On Being Proud of The Pathways Group, or, It's a Bit Like Life Really.

In this blog, I have sometimes mentioned the group which I attend once a week. It is often referred to as The Pathways Group, although I think its full title was originally "Pathways to Recovery." Going even further back than that, I have been led to believe that groups like it were once known by the somewhat less positive-sounding moniker, "Group for those with severe and enduring mental ill health."
The group has been meeting since around 2007, and during that time has achieved a great deal. At one point we even made a short film, funded by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, about what it is like to experience a long-term mental health problem, and which was eventually screened, along with other health-related films, at our local museum in Hanley. The process of the making of that film was documented in these pages (see my blog posts, "Hollywood Here I Come", parts 1, 2 and 3). The group has, of course, done many other things, but to me this was perhaps its most outstanding achievement. Indeed, you could say that this was when the group was at its best in that it showed what people like us could do, given the opportunity, and also conveyed an important message - that those even with the most severe diagnoses can and do recover and achieve.
However, the group has not been without its upsets. Indeed, perhaps one might more aptly term them tragedies. To the great sadness of us all, two of our members passed away at very young ages. Both are remembered fondly by those members who were part of the group at the time they attended it. Such wrenching events, though, have not broken the group, and one might even say that they have knitted it closer together.
Indeed, this is not the only thing that the group has had to overcome. With the closure of our local mental health resource centre, The Bennett Centre, the group had to move its weekly meetings to Hanley Library. Soon after, in May 2012, the group was told that mental health staff would no longer be able to facilitate its meetings because of a poor uptake of referrals. At that time the lead facilitator of the group was on sick leave, and we were told that upon her return we would be contacted once again. But, in the eventuality, and one might add in this age of austerity, this never happened. So, for the past two years the group has been a user-led entity, largely becoming more of a warm social gathering than any structured or educational aid to people's recovery. While this has been difficult for some of us to adjust to, we still enjoy our friendly meetings.
Needless to say, I am incredibly proud of the group and the individuals which make it up. Through the triumphs and the tragedies, the group has remained a comforting resource for those who use it. For people with some of the most severe mental health diagnoses there are, I think this is some achievement, for it is down to us that the group has survived. As for all the ups and downs, I suppose it's a bit like life really. It's just that some of us have already had a more difficult time than most, so perhaps this makes the group doubly special. To all those who attend it, then, I wish all the very best, and maybe a little bit of an easier time in the future.             


bazza said…
Hi David. The hospital trust that I work for runs about ten different groups for mental health from a 'Walking group' to a 'Coping with work-related stress group' and they are mostly very successful. It's remarkable how even the basic walking group is so beneficial to many people, for example, those who have difficulty making social connections.
I am pleased to learn that the Pathways Group has done so well.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Hi bazza,
Yes, it does seem that mental health services like their groups!
Fortunately we have managed to maintain ours despite cuts in services. We were told at one point by a nurse that we would have to "do it ourselves", and that's precisely what we've done, and that's what I'm so proud of - that we have managed to carry on despite all that's been taken away from the group.
Thanks for commenting, bazza, it's always good to hear from you.
Very Best Wishes,
David said…
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