Carl and Challenging Perceptions

Carl is 25, has personal experience of mental illness and gaps in services and support for children and young people.

I saw a big gap in mental health services and support. You can train in mental health and if you’ve experienced it you can help people with it

Carl is the Chair of the Board of Directors for a community hub called Park Lane Centre.

The Centre Manager approached me and said ‘we want a young person on the Board of Directors’. I attended a meeting and the Chair asked me to join. I served as a Director for 2 years and was elected as Chair

Carl and Challenging Perceptions

Carl was approached by a Governor for South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust who was also aware of gaps in services and support for young people and thought Carl might be willing and able to set up a peer support group for 14-18-year olds.

At first it was scary ‘cos I didn’t know what to do. So, I asked the community and we came together and set up as a community group to support each other. After about a year things started to really take off, and I could see we were closing gaps in needs.

Over time the group evolved into a small community business and Community Interest Company (CIC) called Challenging Perceptions, run by Carl. Challenging Perceptions evolved its activity into advocacy, then added peer support groups.

It wasn’t until I got to start meetings with young people that I realised there was a need for advocacy that I set up this service.

Groups are well attended with the young person’s group having approx. 50 members and the newer adult’s group approx. 30 members. Challenging Perceptions is run by its members for its members with people deciding the work priorities and direction of the organisation.

They lead. I make sure everything runs smoothly and all the legal stuff’s sorted

Challenging Perceptions aims to change the perception and experience of people living with mental illness.

Our mission statement focuses on tackling the stigma associated with mental health and discrimination. I want to work with others towards making good mental health the norm and increasing access to the quality services and support whenever people need them.

He now co-chairs the Telford Mental Health Forum, contributing to the development of the local mental health strategy and involving people from Challenging Perceptions.

What helped?

Carl’s involvement at Park Lane helped his development of Challenging Perceptions.

Without the support of Park Lane Centre none of this would have happened. My confidence wouldn’t have been there. The Centre has been like a family to me. So, by joining, without confidence, there’s no group and no support for the young people – it’s like a domino effect really

Carl was supported at the start of his journey by the local NHS Foundation Trust, Telford and Wrekin Council and Community Catalysts. He networked with people running similar social enterprises and learned from them. Carl is clear about the benefit of networking and grateful for the support and encouragement he receives from people who challenge perceptions of their own lives, his groups, and other organisations like the CVS and the Telford Mental Health Forum.


At the start Carl found it hard to find the information he needed to form and constitute his group into Challenging Perceptions.

There’s information on the net. But I wasn’t sure whether to stay as a community group or set up CIO, a CIC or a charity.

Carl rises to the real challenges of running Challenging Perceptions on his own.

The biggest challenge is the fact it’s all voluntary. I’ve got great volunteers helping me to run groups. On the management side I have enjoyed learning about running accounts, applying for funding and managing the risk that comes with leading a socially responsible CIC that wants to help people for years to come.

Carl has had to work hard to gain funding for the work Challenging Perceptions undertakes.

All income comes from writing solid applications, which allow Challenging Perceptions to deliver successful outcomes from high impact projects. Every penny we invest in these projects is won in competition with others from much larger organisations, like Telford and Wrekin Council, the Big Lottery, One Stop, and Tesco. Not always winning has taught me to challenge my perceptions of what makes a good application and do better next time.

Achievements and impact

Carl has achieved a lot in the short 2-year history of his new organisation. They have lots of people involved as members.

The achievement I am most proud of is the impact Challenging Perceptions is able to have in others’ lives, in organisations, and our community. I know this makes a difference in my life

He can see the impact Challenging Perceptions has had on the people it has touched.

People with mental health have found a way to live and go ahead into education, training or employment

The future

Carl and Challenging Perceptions are developing to offer therapy to different groups of people.

We’re just about to extend or befriending support and offer different therapies which will support people to achieve greater wellbeing and a better quality of life. I’m excited about that, and optimistic that the more our service supports young people the better able they will be to challenge perceptions and change perceptions of mental health.