Stevenage’s Mary Mitchell wins national mental health hero award

Mary Mitchell received an award from The Sun newspaper for her work with people with mental health p

Mary Mitchell received an award from The Sun newspaper for her work with people with mental health problems. Picture: NICK JOHNS - Credit: Picture: NICK JOHNS

An incredible woman has been hailed a hero for her work with people who have mental health problems, winning a national award after being chosen from thousands of nominations.

Prime Minister Theresa May was on stage to honour unsung NHS heroes at The Sun’s Who Cares Wins health awards – with one of the winners being Stevenage’s Mary Mitchell.

Mary, who lives in Broadwater Crescent, was presented with the Mental Health Hero award by musician Professor Green for opening up her home to patients discharged from the mental health unit at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital.

Since 2011, the retired GP receptionist has hosted 37 patients, usually for no longer than six weeks but occasionally for up to three months.

Mary, 71, said: “I don’t think I do anything special. I’m a normal person with a bedroom to spare.

“When the crisis team at Lister feels a patient is ready to come off the ward, but isn’t quite ready to go home to look after themselves, the patient comes to me for some motivation and confidence to go home and do things by themselves.

“I have no medical training at all. The most important thing I offer is someone to talk to anytime of the day or night.”

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Garry Fry, who lives in Stevenage’s Chells Way, was cared for by Mary following a nervous breakdown in 2012.

The 59-year-old, who has a dissociative disorder, said: “I was at Lister for three months. They wanted to gradually reintroduce me to my family – I’m married and have two grown-up children – and felt it wouldn’t work if I was dropped straight back into the family home.

“I was placed with Mary and her help was invaluable.

“She is a wonderful woman. She was always there and very supportive.

“The most important thing Mary gives is space and time to the individual. She deserves this award so much.”

The awards, hosted in London by TV presenter Lorraine Kelly, are now in their second year.

Mary was nominated by a friend’s daughter, with the finalists voted for by Sun readers.

The host scheme involving Mary covers the whole of Hertfordshire. If you are interested in becoming a host and have a spare room, time to listen and no children under 18 at home, call Rosheen on 07768 131413.