The first Community Tree was developed in 2013 by Brentwood Community Print (BCP), a Community Interest Company based in Warley, Essex that provide employment and supported work experience for people in recovery from mental illness. The Brentwood Community tree was the brainchild of Audrey Clark alongside other former services users recovering from mental ill-health. They identified the need for a single point of reference to help signpost and work collectively with local partner organisations, all of whom provide support for people that are experiencing mental ill-health and/or related problems.
Audrey said, “We found that we were trying to solve each other’s problems with little or no knowledge of what help was locally available. The idea of a tree is not a new one, but I wanted to create a Community Tree to form the basis of a leaflet that would give the general public and GP’s local information on mental health support.”
The leaflet was natural route for BCP who, as a Community Interest Company, is well known amongst local business and residents for its print services. All profits from sales are re-invested into its community interest activities.
Brentwood Council, Brentwood CVS and the Mental Health Commissioner at the Clinical Commissioning group have supported the Brentwood Community Tree who have in turn been able to reach 26,000 households, over 200 third sector organisations and GP’s and patients at surgeries spread across the Brentwood Borough.
Jo Cory, from Brentwood Council said, “the project we are most proud of is the creation and continuing development of the Essex Community Tree Network. The network was formed to breakdown the barriers of mental illnesses within communities and the workforce by developing an information service of organisations that support people with their wellbeing and creating awareness of these services to support and help prevent mental health crisis.”
Audrey has brought together 24 organisations under the umbrella of the Brentwood Community Tree, including; Chat 1s at the Brentwood Leisure Centre, Homestart, Futures In Mind and Frontline Partnership. “Audrey is an extremely inspiring lady. She is selfless and always keen to help others. She is highly regarded in the local community and amongst colleagues,” Jo Cory states.
Audrey commented on the success of the Brentwood Community Tree and said, “the services advertised through the Community Tree can save lives and help prevent a crisis. If you need a plumber, you would look in the yellow pages to mend the broken pipe. Now if you have a mental health issue, you have the Brentwood Community Tree – and it’s far more colourful.”
The success of this initiative has now led to the development of the wider Essex Community Tree, creating other local tree networks in Basildon (including Billericay and Wickford), Braintree and Maldon, with Chelmsford coming soon. Audrey’s ultimate aim is to have a community tree in each of the local district areas and to help support any many people in Essex as possible in their time of need.
To find out more about Essex Community Tree, please visit https://www.essexcommunitytree.net/
We thank Audrey and all her continue hard work to make a positive difference to her local community and this is why she has been awarded our May 1 in a Million award.