Some time ago, when I was gadding about at the north of Scotland, I chose not to go to the Orkney Islands. Not because I lacked the, er, bus fare, more because I had nowhere to go once I was there.
This was not the case with Piel island. I had a phone number. It’s amazing the optimism even the smallest chink of light can give a person.
If that’s a chink of light then Mind in Barrow offers a shining beacon of hope for folk.
Many of us think, ‘Drop in centre’, oh, that’s nice….cups of tea and a bit of lunch…
It’s so much more than that. They give validation – a recognition that, despite your mental malady, you are a worthwhile individual with something to offer other people.
In what often feels like the teeth of a gale of prejudice and lack of understanding, of austerity and ever scarce services, Mind offers an island oasis in the storm.
Some years ago, I remember meeting up with folk with the same flavour of looniness as me for the first time – really appreciating that, ‘Hey, these people are great…which must mean that I just might be….?’
I can’t begin to describe how uplifting that felt.
We still live in a time of stigma. Sure with you lot I’m leaning against an open door – preaching to the converted…
We can choose not to read the negative media, or not to be effected by the lack of positive news about people with mental ill health; we can choose not to hang about with people who are everything from outright antagonistic to just lacking in understanding….
But we have been brought up in that environment too. What happens when that voice of prejudice is in your own head? There is no escaping that call to pull yourself together when it’s echoing around in your own mind.
And that’s where Mind come in. A friendly word, a smile, someone to stand alongside you – not doing for – but doing with, someone taking the time to say, ‘You’re OK,’ and, ‘There’s hope.’
The folk who work there, Lorraine, Melanie, Karen and Richard provide this wonderful service against the odds.
They stand serenely like a swan swimming on a millpond, providing this non-judgemental support, whilst under the water, out of sight, they’re working like Hell to stay afloat.
As I sat on the Hawaii five 0 ferry to Piel island I knew that Keith, one of the residents who came with Lorraine’s recommendation, would be good company.
I put Marvin up (working title for the tent – responses please in the usual manner), took a wander around this tiny island that consists of a pub, eight houses (not 4 as mentioned before – where I got that figure from is anyone’s guess) and a great big castle, then knocked on Keith and Karen’s door.
I couldn’t have hoped for a warmer welcome – friendly smiles – great hospitality – interested and, good Lord, my match as far as story telling goes. Keith rolled from one tale to the next as I sat back and soaked it up.
Mind and folk like Keith and Karen are not just any port in a storm. They are the deluxe, five star, people centred hotels that iron your slippers, doing all they can to ensure you fit in.
I feel so much richer for sharing just a flake of their lives.
Walk a mile