North Tyneside Mental Health and Wellbeing champion Ali Donkin has been awarded joint winner of the Outstanding Contribution to the Mental Health Sector’ award in the national Mental Health and Wellbeing Awards.

These UK-wide annual awards celebrate those making a difference to people’s mental health and wellbeing and are judged by representatives from national mental health organisations.

Ali is Lead Facilitator and the driving force behind VODA’s NT LIFE Recovery College for North Tyneside. NT LIFE was commissioned by North Tyneside CCG in 2019 and has grown steadily over the last two years, adapting throughout the Covid pandemic to ensure it continued to provide vital support to people during the challenges of lockdown. NT LIFE operates a busy schedule of courses designed to enable people to become experts in their own self-care by developing the skills and confidence required to manage their own unique journey of ‘recovery’.

Ali has established the NT Life service on the belief that people with lived experience of mental ill-health have a unique contribution to make towards supporting others to manage their own conditions.

The nomination was submitted on behalf of NT Life participants who had this to say about Ali:

“Ali is one of the most genuine, congruent people I have met in a world where authenticity is so often lacking. Her lived experience brings with it a deep empathy for and understanding of the challenges which most of us at NT Life face. She is without a doubt the superglue that has stuck our NT Life 'family' together, through thick and thin. Ali is always very inclusive and crucially makes sure that everyone is listened to, heard and understood. She has a great knack of being able to help others see different, more positive perspectives and has a gift for being able to spot others hidden talents/skills and bring them to the fore. I am in awe of how much she has helped us all to develop as individuals and collectively as a recovery college too. I feel pride in witnessing so many changed people, eureka moments and new learning that she has helped to inspire with her enthusiastic, engaging and fun nature.”

Richard Daniel Curtis, the chair of the UK's Mental Health and Wellbeing Awards said: "Alison clearly is passionate about the work she does and this has had a significant impact on multiple people over years, the judges felt this contribution towards the sector deserved recognition."

Robin Fry, Chief Executive at VODA commented: “We are absolutely delighted that Ali’s hard work and commitment to supporting people to manage their mental health and wellbeing has received this national recognition. Ali is an inspiration to everyone at NT LIFE, as well as to her colleagues at VODA, who have been lucky to experience first-hand her passion and enthusiasm as she encourages us to remember to take time for our own self-care and emotional wellbeing.”

With thanks to North Tyneside VODA for providing this article and photograph