A mental health nurse and charity founder has been given an honorary doctorate from University of Warwick.
Alex Cotton MBE, a mental health nurse of 25 years, founded It Takes Balls to Talk, Coventry and Warwickshire’s ground-breaking campaign to get men talking about mental health issues.
The campaign was launched in 2016 and puts volunteers at major sporting fixtures in order to signpost the mainly male crowds to mental health services and support.
Alex was working in the crisis team when the idea for the campaign came about.
Now, she's been recognised by University of Warwick for her work, and has been given an honorary doctorate.
She said: “We realised that mental health services need to take messages to where men are, because men aren’t coming to us.
“It was at a football match Boxing Day 2016, at Coventry. We trained volunteers to start up conversations: Would you know where to seek support if you ever felt down? Would you know where to seek support if a friend or a relative felt down?
"So it was increasing the access to mental health services and the other services in the third sector which can pick up people and support people so that they don’t have to come to us.”
Alex added that it is brilliant for Coventry and Warwickshire that the campaign was picked up nationally.
She said: “We are looking at the real evidence that we are having an impact. We know that there has been an increase in referrals.
"People have come back and said because you were here I got support; because you were here I got my brother support.”
What next for the charity?
After the campaign to get people to talk went nationwide, now Alex is moving the campaign onto the next level.
She will now be undertaking research with Warwick Medical School and finding out how to communicate with more men to open up.
Alex added: “I’m now working alongside Professor Paul Sutcliffe in the Medical School at Warwick to research how we can engage even more men with It Takes Balls to Talk.
“It’s making it more accessible and more language-friendly. What actual words and language links men to opening up? If we can research that, we are onto rocket fuel – we are into science that really can save lives.”