Simon Jones, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind Cymru, takes us through the incredible impact the voluntary sector has in the mental health space.
WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY
October 10 2023, is World Mental Health Day. The theme for World Mental Health Day this year is ‘mental health is a universal human right’. However, despite the great steps we have taken as a society to become more open and comfortable talking about mental health, too many people continue to struggle to verbalise their experiences or, crucially, access timely support.
Through our work as a sector, we know only too well how hard some communities and people have to fight to access their right to support and a life free from stigma and discrimination. Across the mental health voluntary sector, locally and nationally, we have people and organisations fighting to ensure everyone can access the support they need in a way that makes the biggest difference to them.
SUPPORT FROM MIND CYMRU
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time with people who had received life-changing support from some of our local Minds and other organisations. The support those people had received, and the way in which professionals and volunteers had listened and responded to their individual needs, reaffirmed to me the incredible work being delivered in communities right across the nation.
I heard from mums in Powys about their experiences as participants on a programme aimed at improving their maternal mental health. They had benefitted to such an extent from the support they received from empathetic and knowledgeable staff that they were motivated to give something back and help sustain these communities through leading peer support programmes themselves.
In Llanelli, I heard how valuable a range of programmes has become in creating a powerful support community, providing someone to reach out to when things were getting tough and a place to gather and spend time in the company of others.
In Swansea, at a joint focus group with Black and Minority Ethnic Community Mental Health Support, I heard how a safe space had been created for people to come together, share their experiences and take part in activities. These experiences often related to how offers of support made cultural assumptions and the need for support beyond the mental health system to alleviate the wider social factors that contribute to poor mental health.
These are not isolated examples, but part of a system of voluntary sector organisations providing joined-up support to people across Wales, year in, year out. The common theme here is a community being created to help support and protect people’s mental health. It’s no exaggeration to say this support does, at times, save lives, and offers solutions when times are tough. They are often driven by people or communities that have themselves struggled to access support, or feel let down by what was offered to them.
WHAT WE DO AS A SECTOR
As a sector we support, advocate and sometimes simply hold people during their toughest times. But this crucial role can go unrecognised, as it can fall outside of support we have been commissioned or funded to deliver. I hear on a daily basis about those organisations, like our own and the wider local Mind network, across Wales trying to fill these gaps and meet this need with empathy, skill and care.
As we hear of the financial challenges facing the public sector in Wales and see the ripples impact across the voluntary sector in Wales, days like today provide an opportunity not to just raise awareness, but also consider what we value, to reflect on the journey taken and the road ahead.
So, as Welsh Government develops its new mental health strategy in the coming months, there’s a real opportunity to reflect on the theme of today – of mental health as a human right – and to carve out a future in which no person faces a barrier to accessing the right support at their point of need, and to ensure that the voluntary sector’s crucial role in supporting a diverse range of communities is better recognised. Only when this takes place will the examples I have seen this summer become commonplace for all.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To find out more visit Mind Cymru.