Selfless volunteers from Bognor Regis hope to boost the reach of their radio station dedicated to mental health issues.
Radio Respect is believed to be the only station of its kind in the world and broadcasts 24 hours a day with feel-good music and sensitive discussions on mental health difficulties.
Now, the station, with an average of 60,000 listeners worldwide, has the chance to reach even more people after it has been given Community Interest Company status.
Following this recognition, founder Chris Collins is looking to broadcast Radio Respect on DAB alongside its current online domain.
There is the hope that this could lead to sponsors and advertisers and lighten the burden on Chris, who has been covering the costs of the station himself. The team are also considering setting up a resource centre in the future if its work continues to expand.
Mainly though, Chris, aged 51, hopes the station can reach as many people as possible. He said: “The need for this station really is there. The fact that we have 60,000 listeners proves that.
“Radio Respect began life four years ago in my shed with only five listeners. Primarily, I set it up to help keep people company. And in 2015 we moved to our premises here in Commercial House in Station Road.”
Chris was inspired to give a voice to those with mental health issues having worked at daycare service House 48 in Bognor Regis.
He was keen to provide something that was always available. “With other services, they shut down at the end of the day but we’re here the whole time. We’re here 24/7,” he said.
Now Radio Respect is run by 11 volunteers who are all based in Bognor Regis and live with mental health issues. Some of them DJ for the station part-time and others are there as IT support and in-house technicians.
Chris was extremely grateful for the work of the other volunteers. He said: “I have so much respect for our IT technicians, Reece Osborn and Tristan Williams, who work tirelessly to keep everything running smoothly.
“Last weekend, our server went down and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have known what to do.”
Most of the workers at Radio Respect were known to Chris through House 48.
Tony Lock, aged 50, was one such volunteer who initially persuaded Chris to develop the station into what it is now.
For Tony, the station opened up a great opportunity. He said: “I DJ’ed a lot in the 1970s in clubs and at parties but hadn’t for a long time. It’s great playing music here. It’s like an addiction.”
Steve Ryman, 44, also enjoyed being one of the station’s DJs. “I love it. When Chris told us about the station we all loved it and wanted to get involved.
“There is still such a stigma surrounding mental health. It’s nice to know we can talk about it and help others,” he said.
Izzy Russell, 47, joined the team a couple of months ago and is the first female DJ at the station. She said: “It gives me such a buzz, it’s great to have a purpose like this.”
There was a definite sense among the volunteers that more still needs to be done to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Sammie Webb, aged 25, said: “Although mental health is now being talked about more, there is still more that can be done.”
Twenty-one-year-old Edward Moorcroft, agreed. “Even though there are things like Mental Health Awareness Week, that’s only a week, it’s not there all the time like we are,” he said.
For Richard Greenslade, 64, Radio Respect has become an important part of his life.”Radio Respect cheers me up. I’m still just a listener but I come along to meetings. It’s nice to be involved,” he said. Now Richard has even his own announcement for the radio to introduce Rod Stewart songs.
Alongside the station, the Radio Respect website also runs a chat-room so listeners can talk to each other as well as the team. Through this, Chris and the others have been able to provide constant support to those who want it.
Chris is proud of what the station has achieved and the potential it has for the future. He said: “We hope that one day mental health services can use us as a platform to help raise awareness of what’s out there.”
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for Radio Respect email: firstname.lastname@example.org and to listen to the radio visit radiorespect.org.uk