Service user involvement and mental health awareness (RB Mind AGM 2016)

agm16
A picture of me wearing a sparkly maroon jumper and gold star necklace with a floral lanyard around my neck, I am holding a piece of paper and talking into a microphone.

I’ve been volunteering with Richmond Borough Mind for just over four years, this was a speech I gave at the 2016 Annual general meeting (AGM).

One of the things that appealed to me when deciding to become a volunteer with RB Mind was being able to use my lived experience to benefit myself and others and the importance Mind place on the voice of service users. I’d been a group member in the Peer Network for a while but had never considered or planned to get involved in mental health in any capacity other than being a service user or patient, before joining Mind I’d never seen any benefit to having a mental health problem after all my experience had just brought me trauma, disappointment and more prescriptions for psychiatric medication than I can count.

Over the past four years I’ve progressed as a volunteer across different projects and areas of the charity and have used my lived experience as a Peer Volunteer, Youth Wellbeing trainer and by becoming more active with service user involvement being able to speak on behalf of people with mental health problems in Richmond. I’ve been a part of the local crisis concordat group for a year now looking at the way crisis services are delivered and how they can be improved I’ve also attended the changing minds festival at the Southbank centre, been part or research into unmet needs in the borough and sat on a panel talking about mental health and art at the Music and art for Mind fund-raiser.

Service user involvement is often under-represented and many people don’t realise that their views and opinions are not just important but needed and aren’t aware that these opportunities to talk about their lives exist. People with experience of mental health problems and those who have used services whether NHS, charity or support groups are known as experts by experience for good reason because no one knows us or our needs better than we do something which goes for everyone not just people with a mental health problem or a certain diagnosis.

Another project I’ve been working with is the mental health awareness workshops with the volunteer coordinator, this is a training programme offered to organisations wishing to boost levels of mental health awareness in their workplace. So far I’ve told my personal story to two groups of people with English as an additional language many of whom also struggle with their own mental health difficulties and were able to discuss this after I talked about my problems.

I was recently described as “very articulate” and told I could “probably talk my way out of any situation” aside from possibly being the best description of me ever it’s what motivates me to continue to do the things I do. In January I’ll be co-delivering part of the mental health awareness training and talking about myths and misconceptions surrounding mental health and I plan to use my skills to raise awareness and do what I can to improve and influence mental health services not just for my benefit but for the benefit of all the people who aren’t able to be as involved as I am. On the days where my mental health is getting me down or I feel angry and frustrated because of my issues I try to think of all the things I’ve done over the past few years the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met none of which would have happened if I didn’t have a mental health problem.

World mental health day (a backdated plea for acceptance)

A pink square image with the words I have borderline personality disorder #endthestigma #1in5 #youarenotalone written in bold white letters
People say attitudes to mental health are changing and to an extent I’d agree however there are still many aspects of mental health and types of mental illness that are still not socially accepted and are heavily stigmatised. Mental health problems are rarely glamorous or exciting many are still associated with fear and misunderstanding. 

Personality disorders were said to no longer be a diagnosis of exclusion in 2003 yet are still highly stigmatised in the health service and rarely mentioned outside of the mental health environment unless being referred to a patient at broadmoor. I have borderline personality disorder it’s not glamorous, it’s spending hours in a&e hoping you’ll be treated by someone understanding who won’t get angry because it’s self inflicted and only two weeks since the last time, it’s medication and years of trying different kinds or combinations and weighing up the benefits with the risks, it’s talking about the same things in therapy so often you think either yours or the therapists head will explode, it’s questioning everything and feeling out of place even in the mental health community, it’s being afraid to be open and make posts like this because of the lack of understanding and misconceptions. 

So for world mental health day I’d like a great acknowledgement and understanding of the wide and varied world of mental health.

Better late than never (an introduction i suppose)

anime-me
A Japanese style drawing of a young woman’s head and shoulders with blue and pink hair and a piercing below her bottom lip

 

Because I was late even for my own birth I’m starting a blog several years too late. I’m Georgie (or Georgiesaurus in some parts of the internet), i’m chronically mental with the double luck of having both mental health problems and physical disabilities, I’ve been volunteering for a mental health charity for 4 years and have been involved in service user representation.

Too much waffle for twitter and too old for tumblr yet that millennial need to post my entire existence on the internet (having people to read it is more a bonus than necessity) a blog seemed like a good place to digitally dump the contents of my brain.

Aside from being chronically boring I have a slight obsession with a certain cosmetics company known for their bath bombs and the grumpiest DR around House MD, I live in South West London and spend too much time watching YouTube.

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