. collective decision making and responsibility – utilizing the right skills, knowledge and experience to build strong teams and enabling all members of the team to lead in their responsibilities, using their initiative with confidence. 

I am a Bevan Commissioner and JP. The experience from both these roles has been a key factor in making one of my priorities being the growth of resilient communities through reframing the relationship with the public and the local economy. I seek to harness the ideas, time and energy within communities to enable them to develop themselves into strong local providers of services. With the economy my focus is on investing in skills and securing investment for jobs. I believe these foci increase economic and social wellbeing and ultimately tackle inequality and poverty in our communities.  This in turn helps individual and community physical and mental wellbeing.

I have also been influential in shaping innovative practice nationally in England and Wales particularly within business transformation; digital enabling; governance arrangements; regeneration; alternative delivery models; social care; health and education. 

I also believe in contributing to the local community where I live and I have taken this same leadership approach in supporting communities to develop, thrive and deliver their goals whether that is through supporting local village hall trusts, volunteering in community projects, and sitting on community boards.

I have a strong commitment to accountability so that we should do what we say we will do and be transparent in our decision-making.

From a personal perspective, I am a keen daily swimmer and understand the benefits of physical activity assisting mental wellbeing.

And we should make things fun if we can, using humour when appropriate, even in difficult situations to help, encourage and support.

Image of a woman with the WMCA logo next to her