An inspirational GP from Kent who set up a programme that has helped hundreds of people battling with mental health problems has been recognised with a national honour.
Dr Farnaaz Sharief, of Rainham, has been given a British Citizen Award for her services to healthcare
The British Citizen Awards (BCAs) were launched in January 2015, to recognise exceptional individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society. BCAs are awarded twice annually, and recognise ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise be overlooked.
Dr Sharief, aged 42, started the ‘Manage Your Mind’ programme in 2012 after witnessing the widening gap in mental health support for patients with mild or moderate depression due to government cut backs. The first programme ran as a project funded by the International Association for Human Values with just five participants but numbers soon grew.
By February, this year, the project had become so successful that Dr Sharief successfully turned it into a Community Interest Company. The entire project is now run by a group of volunteers and facilitated by Dr Sharief.
The workshops provide practical support for participants in their personal and professional lives and are available to anyone in the community. The sessions consist of breathing techniques, exercises and stress busting sessions and mindfulness. Dr Sharief decided early on that the workshops had to be free, to make them accessible to everyone. Dr Sharief and the team are constantly applying for grants and fund raising to meet the demand within the community.
The workshops were designed to tackle depression, anxiety, stress and bereavement and have been running for the past four years. Dr Sharief’s aim was to teach individuals practical ways to manage these conditions on a daily basis. Now over 1,200 residents across Medway and Kent have participated and benefited from the workshops.
Dr Sharief has achieved much in the last four years, showing commitment and determination, setting up the programme, giving talks and workshops, sourcing funds and setting up the website and online web application. She has made a massive impact on the community’s mental health with drive, determination and passion for her cause.
People are able to self-refer to ‘Manage Your Mind’, which very rarely has a waiting list.
Once registered, patients can access the workshops when needed and can also attend on a drop-in basis. The programme has transformed the lives of those in the community suffering from mild to moderate depression or anxiety.
‘Manage Your Mind’ has been externally evaluated by the Centre of Health Services at the University of Kent, which found that those who completed the programme had seen anxiety levels reduced by 80 per cent and depression levels reduced by 75 per cent.
Dr Sharief is one of 30 medallists who will be honoured at a prestigious ceremony on July 6, at the Palace of Westminster. All BCA recipients have positively impact society undertaking various activities in support of a number of causes. Each will receive a Medal of Honour, inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’. Medallists are also invited to use the initials BCA after their name.
Speaking about her nomination, Dr Sharief said: “I’m really honoured to be receiving the award and I’m also pleased that people are recognising the importance of good mental health. I’m in a very stressful job and I participated in a similar workshop which really helped me and made a massive difference to me. I just wanted to be able to make that difference for others. The workshops are run completely by volunteers who give their time freely, many who have been on a previous workshop so understand what an impact they can have.”
The awards are in partnership with customer experience management company, InMoment, and are supported by the world’s largest optical retailer, Specsavers; one of the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK, Places for People; leading ethical law firm Irwin Mitchell; the UK and Europe’s leading palletised freight distribution company, Pall-Ex, owned by BCAs Patron Hilary Devey; and specialist marketing, PR and communications agency, Lime Marketing – who each had representatives at the assessment day and will be presenting the awards in July.
Dr Sharief was nominated for a BCA by former scheme participant Amanda Eveson, who now volunteers for the programme. She said: “Dr Sharief really does make a difference, she is admired and trusted, shows such innovation and commitment in helping to fill the gap in the services in difficult times. She hasn’t just sat there moaning about what the service can’t provide, she has done something about it. She is truly inspirational, diligent and one in a million.”
For more information about the British Citizen Award, please contact Sarah Hughes, Senior Account Manager at Lime PR on 07718108695
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Notes to Editors
The British Citizen Award recognises individuals that positively impact others and highlights the positive aspects of multi-cultural communities, workplaces, community groups and charities throughout the UK. It is accessible to all and serves to celebrate the good things that make Britain great.
There is no fee for making a nomination. Nominees who are granted a BCA will be invited to attend the Presentation Day at the Palace of Westminster. Presentations are held twice annually in January and July.
The full list of categories for the British Citizen Awards are:
BCAc for Service to Community
BCAi for Service to Industry
BCAa for Service to Arts
BCAe for Services to Education
BCAh for services to Healthcare
BCAb for Service to Business
BCAv for Volunteering & Charitable Giving
BCAo for International Achievement
BCA founding supporters include medal manufacturer, Bigbury Mint; Big Bus Tour London, Places for People; Pall-Ex and Church House Conference Centre.