Wednesday, 4 March 2015


ROZ Copson moved to Dorset in 1980 and has lived in West Bay for seven years. She continuously campaigns for a better mental health service in the area and helps and those living with a mental health illness through two support groups – Moving On and Harmony Drop-in. Roz previously worked as a radar operator in the Women’s Royal Army Corps and the assistant to the head of security in the Intelligence Corps before working as a prison officer at the a borstal for women. She was also recently named as runner-up in Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s South West Mental Health Hero awards.

COULD you tell us a bit more about what Moving On and the Harmony Drop-in centre offer?
They both offer a much needed place to go to meet others, find support and friendship, and get in touch with activities, groups, courses or community events or advice and signposting.  Moving On, as a registered charity, has also provided facilitators for activities such as swimming, many craft activities and outings. Harmony has only been open for a few weeks, but members have started cooking, art, craft and music activities. The two groups complement each other.

HOW did you work with the centres come about?
I suffer from OCD, a very debilitating psychiatric disorder. I found working incredibly difficult and each time I was offered promotion, I found the responsibility became too much. However, I do need to fill my time and I also want to help fellow sufferers from mental illness as much as I can. A lot of service users don't want to speak out about the hardships and, often, injustice they suffer, and I made up my mind that I would always speak out on their behalf. I was a volunteer at the Dorset Mental Health Forum, which led to founding the forum's Oak Tree social club – something which everyone at the time thought was impossible to achieve.  Since then, I've volunteered at the Moving On group in Bridport, and last year was one of three founders of the new Harmony drop-in centre in Downes Street.

YOU have also campaigned a lot about cuts to mental health services, could you tell us more about this and what you have done?
Mental health has never been funded equally with physical health in Dorset.  The present cuts bear more heavily on the mental health services as beds have been cut and in-patients might be in hospital many, many miles away. The home treatment strategy is under severe pressure because of lack of staff. I joined the HUGS campaign against the bed closures at the Hughes Unit at Bridport Hospital and I brought a judicial review of Dorset Healthcare Trust's lack of proper consultation over the changes. It was hard, and we didn't win, though some strong criticisms of the process were made, but I feel the campaign has really highlighted service users' rights to be consulted. I speak up for this whenever I can, and I've been interviewed on radio, TV and in the press. I must pay tribute to the work done by HUGS leader Simon Williams and so many other service users and carers to get the service they deserve.

WHAT is next to come for the Harmony Drop-in centre? What do you hope it achieves?
We're growing fast! We have more members, meaning we're reaching more people who would otherwise be struggling alone. Hearing members say that they're gaining strength from attending and helping each other, as they do, is part of what we hope for. We want to end the stigma still surrounding mental illness in some people's minds, by showing just what we can achieve.

DO you think the Harmony Drop-in centre and Moving On group have been helpful in the local area?
Definitely yes! For some people it is truly a lifeline. You would never believe how much members and volunteers have taken it to their hearts. For people to be able to help themselves to get on a sound footing, whether with their friends, families, work or learning, must be helpful to everyone in the community. There is such an atmosphere of friendship and optimism. 

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party? 
The Duchess of Cambridge, because she seems so friendly and unaffected, I'd love to talk to her, the manager of my football team, Spurs, and Judith, who is the owner of Paddy, the Berkshire Search and Rescue dog I sponsor - as long as Paddy comes too.

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