Robert's Weekly Article - 27th April 2016

April is Stress Awareness Month, an important time to increase awareness about how different types of stress might be affecting our health, relationships and work life and what steps we can take to manage it. 

Mental health is an issue close to my heart and I’ve done a great deal of work on this in South Swindon and in Parliament and I am pleased that the Government has recently agreed to a complete overhaul of the system.

The word stress is often used to describe the feelings that we experience when the demands on us are greater than our ability to cope. Most of us will have experienced times when we have felt overloaded, under tremendous pressure and very tense or emotional. Stress can cause mental health problems and make existing problems worse. People who often struggle to manage symptoms of stress may develop a mental health problem like anxiety or depression.

Quite often, mental health conditions, particularly in children and young people, go undiagnosed, untreated or unnoticed. I’m pleased that our Government is taking positive steps to change this and put mental health on an equal footing with physical health.

There are several charities in Swindon who work hard to support the needs of local people experiencing mental health problems. One such Charity is Willows Counselling service. This local charity has worked hard for over twenty years to provide counselling and support to those suffering the effects of trauma and is committed to the local community, often working alongside other outreach programmes.

TWIGS (Therapeutic Work in Gardening in Swindon) are another fantastic local charity who support those experiencing mental health problems. The charity was set up in 1997 by a local lady who realised the therapeutic benefits that working with nature could bring.

TWIGS now provides places for up to 100 people, allowing them the opportunity to work on projects across Swindon and link with the wider community. The community gardens are managed by TWIGS as a resource to give people experiencing mental health problems the chance to regain confidence, self-esteem and to learn new skills. The gardens operate alongside a thriving craft studio and an enterprising woodcraft department. Many wonderful pieces are produced, often from recycled materials. These are displayed throughout the Gardens and items are also available to purchase. TWIGS hold several open days throughout the year and I can highly recommend a visit. Further details about events and the charity can be found by visiting

At the beginning of the year, the Prime Minister announced a range of new measures which form an investment package of almost a billion pounds to enhance mental health services across the country. As a backbench MP, I campaigned for improved ways of monitoring mental health treatments and even introduced a Bill in Parliament to help get the issue on the agenda. I was very glad to see that the Government listened. 

It was good to meet with local residents at my surgery here in Wood Street on Friday. On Saturday, I enjoyed attending a St George's Day Celebration for Swindon Ridgeway Scouts at the Nationwide Pavilion, and on Sunday, I attended the Little Big Festival at the Town Gardens. I was delighted to be there to celebrate the festival’s third birthday and enjoyed the performances by talented pupils from The Commonweal School who wowed the crowds around the bandstand. 

I hold regular surgeries at my constituency office on Wood Street. If you would like to make an appointment to raise a local or national issue with me, please do not hesitate to contact my office on 01793 533393 or send an email to