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Mental health charity founder awarded Welsh legend status

A Pembrokeshire woman who set up a mental health charity after her husband tragically took his own life has received a prestigious National Lottery Award for her work in supporting people in rural communities with poor mental health.  

As part of the 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards, Emma Picton-Jones from Clarbeston near Haverfordwest has been awarded one of only 12 prestigious Local Legend Awards in the whole UK and is the only recipient from Wales.

To celebrate her accolade, 31-year-old Emma will join a host of stars from the world of stage and screen at the glittering 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards show which will be filmed for BBC One at BBC White City Studios in London later this month (Tuesday October 15th).

The 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards are the annual search for the UK’s favourite National Lottery funded people and projects and they celebrate the inspirational exploits of the ordinary people who do extraordinary things with National Lottery support.

Mother of three, Emma, has received the prestigious National Lottery Local Legend Award for her tireless work in supporting farmers and people in rural communities throughout the country with poor mental health. In July 2016, Emma’s 34-year-old husband, Daniel Picton-Jones, an agricultural contractor, tragically took his own life after battling with depression and anxiety.

In the wake of Daniel’s death, Emma, a farmer’ daughter, set up The DPJ Foundation – named after Daniel’s initials. The group encourages people in farming communities to open up about mental health, especially men working in the agricultural sector. Agriculture carries one of the highest rates of suicide and the foundation aims to break down the stigma that surrounds mental health and provide support services.

Two grants amounting to £20,000 from the National Lottery over the last two years has enabled The DPJ foundation to launch and raise awareness of Share the Load – a 24/7 telephone and counselling service for people with mental health problems in rural communities.

“I was naive before Daniel’s death,” said Emma, who has raised around £150,000 to provide mental health training to farming industry professionals to help them identify symptoms in people and provide support.

“I didn’t realise the extent of the issues in our community. When I started talking to people, everyone knew someone who had died through suicide. I needed to do something positive. Farming is a really traditional sector and people can be very isolated. Farmers also work long hours which can often take its toll on them and they are more likely to be resistant towards seeking support. I also think people tend not to talk about mental health and keep it to themselves a lot more in rural communities. Not everyone wants to admit to their neighbours that they’re suffering. All these barriers prevent people from talking about their mental health problems. That’s why I set up the charity and I wanted to use Daniel’s story to break down the stigma.”

Delighted to receive the National Lottery’s Local Legend Award, Emma said: “It’s nice to be recognised for the work we’re doing as a collective to raise awareness of and support people with mental health problems in rural communities. The National Lottery funding has enabled us to take what we’re doing throughout the whole country and reach more people with our support.”

Jonathan Tuchner, from the National Lottery, added: “It’s thanks to National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes, that Local Legends like those awarded this year, are able to continue their work and inspire so many.

Emma Picton-Jones has done an incredible job in her local community of Pembrokeshire and beyond in raising awareness about mental health problems and tackling the stigma associated with mental health. The work she does is hugely impressive and vital for the people the foundation  she set up has helped. They thoroughly deserve to be crowned a Local Legend in the 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards.”

The National Lottery Legend Award recognises a person that has made an outstanding contribution to their local area. They may have enhanced the local culture or quality of life by dedicating their skills, enthusiasm and energy to a diverse range of projects. The winners were selected by a panel made up of representatives from the National Lottery family.

Each Local Legend has been able to continue their amazing work with the help of National Lottery funding.

Since 1994, the National Lottery has made more than 5,500 millionaires but its primary purpose is all about giving to good causes. National Lottery players have raised more than £40 billion for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community over the past 25 years. Over than 565,000 National Lottery grants have been awarded across the UK, the equivalent of around 200 life-changing projects in every UK postcode district helping to strengthen communities, deliver sporting success, protect the environment, unleash local creative talent and look after the elderly and those at risk.

The 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards will air on Thursday 19th November on BBC One- 25 years to the day the first National Lottery draw took place.