You Don't Know What You've Got 'Till It's Gone.

In my last post I spoke about a new direction for this blog, but as I have some sad news to relay concerning mental health, I will be returning to my main topic, at least for this post. And, the sad news is that the local mental health charity that I worked for voluntarily for over five years has now closed. The Media Action Group for Mental Health closed its doors for the last time on 28th March 2013.
The group began in December 2000, and developed as an independent user-led charity with a remit to promote positive perceptions and awareness of mental health issues by working with the media in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire. Indeed, when I joined the group as a volunteer in 2007, we were taught how to interact in a positive way with the media as part of the group's "Talkbank" project. Many letters of protest were written, many interviews given, and as part of our training we even got to go to Staffordshire University where we made short films about mental health and how it is perceived.
Later the group's remit was extended to include projects like "Mindbloggling", which gave volunteers the opportunity to create their own online blogs which could then be used as a means of combating the ignorance and prejudice which surrounds mental ill health. Perhaps it goes without saying that this blog was started as part of that project. The Lottery-funded "Living Well Stoke-on-Trent" initiative saw the group working in partnership to publicise and deliver a series of events which emphasised the importance of taking a holistic approach to our wellbeing, both mental and physical. With the "Local People, Local Lives" campaign, the group got volunteers to write about their own experience of mental illness, but very much in the context of their broader identity. The work produced therefore focused on volunteers' remembrances or experiences of the local area, their interests and hobbies, hopefully showing that a diagnosis of mental ill health is only a small part of who we are. And, of course, there was "Sanity Fair", the group's annual street carnival, which attracted thousands of visitors to the city centre each summer and raised awareness of the subject of mental health amongst the public.
When MAGMH started it was, in the words of Communications Lead John Gibson, "a lone voice working to challenge the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental ill health". Now, as John states, anti-stigma and discrimination work has been pushed "high up the agenda of mental health organisations".
For me personally, the group was not only a means by which I could do something positive by trying to combat the stigma surrounding mental illness, it was also a way of enhancing my own recovery. With the help of the group, I developed a structure and purpose to my days, which during times of ill health had been sorely lacking. I gained confidence, met new people and made friends. Due to the time I worked for the group, I think I may have developed a feeling that it would always be there. It became such a part of my life that perhaps, as with many things that surround us for any significant amount of time, I took it for granted. So now, as I look back on all that the group achieved, it's with both pride and tinge of regret. There may well now be others who will take on the challenge of tackling stigma, but unfortunately, that "lone voice", which began in Stoke-on-Trent, has been lost. And, as the saying goes, you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone.


Dixie said…
Dear David,

Please excuse the lateness of my arrival. Life on life's terms has been a recurring theme for me. As if I hadn't embraced it fully before, this time it has left newer, better directions. You have my empathy regarding the changes taking place where you are.

Then again your blog is a positive and bold step forward. Live by the pen, sir!

Your humble blogging pal,


klahanie said…
Hi David,

Sorry about my uncharacteristic tardiness. And at the silly time of gone three thirty in the morning, I'm finally replying.

Following our recent phone conversation, I shall leave a brief response. For you know you have brought back a lot of memories. I like to recall, with much fondness, those heady days when MAGMH was a thriving, active place. This is most sad. Yet, we can look back and recall how much you tried to do and in my own way, I tried to do.

Peace, David.

Dixie said…
Are you gone?
David said…
Hi Dixie,
I'm sorry that I didn't reply to your comment sooner. I have just been busy writing a blog which I hope to post up soon. I have been missing for a bit, but rest assured that I am not yet "gone"!
Thanks Dixie,
Very Best Wishes,
David said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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