When I was at Mind in the Wirral I met Sarah, who’s very knowledgable on all things mental healthy and training.
‘You must get in touch with Derry…’ She told me about this woman who was passionate about the anti stigma campaign and the recovery agenda as regards mental health.
So I did, and she did – we met up and her enthusiasm was something to behold.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the word ‘recovery’ in this context – probably my own nonsense but it feels to me that there’s a push to get better rather than to manage. Obviously there’s space for both perspectives in the mental health world.
However – my interpretation of the recovery thing is not the same as Derry’s.
Hers, as I understand, is about enabling folk to reach their potential – to contribute to society – not through coercion, but through their own volition.
She is passionate about user lead services and is determined to challenge the lip service she feels many service providers are paying to this valuable and important standpoint.
She’s also keen for the public at large to hear the message – she was recently on local radio declaring, ‘It could be you,’ referring to the fact that mental ill health can hit one in four of us.
She’s not just making a noise – oh no.
On Sunday morning she rounded me up, picking up Bob the project worker and a whole bunch of breakfast goodies including the items required to cook them.
Bob describes himself as part volunteer, part support worker and part life coach…
But who was coming to breakfast?
Folk, mainly men, who are combatting addiction through this thriving community of support.
Bob’s keen to help the group of around thirty to start looking at healthy eating – the key thing that I saw though was a culture of mutual support. Where individuals might see themselves as addicts or alcoholics – others would see them as friends.
I was astonished at how many of these guys were ex servicemen – these men who’d been sold a dream of a career and travel, teamwork and comradeship who have been dropped from a great height.
And right in amongst it all was Derry – the banter – the genuine respect – the all round atmosphere that this energetic woman was contributing massively to was great to behold.
Some weeks, she tells me, she can put in 100 hours for her part time wages.
She is an unsung hero – she is a woman with a lived experience of mental ill health. She doesn’t want adoration for this – she recognises she is spread thinly across all the work she does.
She needs folk to work alongside her to help her with this battle.
I guess we can all do more.
Go on, make a noise.
Walk a mile