Before I started working as the CEO for Shaw Mind Foundation I had worked in the NHS for 32 years all within the field of mental health as a registered nurse. I am extremely passionate about the NHS and the need to ensure that all health, social care and charity organisations work together to get the best out of it. I believe that if we work together, we can achieve real and lasting change that will have a positive impact on everyone.
So why mental health? Well, during my 2 years at college age 16 – 18 my parents made it extremely clear that not getting a job or progressing to some type of further training was just not an option. I toyed with becoming an actress but soon realised that despite my enthusiasm the skill just wasn’t there.
Around this time, the NHS ran a campaign to encourage people to think about a career in mental health. One particular image really caught my eye. It was a picture painted by a young person with schizophrenia depicting how he imagined his head to look when he was unwell. This absolutely fascinated me and ignited a curiosity for understanding more about people and how I might be able to help them; this passion has remained with me ever since.
We all have to manage our mental health just as we take care of our physical wellbeing. People experience mental health to varying degrees and I believe that we are all touched by mental health difficulties to a greater or lesser degree. This could be through your own personal experiences or that of friends or loved ones.
Time to Talk
It is only by talking about mental health that we start to reduce the stigma associated with it. Talking about mental health could mean something as simple as genuinely meaning “how are you” when we greet someone – this is crucial for breaking down barriers. Through conversation we build connections and through connections, we create a social movement that can shift the balance.
Fast forward 32 years (and believe me it went in a blink of the eye). I wasn’t looking for another job & I certainly wasn’t looking to leave the NHS but a colleague of mine introduced me to Adam Shaw and the work of the Shaw Mind Foundation. I was amazed at how the values and vision of the Foundation matched up with my own. Every step in my career to date has been taken with the intention of making a positive difference for people with mental health difficulties. Suddenly, there was an opportunity to help change the world by developing a preventative strategy for children and young people.
I will always be grateful to Adam & the Board of Trustees for entrusting me with the role to progress the vision of the Shaw Mind Foundation.
100,000 Signatures for Change
Before I started in the post, the Shaw Mind Foundation became the only UK charity to galvanise enough public support to get the 100,000 signatures needed to force parliament to debate the issue of compulsory mental health education. In the run-up to the petition closing, I was sucked into this amazing environment and met so many people who were passionate about making a real change across the education system.
I met individuals with their own unique stories and it was exhilarating to be a part of such an exciting petition. The debate was held 6th November (my third day in the post!) and I was so proud to accompany my new colleagues to Parliament to bear witness to the debate. Wow – the number of people who attended the debate was remarkable – we were queuing round the block and had to sit in the public gallery in shifts as there was simply too many of us to sit together. Seeing so many people come together was incredible! Following the debate, we continue to work with Parliament to plan for the next steps.
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and 2nd for 24 to 35-year-olds. On average, 1 person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes. Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people. It is vital that as a society we do more to reduce the number of suicides. The Foundation exists to do just this through a variety of ways including:
- Supporting businesses and corporates to recognise mental health difficulties in their workforce and develop strategies to combat these through policy review
- Wellbeing strategy development or training – we pride ourselves on being able to develop bespoke packages for each business depending on their needs
Looking Forward With Hope
I am really looking forward to what 2018 will hold. We’ll be commissioning an important piece of independent research that will provide evidence of the societal impact of having compulsory mental health education in schools. In addition to this, we will be developing an online-helpline and utilizing an app-based platform to support children and young people who experience mental health difficulties or care for an adult who does. We will also continue our vital work with businesses and corporates to help them meet the needs of their existing workforce.
There is so much to be done and but I do believe we can change the world – we just need to support each other to make it happen.
We would love to have your support to do this and to join our movement to make real and long-lasting change!
To learn more about the work of The Shaw Mind Foundation, visit their website here.